The random meme from a fervent fan nearby set the tone for the night, where frenzied, glitchy pop on the margins met earnest community-building and space-making.
That moment stood out because the reaction felt like it belonged online, yet it also didn’t feel out of place IRL at a sold-out show for Charli XCX’s latest album. It was Stan Twitter come to life.
“Thank you for being the most loyal . . . fans with excellent taste,” the 27-year-old told the crowd. “You really do have excellent taste, because you’re here with me.”
Even though Charli XCX often cites Britney Spears as an early inspiration, her path to pop stardom straddles chart-topping dominance and critical, niche success. Her highest charting U.S. single for her solo work, the sprightly “Boom Clap,” came off a 2014 album. But, Charli also helped write some of the biggest hits of this decade: Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” took the No. 1 slot this summer, and her feature on “Fancy” propelled Australian rapper Iggy Azalea to the top in 2014.
Despite her uneven mainstream success, Charli’s synth-heavy, chrome-adorned pop music has created a space where partying hard, emotional connections and uplifting community melt together in lively, danceable celebration.
Her latest album, “Charli,” is a crystallization of her experimental, digital-drip sound. She can trace her musical beginnings to uploading songs on Myspace at 14 and playing at warehouse raves in London shortly after. But she started to focus in on her lyrical play and musical adventurousness by 2016’s “Vroom Vroom” EP, her vision becoming even clearer by 2017’s “Pop 2.”
Onstage, Charli’s energy seemed never-ending; she was a human defibrillator, and whenever the crowd started to fade even a little, she would jump up and revive them. And despite her chaotic movements, Charli’s breath control stayed strong, ringing out as she crooned the meditative slow jam “I Don’t Wanna Know,” and sprinting as she feverishly sang “Unlock It.”
“I just really hope that tonight is a safe space where we can all be ourselves, be free to be free, feel good, be weirdos, love each other and also party hard,” she told the crowd. And for that night, Charli XCX’s exuberant, expansive pop music held that space.