It’s been over 10 years since Charlotte Emma Atichinson — known to most of the world as Charli XCX — released her first official collection of music, all culminating with a song that launched her career into the expansive pantheon of pop music: Icona Pop’s “I Love It.”
The pop hit was a prototype for what Charli wanted to explore on her solo albums, and her 2013 debut True Romance added a moody, nostalgic palate to the mix. Yet, Charli didn’t stop there; since True Romance, each Charli XCX album has been a bold, ambitious, and highly distinctive work, playing always to her strengths as a songwriter and her deeply expressive voice.
The term “future pop” was thrown around a lot around 2013, particularly with other indie pop artists like Grimes and Purity Ring, who added a modern, experimental flair to songs with state-of-the-art production. But when you look at the trajectory of pop music since then, it’s Charli who has consistently blazed a new path forward into the future of the medium.
Since she began her creative partnership with PC Music founder A.G. Cook, Charli’s music has evolved so rapidly that she’s always been one step ahead of the zeitgeist, particularly when it comes to hyperpop and left-of-center production choices. She’s consistently a champion of innovative, future-minded artists and producers, working heavily with visionaries like SOPHIE, Danny L Harle, Caroline Polachek, Rina Sawayama, and Christine and the Queens.
Overall, Charli is not only inimitable — she’s a symbol of what can happen when an artist embraces the new, the strange, and the margins of a genre. Charli XCX makes pop music with a sense of abandon, a brashness and a confidence that cannot be deterred.
Ahead of Charli XCX’s fifth studio album Crash (out Friday, March 18th), we’re looking back at her eclectic career. It was more than tough to narrow it down; one could rank Charli’s 20 best collaborations alone. But we were intent on including a mix of solo efforts and early-career standouts, in addition to her many excellent team-ups.
Check out the full list of Charli’s best songs below, and scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.
— Paolo Ragusa