Charli XCX on recreating '1999' with Troye Sivan and touring with Taylor Swift
The pop star talks her new collaboration with Troye Sivan, touring with Taylor Swift, and what Spice Girl she’d be
Ready for a little time travel?
Charli XCX and Troye Sivan have released the music video for their new single “1999,” a Y2K-tastic collaboration that dropped last week. The buoyant track’s nostalgia-packed vid sees the duo recreate every ‘90s pop culture moment you can possibly think of, from Titanic to American Beauty to The Matrix (the latter of which inspired the single’s art).
In celebration of Charli’s sparkly new song and video, EW checked in with the “Boys” singer to find out how she teamed up with Sivan, whether fans can expect another album (or mixtape), and what her Spice Girls name would be.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You wrote and sang that you were a “’90s bitch” on “I Love It” six years ago. Is “1999” a continuation of that?
I was born in 1992, so I was a kid during the ‘90s. But I guess it’s just such a rich era in terms of pop culture, from movies to music to cultural figures and events, to toys… there’s so much going on there to reference.
The song says you “wish you could go back,” but you were seven in 1999. I’m guessing you don’t wish you were seven again?
I mean, being seven was definitely fun, but, yeah, I’m good not redoing that year. The song is not really that serious. I don’t really want to go back to 1999. It’s more like, I thought it was a cool title for a song. I like pop music to be fun and not always take itself really seriously, so it’s just a cool way to explore a fun idea for a video, fun idea for artwork, stuff like that. In 1999 I was probably just wishing I was Britney Spears or Baby Spice.
How did you come to collaborate with Troye?
Troye and I met for the first time when I threw a house party when I just moved to LA. I was kind of having whoever come through. I had a lot of musicians and producers and basically a load of people I didn’t really know, and it kind of started to get a bit crazy and wild, but it was good vibes. Troye came to one of those parties, and we realized that we had a lot of mutual friends, and we got on. He was a very sweet, very nice guy, and we stayed in touch and always spoke about doing something together, especially after I put my mixtape Pop 2 out. I saw him speak really positively about that in an interview, which I thought was really sweet.
And ever since he put “My My My!” out, I mean… I was definitely a fan of his work before, but when he put “My My My!” out, I was like, whoa, I’m obsessed with Troye. My Twitter account basically became a Troye Sivan stan account. So we kind of mutually were really into each other’s music, so we’d always spoken about doing something. Then I got “1999” played for him, and he really liked it and said he would be down to do a duet together — which was cool because initially, I wasn’t really even sure if that song was me, you know? Or, not me, but… I wasn’t sure. But when Troye was like, “I think it’s really cool,” I was like “Alright, Troye is like my favorite pop star, and if he thinks it’s cool then it’s cool, and I’m doing it.”
Did you have any hesitation calling the song “1999” because Prince had already sort of marked that territory?
I actually didn’t think about that song at all, really. But since I put it out I’ve done a lot of interviews where people have mentioned Prince. And I mean, I feel like it’s pretty good company to be in. He’s a total legend. But I wasn’t really thinking about it when I wrote the song — I don’t really think about anything when I write songs, you know?
What were some of your favorite scenes to recreate in the video?
I think by far my favorite was when we recreated Jack and Rose from Titanic. Just because it was so surreal and I literally could not stop laughing throughout filming it. It was completely hilarious, [Troye] dressed as Leo and me with my arms stretched out in a red wig and, like, a shawl and a wind machine… That was definitely a moment I was like, “What the f— is my job, it’s so crazy.” Watching Troye become Eminem was pretty amazing too — he’s such a great actor and such a great sport. He really went all in for it. And my personal favorite was dressing up as Steve Jobs, just because it’s quite the polar opposite of what I wear or look like in everyday life. So that was really fun, to have short hair and wear a polo neck and glasses. I mean, the whole video is basically providing Halloween inspo for everybody who watches it. So, you’re welcome, world.
I want to ask your take on some things from the ‘90s. *NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys?
Okay, I’ve got to be honest — when I was growing up, I didn’t really care for either of them. That’s not, like, a shady thing. My mind was so preoccupied with the Spice Girls, there wasn’t room for any boys going on in there. But now, as an adult? I mean, it’s really difficult, but I think I’m gonna go with the Backstreet Boys, just because “I Want It That Way” is an incredible pop song.
If you were to be a sixth Spice Girl, what would your Spice name be?
Can I just be Bitch Spice? I’d be the one who never really was allowed to be on TV or the radio. I’d always be doing the wrong thing, and probably swearing, and being a bit too miserable for the Spice Girls — that’s the one thing, they’re all very happy all the time.
In the last couple of years, you released the mixtapes Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, and now in 2018 you’ve dropped a steady stream of singles. Is this all part of a lead up to a bigger release? Or are you just making music and then putting it out into the world as you go?
You know, I don’t really know. I don’t really have a plan, so to speak. I’m just kind of releasing what I want when I want. I’m not sure what’s next. Maybe it’s an album, maybe it’s not an album, maybe there’s never an album, maybe there are 10 more mixtapes. I’m just kind of doing what I want to do and seeing where I go.
How have you felt about the response to Number 1 Angel and Pop 2?
Great, honestly. I feel really, really happy and good about it, and I think since I released those two mixtapes, I feel like a lot of things have changed around me, and for me. I definitely feel more confident in myself as an artist. I think those two mixtapes have really helped me understand my power as a curator and a collaborator, and they helped me realize that that’s my favorite thing to do. It’s less about being front and center and more about being surrounded by really fun, collaborative people and doing something together.
You’ve also spent much of this year touring with Taylor Swift. How would you describe that experience?
It’s been really great. It’s kind of a bummer that it’s coming to an end. I think it’s really cool that she is so open with Camila and me — we perform with her each night. The vibe is really positive, it feels very relaxed. It just feels like we’ve all got each other’s backs, and that feels really nice. It’s a good vibe and it’s been a really good experience.