Charli XCX : I never really felt accepted into the British music scene

Pop artist Charli XCX has said she has “never really felt accepted into the British music scene”.

The Cambridge-born performer, real name Charlotte Aitchison, said some of her previous collaborators have thought of her ideas as “silly or childish”.

Speaking to The Observer, she said: “The industry’s changed a lot. I’ve been told for so long that I’m an outsider and I never really felt accepted into the British music scene.

“The press has perpetuated that narrative of me.

“I’m this girl who straddles the underground and pop music, and that, for some reason, is really difficult for some people to wrap their heads around.”

Aitchison discussed the influence of PC Music on her, a record label, which stopped releasing new music after 2023, that was known for putting out songs incorporating heavy use of auto-tune, abrupt tempo changes and experimental drum patterns.

“Thus far any collaborators I’d worked with had at points thought of my ideas as silly or childish, or not eloquent”, she said.

“It took some people who were willing to think quite drastically outside the box to make those ideas reality, and that was what I found in PC Music.”

The Brit Awards 2024 – Show – London
Alison Oliver and Charli XCX on stage to present the award for best dance act during the Brit Awards 2024 (James Manning/PA)

“People were so perplexed by PC Music, but it’s unbelievably simple as a concept,” she added.

The 31-year-old, who has collaborated with the likes of Lizzo and Troye Sivan, also reflected on the role of feminism in the media landscape and said it has become a “popular marketing tool”.

“We’ve got past the point of the media always pitting women against one another,” she said.

“In the mid to late 00s, it literally sold magazines and papers: ‘Britney versus Christina’, ‘Paris versus Lindsay’.

“Then feminism became a popular marketing tool.

“In the music industry, it was distilled into this idea that if you support women, and you like other women, then you’re a good feminist.

“The reverse of that is, if you don’t like all other women who exist and breathe on this earth then you’re a bad feminist. If you’re not a girl’s girl, then you’re a bad woman.”

“That’s just such an unrealistic expectation of women,” she said.

“Relationships between women are super-complex and multi-layered.

“You can like someone and dislike them at the same time; you can feel jealous of somebody but they can still be your friend; you can have the best time of your life on a night-out with someone but not be that close to them at all.

“You can pose with your arms around a person at an awards show, but in reality you’re feeling not worthy, or small – or really cocky, or confident, or a huge multitude of different emotions.

“One day you can feel completely on top of the world; the next day, you can feel like your career’s over.”

Speaking about her song Girl, So Confusing, which features on the track list of her forthcoming album Brat, she said the song is saying “sometimes it’s really confusing to be a girl, and that’s fine”.

The Brit Awards 2024 – Arrivals – London
Charli XCX attending the Brit Awards 2024 (Ian West/PA)

The pop artist, who won the visionary award at the Ivor Novellos in 2023, also reflected on the expectations put on artists by record labels.

“These days, labels are really desperate for their artists to be liked and the currency of niceness is really important in selling records, otherwise you’re bad, evil and wrong,” she said.

“You can’t separate yourself from your fans. Unless it’s extremely drastic and distant – and then that almost becomes the culture itself…”

She added: “Persona is intrinsic to the modern-day artist, unless you completely reject it and do something alien-like and cold… I can’t wait for somebody to do that, actually.

“I can’t wait for someone to be really cold and mean and icy. But we’re not in a place where any major artist could do that. I hope someone dares.”