In the last few weeks, Charli XCX has headed full throttle into her latest reinvention. The main focus of her sonic makeover is teaming up with PC Music producer SOPHIE and last week she played her first live shows with him at SXSW. Here’s what we learnt from her performance at Hype Hotel.
The collaboration is further proof that she’s one of the most exciting pop stars around right now
You don’t see Katy Perry or Rita Ora hooking up with anyone as forward-thinking or subversive as the PC Music crew and it’s certainly a bold move on Charli’s part. Up until now, she’s teetered close to pop mega stardom, her own songs and co-writes on the likes of ‘Fancy’ and Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’ seeming set to catapult her to the next level. For most singers, to take their blueprint and completely rip it up in favour of something genuinely edgy and not guaranteed to work out commercially wouldn’t even be an option. But Charli has always seemed like, while she has all the components to be that chart-topping, arena-conquering superstar, doing what makes her happy is more important than anything else. If what makes her happy is taking risks, experimenting and trying to innovate then we should all be excited about what’s ahead.
When she said her new album “could change the sound of pop music”, she might have been right
During her set at Hype Hotel, she performed all of the recently released ‘Vroom Vroom’ EP, some SOPHIE tracks like ‘Lemonade’, two songs from ‘Sucker’ and a handful of new songs. Those fresh cuts follow ‘Vroom Vroom”s weird electronic pop cues, more suited to a rave than to a pop concert with their glitchy beats and dark, doomy atmospheres. If they’re a taste of Charli’s next album, then her recent claims on social media that it “could change the sound of pop music” could be very accurate indeed.
The pairing of Charli XCX and SOPHIE makes complete sense
And not just because they both clearly enjoy dressing in PVC (SOPHIE wore a jacket with huge sleeves while Charli was dressed in a crop top and mini skirt). The two complement each other perfectly – she deals with the killer hooks, he serves up the chopped and screwed beats. Together, it’s a combination that couldn’t be more ahead of the curve or innovative.
Charli’s performance skills have gotten even stronger
Maybe it was excitement or a sense of liberation to be doing something different, but at Hype Hotel, Charli’s performance went to the next level. Whether she was swinging her ponytail or twerking scandalously, she had a new level of energy (which for Charli XCX is saying something) that was infectious and made the gig feel more like it was happening in a seedy, subterranean club than a big warehouse with a huge area handed over to Mazda.
Don’t expect her to play some of her biggest hits at future shows
Or, if she does, they’ll be completely reworked to fit her new sound. During her set, she only played two songs from that weren’t from the ‘Vroom Vroom’ EP or other SOPHIE tunes. ‘Doing It’ was completely reworked from how it sounds on ‘Sucker’, far more glitchy and rave-y than before. Closer ‘Boom Clap’, meanwhile, wasn’t and felt like it didn’t belong in the set, an add-on possibly to appease fans after a set full of new tracks, but one that felt alien – ironic given that it was the most accessible pop song of the night.
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