Charlotte Emma Aitchison (born 2 August 1992), known professionally as Charli XCX, is an English singer, songwriter, and music video director. Born in Cambridge and raised in Start Hill, Essex, she began posting songs on Myspace in 2008, which led to her discovery by a promoter who invited her to perform at warehouse raves and parties. In 2010, she signed a recording contract with Asylum Records, releasing a series of singles and mixtapes throughout 2011 and 2012.
In 2012, Charli XCX rose to prominence with the Icona Pop collaboration "I Love It", which became an international success, reaching top 10 in North America and Europe. Her debut studio album, True Romance (2013), was released that year to critical acclaim but failed to meet commercial expectations. In 2014, she contributed the chorus and hook to "Fancy" by rapper Iggy Azalea, which finished the year as one of the best-selling singles worldwide and was nominated for two Grammy Awards. The same year, Charli XCX released "Boom Clap", which became her first solo top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100. Her second studio album, the punk-influenced Sucker, was released at the end of the year, and spawned the successful singles "Break the Rules" and "Doing It".
In 2015, Charli XCX began working alongside producers associated with the UK collective PC Music, including label head A. G. Cook and producer Sophie, developing a more experimental sound and image. While working on her third album, she released the Vroom Vroom EP in 2016 and the mixtapes Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 in 2017, as well as a series of singles including the BPI-certified "After the Afterparty", "Boys", and "1999". In 2019, Charli XCX released her third studio album, Charli, followed by her fourth studio album which she recorded during pandemic lockdown, How I'm Feeling Now, in 2020, both to widespread acclaim.
At 14, she convinced her parents to grant her a loan to record her first album, 14, and in early 2008, began posting songs from the album, as well as numerous other demos, on her official Myspace page. This caught the attention of a promoter running numerous illegal warehouse raves and parties in east London, who invited her to perform. She was billed on flyers under the stage name Charli XCX, which was her MSN Messenger display name when she was younger.[a] Despite the illicit nature of the gigs, her parents were supportive of her career and attended several raves with her. In late 2008, while 14 was never commercially released, she released the two singles "!Franchesckaar!" and double A-side "Emelline"/"Art Bitch", under Orgy Music. She has since frequently expressed her distaste for her music of the time, going as far to call it "gimmicky dance tracks" and "fucking terrible Myspace music". At the age of 18, Charli moved to London to study for a fine art degree at UCL's Slade School of Fine Art but dropped out in her second year.
2009-2013: Career beginnings and True Romance
Charli XCX in 2011
In 2010, Charli XCX was signed to Asylum Records. She later described herself as being "lost". In an interview with The Guardian, Charli XCX said: "I was still in school, I'd just come out of this weird rave scene, and I wasn't really sure what to make of that. And when I got signed I hated pop music; I wanted to make bad rap music. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know what I liked. Even though I was signed, I was still figuring it out." She eventually flew out to Los Angeles to meet producers, and found it "wasn't working out for me" until she met with American producer Ariel Rechtshaid. They had a two-hour session and wrote the song "Stay Away". She stated that's "when things started to come together". Early in 2011, she was featured on the Alex Metric single "End of the World". She left during the second year of her degree course at the Slade School of Fine Art to focus on her music career, and in May and November 2011, she released the singles "Stay Away" and "Nuclear Seasons" respectively, and gained attention from music website Pitchfork, where she earned "Best New Track" accolades for both; the former was eventually named to the site's "Best Tracks of 2011" list.
In addition to Rechtshaid, she began working with Swedish producer Patrik Berger. He sent her two beats, and she quickly wrote songs for each, one of which became "I Love It" and the other of which became "You're the One". She stated she didn't end up releasing "I Love It" herself as she could not reconcile it with her sound, but in 2012, Swedish duo Icona Pop re-recorded the song and released it as a single featuring her vocals. The song became an international hit, hitting number 1 in Charli's home country and climbing to number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013. In June, she released "You're the One" as a single from her EP of the same name, followed by her debut mixtape Heartbreaks and Earthquakes, a one-track file consisting of eight songs including a cover of the Blood Orange song "Champagne Coast" and Odd Future's remix of "You're the One". In September, she released a video for "So Far Away", and on Halloween, she released a new song called "Cloud Aura" featuring Brooke Candy, followed by her second mixtape Super Ultra, released exclusively through her website in November. In early 2013, she released "You (Ha Ha Ha)" and announced her debut album, followed by "What I Like" in March.True Romance was released in April 2013. It peaked at number 85 on the UK Albums Chart, at number five on the US Billboard Top Heatseekers, and at number 11 on the Australian Hitseekers Albums Chart. The album was received well by music critics, earning a 76/100 on Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". In May, she released a song with Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds, called "Just Desserts", followed by the video for "Take My Hand" later that month.
2013-2015: Breakthrough and Sucker
Charli XCX performing in Detroit in 2014
Charli XCX began writing her second album in mid-2013, saying she initially wanted to go to India to record, but later decided she wanted to record in France, she said: "Two months ago, I wanted to go to India and record it, and now I want to record it in France. So I feel like nothing is definite - like, I feel very all-over-the-place at the moment. But at the moment, my heart's set on going to France and recording it, but that was different two months ago, so who knows what's going to happen?" Frustrated with the music industry, she ended up going to Sweden, isolating herself from her record label, and made a punk-inspired album over a month. Working on the album with Patrik Berger, they made it at a fast pace, saying that it is "not thought-about, everything really spontaneous [...] We don't think -- it's like the first thing that comes out of my mouth is the cut on the record," however it was eventually scrapped for a more "pop"-oriented album. The album included a song called "Mow That Lawn", which was debuted live a year later at Ilosaarirock Festival in Finland.
In late 2013, "SuperLove" was released as the lead single from the album, and reached number sixty-two on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Charli's first solo entry on the chart. In January 2014, she released a song called "Allergic to Love" on her SoundCloud. While writing the album, she did further sessions with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend, production duo Stargate, John Hill, and a session with Dr. Luke which she said "wasn't for me". In an interview with DIY magazine, she stated that she wrote the record for girls and wants them to feel "a sense of empowerment". Charli explained in her tour diary with Replay Laserblast that the record's genre is still pop, but has a very shouty, girl-power, girl-gang, Bow Wow Wow feel to it at the same time. She also said in an interview with Idolator that the album would be influenced by the Hives, Weezer, the Ramones and 1960s yé-yé music. "SuperLove" was eventually scrapped from the album.
In early 2014, she was featured on Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's single "Fancy"; the track topped the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming both artists' first number-one single on the chart. Charli XCX expanded her portfolio of songwriting for other artists during this period, with credits on Azalea's 2014 single "Beg for It", Ryn Weaver's debut single "OctaHate", and material for acts including Sky Ferreira, Neon Jungle, Rihanna, and Gwen Stefani. In mid-2014, Charli XCX contributed the song "Boom Clap" to the soundtrack of the film The Fault in Our Stars. "Boom Clap" peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and at number six in the UK, and was certified platinum in Australia. In an interview with Popjustice in June, she stated she had finished writing sessions and expected the album to be finished by the end of July. In August, Sucker was announced to be released in October, along with the lead single "Break the Rules". She said the song came out about after she had made her punk album in Sweden, when she "came out of the other side of that punk phase and translated it into something more pop." She stated that the album was "obviously, [...] about not giving a fuck." The album was pushed back the next month due to the success of "Boom Clap", and was officially released in December 2014 in North America and February 2015 in Europe. It debuted at number 28 on the US Billboard 200, making it Charli's first album to enter the chart, and number 15 on the UK Albums Chart. The album's third single, "Doing It", featuring fellow British singer Rita Ora, was released in February, and peaked at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart.
Charli XCX opened for Katy Perry on the European leg of her Prismatic World Tour in early 2015, headlined her own UK tour, and featured alongside R&B artist Tinashe on rapper Ty Dolla Sign's single "Drop That Kitty". In May 2015, Charli XCX released "Famous", as the fourth single taken from Sucker. A music video was released in March, and was ranked by Time and Pitchfork as the 5th and 19th best pop music video of the year, respectively. In July and August 2015, Charli XCX co-headlined a US tour with Jack Antonoff. She announced on 21 August that, for "personal reasons", a planned second leg of the tour would not go ahead.
In a July 2015 interview, Charli XCX said that she was working on her third album and described it as "the most pop thing, and the most electronic thing" she had ever done. Scottish producer Sophie, along with BloodPop and Stargate, were confirmed to be involved in the album's production. In October 2015, she premiered new song "Vroom Vroom" on the Beats 1 Radio Show, then claiming it would be the first song released from her third studio album. On 23 February 2016, it was announced that she had set up a new experimental pop record label, Vroom Vroom Recordings, and that she would release an EP titled Vroom Vroom on 26 February 2016. The title song was officially released that day. The second song released from the EP, titled "Trophy", received its first play on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show on that night. It was also announced that she would also host her own Beats 1 show fortnightly. Vroom Vroom was produced mainly by Sophie as a teaser for her third studio album. The avant-pop EP marked a sharp shift in tone from her previous album, and was released to polarising reviews. A music video for the song "Vroom Vroom" was released on 22 April 2016 via Apple Music.
Charli XCX performing at Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour in July 2018
On March 17, 2017, Mura Masa released his single "1 Night", which featured vocals from Charli XCX. On 26 July 2017, Charli XCX released "Boys", along with a self-directed music video featuring an ensemble cast of male celebrities, including Joe Jonas and Brendon Urie, among others; it peaked at number 2 on the Top 25 YouTube list on 27 July, receiving almost two millions views in under 24 hours. On 6 August, Charli XCX performed at Lollapalooza music festival 2017. On 20 August 2017, the majority of Charli XCX's third studio album was leaked with the remainder of the tracks leaking in the following year. The leak of the album featuring the then-lead single "After the Afterparty" led to the album being cancelled and Charli deciding to remake an entirely new third studio album.
On 5 October 2018, Charli XCX released the single "1999" with South African-Australian artist Troye Sivan, as the lead single from her third album Charli. The single reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart and became Charli XCX's tenth Top 40 single and also her first Top 15 single since 2015. The music video for "1999" was released on 11 October and starred Charli XCX and Sivan, featuring various references to 1990's pop culture. Charli XCX was featured on MØ's album Forever Neverland with the song "If It's Over".
On 16 May 2019, Charli XCX released the second single from Charli, "Blame It on Your Love", featuring American singer and rapper Lizzo. The track was written in Los Angeles and produced by long standing collaborators Stargate with additional production by A. G. Cook and EasyFun. Elements from "Blame It on Your Love" were taken from a previous release, "Track 10", from her 2017 mixtape Pop 2. On 25 May, Charli XCX performed at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend. On 30 May, she performed a new song from Charli with Christine and the Queens titled "Gone" at Primavera Sound in Barcelona. On 30 May, Charli XCX collaborated with Diplo and Herve Pagez on the song "Spicy". On 3 June, she revealed that she recorded another song for Charli with Troye Sivan, marking their second collaboration after "1999". This song, later revealed to be named "2099", was performed live for the first time at Go West Fest on 6 June at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. On 7 June, Charli XCX released a collaboration track titled "Dream Glow" with Jin, Jimin and Jungkook of the South Korean boy band BTS for the soundtrack to their upcoming Netmarble game, BTS World.
Details of Charli were revealed on Amazon on 13 June. On 17 July, "Gone" was released as the third single from the album. The first promotional single, "Cross You Out" featuring Sky Ferreira, was released on 16 August, followed by the second to fourth promotional singles: "Warm", featuring HAIM, on 30 August; "February 2017", featuring Clairo and Yaeji, on 6 September; and "2099", featuring Troye Sivan, on 10 September. The album was released on 13 September by Asylum and Atlantic Records.
Early in February 2021, the Dirty Hit signed musician No Rome announced he was working on a track featuring Charli XCX along with label mates The 1975. On 19 February 2021, Charli XCX guested on a new version of a track called "CHARGER" by the British-Canadian artist ELIO (also known as Charlotte Lee).
In a TikTok posted on 16 March 2021, Charli XCX revealed that she is working on her next studio album, saying "next album is gonna be POPTASTIC and I'm feeling very inspired." She also stated in a tweet from June 2020 that her next album will be her final record with Atlantic Records.
Charli XCX experiences sound-to-colour synesthesia. She states, "I see music in colours. I love music that's black, pink, purple or red--but I hate music that's green, yellow or brown." She calls herself a feminist and wrote her song "Body of My Own" as a feminist statement. She also appeared in the 2015 documentary about gender equality, The F Word and Me, which premiered on BBC Three.
Charli XCX has stated that she is "extremely proud" of her Indian heritage.
Charli XCX previously dated filmmaker Ryan Andrews, who directed numerous music videos at the start of her career, notably "Nuclear Seasons" (2011), "You (Ha Ha Ha)" (2013) and "Super Love" (2013). Since circa 2019, Charli has been in a long-term partnership with Huck Kwong, whom she's dated before in 2014, but has been friends with since 2012. Kwong used to work as an A&R and they share Emmie Lichtenberg as mutual friends. She divides her time between London and Los Angeles.
^Pelley, Lauren. "10 essential facts about Charli XCX". The Star. Archived from the original on 25 October 2020. Retrieved 2020. It seems Charli XCX may have taken some of her punk cues from Ontario's own Avril Lavigne. "I used to want to be Avril. I used to wear the ties," Charli told Grantland in 2013.
^Kaplan, Ilana (13 December 2019). "Charli XCX on why Charli is her most personal album yet". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2021. Charli comes less than a year after she finished her opening act duties alongside Camila Cabello on Taylor Swift's reputation tour. Charli absorbed a lot on that sixth-month trek. "I learned that I'm a really good opening act because I have a lot of hits that I don't really play a lot of the time at my shows that people know," she says of the experience. "I can really get a crowd going." But mostly Charli learned from watching Swift work the crowd. "Taylor's someone who's worked her way from playing tiny, tiny venues where no one came to bigger venues, and now she's playing the biggest venues in the world. It was fun to perform 'Shake It Off' with her and Camila every night and learn how to move across the stage like an actual pop star."