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Only Charli XCX Could Get Brooklyn Gays to Midtown

Photo: Depop

On a recent Friday evening in April, the queer community usually found dancing and drinking and dragging in the bars of Bushwick migrated to a line wrapped around the Hammerstein Ballroom on 34th Street. Only one woman could have prompted this: It was, of course, the line for a Charli XCX show.

I knew the energy fans would bring for this two-night stop on the Crash tour would be intoxicating, and the Angels did not disappoint. Some dressed up as the Crash album cover, complete with fake blood splashed onto the temple. Others incorporated signature elements of Charli’s style: platform boots, tiny skirts, black leather. On the GA floor, smushed between my roommate and a group of grad students discussing a thesis project on Mariah Carey (something I deeply need to read), I watched a couple pass the time before the lights went down by making out, their matching indoor sunglasses bumping against each other. A few rows ahead of me, an arm holding an iPhone shot into the air, rotating so everyone could see the screen, which read, in large white letters on a black background: “BLOW?”

When the show did begin, the anticipatory energy frothed over. I felt the (very solid!) floor bouncing beneath me as the crowd pulsated. And Charli matched the crowd’s enthusiasm twice over; as a performer, she manages to perfectly hit every beat of choreography with equal parts ferocity and freeness; it’s perfection without restraint. It was an incredible show, with a visual mood (and costume change) for every act.

Over the years of career progression she’s experienced since she started writing songs at the age of 14, her style has evolved in tandem with her music. Every album represents a personal fashion era almost as much as a musical one. So it makes sense that her very own Depop collaboration launches today, giving fans the chance to shop some of her signature pieces to benefit G.L.I.T.S., which works to ensure health care and housing for LGBTQIA people.

I counted five outfit changes at your show on Friday — tell me about them. 

Firstly, the outfit changes in the show are stressful. I think they all happen in under a minute. And it is very fucking hectic. But when it comes to the actual clothes themselves, myself and my stylists really worked on trying to create clothes that were reflective of what was going on in the show. The shapes, the colors, the cuts, we really wanted to help amplify this vamp ’80s world that I’ve been creating. We had L.A. Roxx and R&M Leathers make custom pieces for the show, which feel so perfect and right.

They have to be really easy to perform in, because I like going a little crazy and dancing and doing my thing. And practical, which … I suppose the custom Canada Goose puffer jacket maybe is not the most practical outfit choice, but I like it. It’s very cute. It’s very hot, but it looks very good. I pair that with these amazing, reflective Celine glasses, which I absolutely love. I really love all the outfits — I feel really empowered and sexy in them.

My personal style is constantly evolving. With this record, I was very inspired by these vampy B-movie actresses and just the idea of being really comfortable while feeling sexy; owning your body and that feeling of fire and fierceness.

You’ve had a lot of car imagery throughout your discography — what is it about them that speaks to you? 

So, the funny thing about my obsession with cars is that I’m actually not a petrolhead. Like, I’m not somebody who can tell you, “Oh my God, that’s this car or that car.” But I love being in cars. I think the reason I’ve become quite fixated on car imagery is because the symbolism of cars in music is that it’s this luxury, sexy, aspirational object — the idea of living fast and driving fast and this vehicle of danger. I feel like that is this sexy thing within pop music and also in real life.

I’m wondering how you think about your evolution, in your style and as an artist. You’ve been very up-front about the commercial side of being an artist and have fully leaned into the idea of being a Pop Star. What does this album, and the campaign around it, mean to you through that lens?

Throughout my whole career, there’s been this push and pull, this tension between the idea of conforming to what a pop star is versus absolutely rebelling against it. That has driven me in many ways, because I’ve often wanted to be the absolute opposite of what people expect from me, and have found a lot of inspiration in running away from that ideal. I suppose that’s where this fascination with becoming that pop star came from, because I was in a place where I’d made some really cool mixtapes and a couple of more left-of-center albums, and then I made my quarantine album called How I’m Feeling Now. I really delved deep into that DIY sound.

To then do something similar to that, again, would be something that people were expecting. So to flip it on its head and go completely the other way into classic songwriting, classic visuals, that just felt like a thing that people would expect from me the least. And I also feel like, in a time of commercial, major labels, big pop artists aren’t craving authenticity, and craving to tell people how authentic and real they are. I just wanted to do that, but without caring about this need to be authentic. This is what it is. You can call me a fake, you can think it’s real, whatever. I don’t really care. It’s not important to me to be authentic right now, because I’ve already done that for a long time. So flipping that on its head and being this ultimate persona felt really interesting to me.

Photo: Depop

Before this collab with Depop, had you ever bought or sold anything on Depop? A burner account?

I hadn’t sold anything, but I did have a burner account — I like that you call it that. I was buying a few things, but also mainly using the app as a source of inspiration. I was using a lot of imagery from some of my favorite sellers, but also just random people that I would discover, as a part of mood boards for my music videos and photo shoots and things like that.

You’ve cultivated such a deeply devoted, and often queer, community of fans — fans who love you fiercely. Why do you think that is?

I’m sure a lot of artists feel this way about their fan bases — not to say that they’re lying — but I really feel that I am very, very close with my fan base. I really feel like they understand me, and I understand aspects of them. I can’t really speak to why they feel the way they do about me, you’d have to ask them, but I feel like maybe it’s because my journey through music has been so unconventional. At many times, it’s been allowed to blossom and continue to grow because of the support of the fan base, rather than the support of things like radio or commercial success.

That builds a really strong connection between the artist and a fan because it really feels like the music is ours. Also, I’ve definitely had moments in my career where a lot of people haven’t technically got me, but the fans have and so I think that builds a sense of ownership and this personal thing, and that’s really special.

Only Charli XCX Could Get Brooklyn Gays to Midtown