Have you ever found yourself screaming at the top of your lungs in a sea of 13-year-olds and their moms? I never thought I’d see the day where I was in that situation, but this past Saturday, it happened. After two years of following Charli XCX, I finally got the opportunity to see her live at The Culture Room. It was the second show of her U.S. tour and it exceeded my expectations.
A Brief Background of Charli XCX
You may recognize the name Charli XCX as it has been tacked on a few Top 40 Hits including “I Love It” by the Swedish duo, Icona Pop, and “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. Interestingly enough, Charli XCX wrote “I Love It” and the catchy hook for “Fancy”. She has a knack for writing memorable lyrics which has earned her some well-deserved attention by critics and the general public. Her song “Boom Clap” was even featured in the Fault in Our Stars movie (and that’s where the 13-year-olds come in). At the age of 22, she is rising to fame and becoming a pop sensation at a rapid pace.
However, before this rush of success, Charli XCX released some of my favorite pieces of music. Her debut album, 14, was released in 2008 (at the age of 14!), but the first I’d ever heard of Charli XCX was her mixtape, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes (I will proceed by referring to it as H&E), which was released for free online in 2012. Stemming from a genre I can’t put my finger on, H&E fused her own songs with movie samples. It is truly a delightful experience, especially for movie lovers. She samples clips from Beyond the Black Rainbow, The Craft, Cruel Intentions, Kill Bill, and American Beauty. She opens the mixtape with a clip from Beyond the Black Rainbow, “You are about to embark on a great journey…” and continues on, covering “Champagne Coast” by Blood Orange. The movie clips serve as transitions from song to song, and add a truly unique flare. This was the first time I heard my favorite song, “Grins”, which really does cause Heartbreaks and Earthquakes inside of me. If I had to describe the vibe of this mixtape, I would say spooky electronic, because there’s something about it that is mysterious and eerie. I mean that in the best way possible. My friend Conor introduced me to Charli XCX, and one time he said, “Heartbreaks and Earthquakes changed our lives.” He’s right, it really did.
After H&E, she quickly released another mixtape called Super Ultra, where she continued to amaze with clever samples and covers. She sang and rapped (or perhaps sang with a rap-like flow) over “Luv” by Girraffage, and even included a clip from the 1993 movie, True Romance. Coincidentally enough, her second album, which would be released a few months later in 2013, would be titled True Romance.
The Actual Concert Review
As reluctant as I am to sound pretentious, I guess you can say I knew about Charli XCX before she was famous (don’t worry I already slapped myself for writing that), so you can imagine my disdain when I walked to the entrance of The Culture Room and saw a very long line of, as I like to call them, boom-clappers. I rolled my eyes and stood in place. During the show, I expected everyone to fall silent during every song other than “Boom Clap”, “Fancy”, and “I Love It”, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong. When Charli performed “Grins”, I wasn’t the only one in the crowd to go ballistic, I was joined by numerous others in my excitement (we all shrieked). Charli responded with a smile and asked “So you like that one?” as if she didn’t already know the answer.
The lighting was mostly bubblegum pink and purple, which added visual flare to the music. A majority of the set consisted of music from her upcoming album Sucker. One song that truly stood out to me from her new material was “Need Your Love,” which was produced by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend. She had an intense energy. Dancing happily on all sides of the stage, she made eye contact with people in the crowd and sang to them (including me, during “Superlove”), making it a truly personal experience. Her setlist was well-planned; all of the songs flowed effortlessly. At one point, she even covered the classic song, “Money”, by Barret Strong. I’d once heard that Charli usually covers one song per show, so I had been anticipating something cool. My only disappointment was that she ended with her solo hit, “Boom Clap”, which was beautiful, but I would’ve preferred “You’re The One” or “Grins” to close the set. However, it was a good choice in terms of pleasing the crowd.
It’s also worth mentioning that the opening acts put on a great show. The first artist, Femme, had a very sweet stage presence. Her music had everyone bobbing their heads up and down to her upbeat songs. The second artist, Elliphant, certainly came as a surprise. From the moment the Swedish rapper stepped onto the stage, she hit the ground running with a passionate set. I was impressed, and everyone one in the crowd was shocked at how intensely she performed. She was very interactive and well-received by the audience.
Overall, the show was celestial. That may seem like an exaggeration, but at the time, I was in a state of bliss. A week later, I’m still smiling thinking of the moment Charli XCX pointed at me. All I can do now is hope that this songstress make her way down to the deep south.