On ‘Crash’ best songs, ‘Vroom Vroom’

Charli XCX in 2013. “People tried to trick me and check if I was the right item and if I was worth their time,” she recalls. “All that condemnation can get in the way of whether a song is good or not.”
Photo Illustration: Grib; Photo by Caitlin Mogridge / Redferns via Getty Images

Before she dropped the first single from her album CrashCharli XCX declared hyperpop to be dead. The performer had been one of the sub – genre’s greatest proponents, developing her sound in her work with AG Cook and the late SOPHIE and working with new ones like 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady. But some fans had been skeptical of the rollout of the high concept and worried that one of pop’s stranger, more visionary figures was sold out by declaring his mainstream ambitions. “It’s like that the second I started saying ‘head doll’ online, everyone came after me,” says Charli. “I was thinking, ‘Do you know who you stand for? Of course I want to give you something iconic. Do not doubt me.’

The believers were rewarded when Charli released the polished, legendary one Crash on March 18. Yes, the album is hook-heavy and 80s influenced, her most trend-focused since her brief flirtation with pop star status around 2014’s Sugar. But Crash is more experimental than it allows – “Lightning”, for example, the flawed Charli you are used to hearing is just applied to a song that sounds like it could get on the radio.

As the last album in Charlie’s deal with Atlantic Records (hence the go-for-broke attitude), Crash also contains a collection of a career’s value of collaborators. Together with creative director Cook and former duet partners, including Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek, the record producers from Charlie’s debut in 2013 True romance, Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen. Charli talked to Vulture about the ups and downs of that career so far and the best songs that came along the way.

It was probably a song like “Beg for you” or “Yuck,” because those songs, not in their entirety, but a part of them, were presented to me. Like songwriters pitch the chorus, that sort of thing. I wanted to explore that path because the whole idea of ​​making this album was that I finally, after all my years as a contract with a major record company, would actually make a record the way big companies want you to make one plate and really use the tools from a bigger brand and just play the game a little. I would do it to challenge myself. At a time when everyone is searching for this authenticity, I would explore what it would be like if I were the opposite of it. So part of that, for me, was making interpolation songs and also leaning in a few times to take pitched songs. I love those songs, but obviously inside me there’s still this person saying, “I write all my own music.” The younger version of myself, who probably would have been very much against this album campaign. But I feel it was the challenge of overcoming it.

I would probably say “Stay Away”, which was the first song I released. I guess it had a chance to get a profile, but just because it was the first song, people tried to fool me and check if I was the right item and if I was worth their time. All the condemnation can get in the way of whether the song is good or not. People wanted to know my background and whether I was authentic and whether I was cool. But I feel like it over the yearsthat song has become an unsung hero of True romance. Me and Ariel Rechtshaid, who produced the song we’ve always talked about a re-release as part of a new album. I actually think it would fit so well Crash, to be honest. I still think it’s one of my best songs.

Well, I think I’ve always had – and still have – a very ambitious opinion on how mainstream pop music might sound. When we made Pop 2, I remember that I and AG Cook felt that “Unlock It” was really, really special. We felt it was the perfect pop song. Maybe there was one too many features. Maybe it could have been three minutes instead of how long it is if we really thought about it. But in terms of the melody and the hook, I feel like we’ve always thought that song was quite pop taste.

I think it got its fairness when it exploded on TikTok. We thought, “We knew this was an iconic bop.” I absolutely love TikTok because it really is that free. You can not predict it or you can not try to take advantage of it. You really just have to keep up with the flow there, and I love that.

I generally think that if someone does not want to make a collaboration, then I will not force them because I know they will not. People can see when it feels forced or awkward, or a person does not really want to be there. I’ve had that situation a few times and people know they can just feel it. So in general, I’m not really trying to push for people who are not into it because it does not do the song justice.

I actually really wanted this album to be mostly about me. I could not help but I ended up working with Rina and Caroline and Chris, who I absolutely love. [But] I never really saw this as a big collaborative project that I did with Pop 2 or Charlie. The people who are on it, they feel so real and tangible to me because I know them at this point so well, especially Chris and Caroline. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really feels like collaborating with close friends instead of other musicians that I love.

So easy to answer: “Break the rules.” I know I should not speak ill of my work, especially if other people love it, but I have never loved that song. People got me in the head over it. They said, “This is going to be a hit.” I listened to them and I put it out and it was not really a hit. I was like, Shit, that’s why you should always trust your gut feeling.

I will say when I play it, it goes off. I would never play it on my own show. It’s like a little party trick I take out. When I was opening for Taylor, many people who were to the show and were completely confused by a song like “Vroom Vroom” would actually get the same kind of experience from “Break the Rules”, as they would be able to identify me as “a girl with attitude.” And also, even though they did not know I sang it, it has been in so many commercials or TV shows. The song was familiar. So therefore it is still in my back pocket, just in case.

I guess it would be one from this album. I really love the video “Good Ones”. I really love the “Baby” video because it’s the first time I really am laver choreo. I did well in “Good Ones”, but “Baby” was the first choreo I learned. So there is a sense of pride for me there. But then I also really love the “Vroom Vroom” video. It’s so sick. Then I also love the “Boys” video because I directed it, and it was such a crazy, manic hassle to get all those guys in the video, but it was cool. I really enjoyed that process.

I think it’s “Vroom Vroom.” It’s, I think, the gay anthem. It goes completely off on shows, it’s demonic. It was critically panned. It’s basically mine Pet sounds, which is a funny phrase I thought I would never say. The reviews were bad and it came right after Sugar. For the most part, people were confused, but there were quite a few fans who really got it and stuck with me. It was then that one could really separate the hardcores that were to be with me forever, from the smaller hardcores.

But that song – not to sound arrogant, but it’s a damn masterpiece. Of course, it’s partly all up to SOPHIE. Our combination together is just, on that song, unstoppable because we bounce so much of each other’s frenetic energy. We were in Sweden, in the country. We were both so constantly inspired by each other and going back and forth, SOPHIE with different production and amazing sounds and me on different flows and ideas of melody. It was just such a crazy, wild study session. I think that song has grown and grown in terms of how much people love it and relate to it. It was seen as quite complex when it came out. But now, because I feel like the underground has really caught up with the mainstream, and because of hyperpop and whatever, it’s definitely tastier now than it has ever been before for people who do not normally listen to that kind of music.

It’s really hard to pick one song. I think I would either say “Vroom Vroom”, “Track 10” or this new song on Crash called “Constant Repeat” which I really feel is the perfect marriage between my more experimental instincts and very classic pop. I think the chorus on “Vroom Vroom” is so like nursery rhyme pop, versus the very erratic production and my verse flow. It has the tension between pop and insanity that I love. The same with “Track 10” – the production of “Track 10” is so euphoric and symphonic in that it builds up, but the melody on top of that, it’s a very classic pop tune.

This interview has been edited and compressed for clarity.

“Beg for You” samples “Cry for You”, the dance song from 2006 in September.

“Yuck” features contributions from Canadian singer-songwriter Bülow and her cowriters Mike Wise, Lowell and Nathan Ferraro.

Sawayama, starring in “Beg for You”.

Charli opened for Swift on reputation tour in 2018.

“I’m getting older, I’m getting hotter, my breasts are amazing, I’m in great shape, I’m dancing, I’m evolving, and I’m living my best life – and that tea,” Charli tweeted in response to a fan criticizing her dance in the “Baby” video.

The landmark album by the Beach Boys, which was consistently considered one of the best ever, received largely negative reviews upon its 1966 release.

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