Charli XCX Is Headed To The Upside Down
Her reign continues with a Doritos and Stranger Things collab.
On Stranger Things, the residents of Hawkins, Indiana, fear the Upside Down: an alternate dimension where dense fog, piercing screams, and humanoids rule. At a Charli XCX concert, these same macabre qualities are hyped. Come to think of it, maybe Demogorgons are the original e-boys.
It should come as little surprise, then, that the “You Used To Know Me” singer feels right at home in the Upside Down. Volume 1 of Stranger Things Season 4 premieres on May 27. About a month later, Charli XCX will co-headline a virtual concert on June 23 alongside ‘80s icons The Go-Go’s, Soft Cell, and Corey Hart. The premise sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch, but, like, a good one: In 1986, a tour bus on its way to Doritos Music Fest crashes near Hawkins, leaving the headliners vanishing into the Upside Down.
Charli XCX, who is currently touring her fifth album, Crash, is often praised for pushing pop music forward. (Beethoven would’ve loved “Lightning.”) So it makes sense that the biggest swerve the British singer can make today is going back in time to the 1980s, when her current penchant for big hair, car imagery, and synth sounds soared.
Ahead of her trip to the Upside Down, Charli XCX spoke with Elite Daily about the virtual concert, her new song “Hot Girl” (Angels, this one is for you “Vroom Vroom” heads), and her aspirations for Julia Fox to star in her next music video. Talk about iconic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Elite Daily: Tell me why you partnered with Doritos and Stranger Things for the upcoming concert.
Charli XCX: My most recent album has been pretty heavily inspired by elements of '80s music and pop culture, so it kind of just felt like a natural fit. I've actually done a collaboration with one of those [co-headlining] artists. I'm not allowed to tell you who at the moment. I guess you'll have to watch the show on June 23rd to find out, but it's pretty iconic. So yeah, it's exciting.
ED: I'm excited to hear what that collaboration is. Do you have a favorite '80s-inspired style trend? You've done so many, especially during this Crash era.
CX: The thing that I'm personally taking most from the '80s right now is big hair, like almost comically big, big hair. I'm really into that right now. Lot of back-combing [and] lot of high-front bits. That is what I'm really into, like this bombshell hair.
ED: So switching gears to Crash, are fans going to get a music video for “Yuck”?
CX: We are. That's the plan. I don't know if this will come true, but my dream is that I really want Julia Fox to be in the video for “Yuck.” I thought it would be cool if we could both be just taking billionaires' money in the video and then going and spending it, basically. That's the concept that I have so far. I haven't run it by her. I don't really know her, but I'm hoping that she'll be down.
ED: That has me wondering: Have you ever thought about who would play you in a movie? You both have a similar style.
CX: Julia is queen, and that would be iconic. Christina Ricci would be cool. Oh, I mean Fairuza Balk is pretty cool. She was Nancy in The Craft. Any of them I think would be great.
ED: That’s a good list. So you've been very open about how this era of Crash is embracing your main pop girl moment, which, as you’ve said, may have been unexpected for your fans. Do you have ideas for what your next switch-up could be?
CX: I have not begun to think about this. I am still, like, being on tour and still very much immersed in the Crash world. I'm still wearing those clothes and doing the hair and the makeup and singing the songs. So I'm not really thinking about anything else just yet. I might do a few more singles from this album anyways, so I'm not quite there yet. And I think I need a break or something before I have a breakdown. So yeah, I'll probably just take a pause. I definitely need to go back to the drawing board and kind of figure out what inspires me.
ED: This connects to your Alone Together doc, where you deal with workaholism while making your previous record, How I’m Feeling Now. Do you think embracing being a public figure on Crash was a response to burnout and the difficulty of going through the day-to-day so intentionally?
CX: That's an interesting question. I mean, I think there are elements of protection that come with embodying a more amplified, more detached version of yourself. But I actually think that there are so many elements of this album campaign and this character…it's not really even a character because there are so many parts that feel very real to me and feel very much like my journey of over 10 years through the music industry. So I think it became less of a character for me to hide behind and more like someone that I have to kind of face sometimes and deal with the consequences of.
Also, I think whilst maybe it started being quite detached, I think there were quite a lot of conversations about theorizing what was going on in the fan base. That opened up a lot of conversations that were actually sometimes quite difficult to have and quite like…yeah, I don't know. I think [it] made me probably even more volatile than before. So yeah, this album's been really difficult in ways. I'm very proud of it, but it's also been this sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in many ways. When you look back at it, you can kind of really see that.
ED: Yeah, absolutely. I think that makes a lot of sense. I have a two-part question about “Hot Girl,” your new song in the film Bodies Bodies Bodies. First, what can you say about it? And secondly — I hope you’re not offended by this — have you seen the movie or is it another “Kingdom,” Hunger Games moment for you?
CX: [Laughs] No, I actually have seen the movie. I saw it before it was finished. I haven't actually seen the final movie, but the version of the movie that I saw was truly amazing — really funny and kind of campy, and I just loved it. That's why I did the song, because I'm really a big fan of the director, Halina Reijn. Also, the cast [is] amazing, particularly Rachel Sennott who is also in Shiva Baby. I love her. Her character is my favorite character. She's so awesome. So yeah, the movie's great. The song slaps. Check it out.
ED: Anything else you can tease about the song?
CX: I think for people who are fans of “Vroom Vroom” and “Taxi,” you're probably going to like this one.
ED: Okay, that is good to hear. To clarify, would you say it's an extension of the Crash era?
CX: No, I would say it's actually quite [different]. Halina, the director, called me and was like, "Can you just make something really b*tchy? Like, it needs to be a song that a b*tchy girl wants to sing." I was like, "Yeah, don't worry. I got you." I wrote it in like an hour and sent it back to her, and she was like, "Yes, this is the one." So that's the vibe.
ED: That's amazing. I'm super excited about that. You've achieved so many big pop star career moments, specifically within this Crash era. Are there any specific markers of career success that you have not achieved yet?
CX: I think I just want to keep growing, to be honest. This tour has been crazy, and I would love to be playing in arenas in some places the next few shows, like around the next album. So I guess that, but also I don't really care. I just like seeing what happens and going with it.
ED: Before we wrap up, I'm curious for you what you think the future of pop music is.
CX: That's interesting. I, God, I don't know. I think we are in a place right now in pop music where the underground and the mainstream [are] so interlinked, and everything is kind of inspiring each other and kind of flowing together. I'm not personally sure what is the most sort of left, underground [thing] that's happening at the moment. I don't really know. It just feels like we're in this kind of melting pot world where a lot of genres are colliding. A lot of collaborators who come from totally different mindsets, musically, are collaborating. And I think that feels really cool. So I'm not sure of the answer, but I'm excited to hear what it is.
ED: You've been using the persona of a main pop girl, but do you consider yourself to be a main pop girl?
CX: Yeah, of course. I'm the main pop girl.
The “Live from the Upside Down” virtual concert will air on June 23. Fans can secure tickets exclusively through Snacks.com or on Doritos bags, available wherever Doritos are sold.