Charli XCX is charming, cheeky, and will challenge what you think of pop stardom
Her Red Bull #30DaysInLA show was all parts hip-(p)op, punk, and dance.
LOS ANGELES—A song. One song. That’s how long it took for the glitter-eyed concert-goer standing next to me at Charli XCX’s #30DaysInLA midnight show at Exchange LA to ask if I wanted any mushrooms. I didn’t. But Sophie, the UK producer who backed the fellow British singer-songwriter’s entire set, was homegirl’s favorite and she just, like, needed psychedelics whenever she saw him live.
I was admittedly less familiar with the electronic musician—who loomed like Oz on an elevated platform over Charli’s stage—but the confidence with which he wore an off-the-shoulder fishnet shirt and patent leather skirt coupled with the fact that he, I’d learn, produced “Vroom Vroom,” the euphoria-inducing song in-question (and Charli’s entire EP of the same name), summated to full intrigue.
Charli XCX is all things. I’ve already described her as “punk draped in pop stylings” and, after this show, it wouldn’t be off-center to tack on “and inconspicuous hip-hop influence.” This first became obvious in her pairing of a shiny, red, and skintight bra-and-pant set (that gave nod to Britney Spears’ “Oops!” bodysuit) with the kind of red quilted puffy jacket and matching visor that Tommy Hilfiger would have outfitted your favorite ’90s rapper in.
And it became obvious again in her performance of the aforementioned “Vroom, Vroom,” a song that from verse to pre-hook to chorus sees her snarl-singing over the kind of beat you’d hear banged out on cafeteria tables and lockers, to alternating a melodic airy falsetto with a childlike chant over a rubbery beat and finger snap, to playfully teasing listeners over a squeal: “Bitches know they cahn’t catch me.”
Over the next hour, she’ll trot, seductively body-roll, and maniacally punch the air; she’ll sip from a gold Solo cup with a striped straw; she’ll admit to not having a set list; she’ll drop down and get her eagle on like Lil Lim’s infamous Hard Core promo poster while recalling her cheeky counterpart Gwen Stefani’s “Wind It Up” on her own “Throw it up!” chant on the Pulp Fiction-sampling “Trophy”; and she’ll perform “Boom Clap” with a single rose in hand after mouthing Lil Yachty’s guest verse on latest single “After the Afterparty.”
And her charming dichotomy will continue to play out over the night, on her unreleased material too. The chaotic club-made “Bounce” used thumping drums, hand claps, and grinding electronics to back her still-sweet squeaky chorus (“You’re the only one that I will ever need / When I’m with you it feels like a fantasy”); the mockery of “Taxi,” driven by a popped-bubble beat, proved to be anthemic (“Blind date on a Tuesday / bougie restaurant… / You’re playing ’21 Questions’ / Baby boy, give up / …that don’t impress me much”); and on the radio-ready “No Angel,” complete with the kind of warm electro pulses that feel euphoric on a dance floor, she wholeheartedly claims the titular phrase before editing it with: “But I can learn.”
We kinda hope she doesn’t though.
Revisit Charli XCX’s performance of “Break the Rules” on the REVOLT x Honda Stage.