Charli XCX on her bonkers new mixtape and the status of her next LP: 'I don't even know if I'll put an album out'
Charli XCX is the gift that keeps on giving. Earlier this year, the “Boys” singer released the collaboration-heavy Number 1 Angel mixtape — one of EW’s best albums of 2017 — to tide fans over until the release of her third studio album. And with no release date in sight for the proper follow-up to 2014’s Sucker, she’s decided to keep the party going with Pop 2, another mixtape that features more guests (Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo) and even weirder beats, courtesy of avant-pop producers like A. G. Cook and SOPHIE. Waiting around just isn’t her style, she tells EW. “I like to work best is when it’s a bit in a rush,” she says. “It’s probably really stressful for [my label], but it works for me.” And with her only career goals for 2018 consisting of “more partying and kicking ass,” that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is there a musical connection or through line between this mixtape and Number 1 Angel? Or were these just the songs you had ready to go?
Charli XCX: It definitely wasn’t thrown together. These songs were all very specifically made for this mixtape. There was one song that was around from before that we reworked, but everything else was tailor-made for this. This is one of the first interviews I’ve done about the mixtape, so I haven’t quite figured out how to talk about it yet, but I suppose it’s different-sounding because there are so many collaborations on this mixtape. That’s the crux of it. It’s not necessarily all about me, it’s about everyone getting their moment to shine and do their thing. I do a lot of collaborations anyway, but when myself and A. G. Cook were working on this, we got a bit obsessed with the idea of having as many collaborations as possible. We wanted to make it super crazy and next-level. The way I work is also very hectic and all over the place, and that’s really reflected in the songs and the way the features come together — all these artists and producers who might not have worked together before.
What track do you think will surprise fans the most?
I’m very excited for people to hear [“I Got It”], the song I’ve done with Brooke Candy, CupcakKe and Pabllo Vittar. I feel like the collection of us all together is really going to excite my LGBTQ fanbase because Pabllo’s such a gay icon, and so are CupcakKe and Brooke. So all of us together will be very fun. That song is also the most extreme song on the mixtape. It’s one that people are going to love or hate. I’m excited to see the reaction to it. Some people might be like, “What the f— is this?” and some might be really into it. I also love the song “Track 10,” which is something that’s been around for awhile, but we made this new version of it. The coolest thing is I got to make this mixtape with a lot of my really good friends. It feels like we’re all in it together.
Before the release of Number 1 Angel, you tweeted about the difficulties of trying to release a mixtape. Was it easier this time around?
Totally. I think my label is more understanding of me, and I’m more understanding of them as well. This process has been a lot easier because we’ve done it before. My label understands now that the way I like to work best is when it’s a bit in a rush. It’s probably really stressful for them, but it works for me. We’re on the same page.
It’s funny how mixtapes are so common in rap and hip-hop, yet when a pop star tries to make one, there’s suddenly all this concern.
I think collaborations happen in hip-hop a lot more frequently than in pop music. When a collaboration happens in pop, it’s very much like, “It’s the single! It’s a big deal! Shoot a video!” There’s less of a culture of just jumping on people’s tracks and not overthinking it. The way me and all my friends work, we’re all around each other a lot and we’re all in the studio a lot. It only makes sense for us to be relaxed about the collaborations we do, rather than having everyone freak out. It feels like a very me thing to do, to do it like this.
You’re asked a lot about the status of your third official album, even though you’ve put out almost two dozen new songs this year. Why is there such fixation on a “proper” album when you’re putting out volumes of material and touring?
It’s interesting, because my fans are very savvy about what’s going on in music and what’s going on in streaming. But there is still this nostalgic want for an album. It’s possibly a generational thing. We grew up with the album. I would go out to HMV and buy CDs. Then [it changed to where] you’d download the album or maybe go to Urban Outfitters and buy it on vinyl. It’s still a moment. It’s the climax of one year of releasing pieces of music and artwork. It still definitely works for some artists, but I don’t know if it works for me anymore. I’m not sure why it’s so difficult to move away from it. I don’t even know if I’ll put an album out. I can’t really answer that question. I’m not sure what I’ll do. I feel like there are so many more interesting ways for artists to release music now than just releasing an album. So who knows what’ll happen. People are still anchored to the album because it’s classic and what people know and love. But I think that will change.
I know this is not your favorite topic, but you’ve talked before about how leaks of unreleased songs this summer threw a wrench in your plans for your third album. Have you considered putting those songs out as a separate mixtape or EP so fans have a legal way of supporting those songs, even if you’re letting them go?
I mean, I don’t really want to talk about this, honestly, but here’s the thing — those songs are still really important to me, and I’m not done with them yet. That’s why it’s so frustrating. They’re still a really important part of who I am, and I hope to release them. But I’m just so honestly pissed off about it that I’m figuring out how to deal with that myself. That’s all I say on that.
Fair enough. Earlier this year, you and A. G. Cook recorded an entire album in a day “just for fun.” Did any of those songs make it onto Pop 2?
Yeah, one thing did, which is the Brooke, CupcakKe and Pabllo song. When I did the album in a day with A. G., it was a very rough sketch idea, and we fleshed it out for Pop 2.
Do you have any plans for 2018 that you can tease?
You know what? I don’t even know what I’m doing next year yet. I’m so focused on Pop 2 that I haven’t even thought about it. So who knows. Probably more partying and kicking ass.
What about life plans? Learning to cook? Redecorating your house? Tell me what’s on your non-career to-do list.
Just honestly being happy, that’s the number one thing. And then look after my new haircut. That’s number two.