We took on the impossible task of ranking the best 20 songs by the best underground popstar on the planet. It’s Charli baby.
20. Boom Clap
Just like Charli, you’re probably sick to death of this song now but it’s hard to deny it was a brilliant pop song when it dropped. Patrik Berger was behind the production and he was involved with Robyn’s Dancing On My Own and Lana Del Rey’s Off To The Races so it’s really no surprise that it’s such a left-centre hit.
19. Femmebot (Feat. Dorian Electra & Mykki Blanco)
“Go fuck your prototype,” may be the strongest opening line of any Charli XCX ever. Femmebot was Pop2‘s otherwordly smash. If it was released on Mars it would’ve topped the charts for weeks. Here on earth, it’s been the soundtrack to ever afterparty she’s thrown this year.
18. Doing It (Feat. Rita Ora)
We still think Rita Ora and Charli XCX’s best days of collaboration are ahead of them but this remix of Doing It was a good start. The Sucker highlight was the closest thing to Boom Clap on the record but it had even more saccharine appeal. The on-the-run video clip also seemed to be the start of Charli realising her aesthetic potential.
17. Stay Away
The Charli XCX power ballad is a rare commodity but this one packs such a punch. Released in 2011, it was widely ignored by the mainstream but listening to it now it’s clear that it was ahead of its time. Pop was just not ready for the industrial, dark production. Maybe if she re-released it now, it would make far more sense.
16. Girls Night Out
Girls Night Out has become Charli’s party anthem. It’s been the closer to most of her Pop2 shows this year and even when it was still unreleased it set any room alight. It’s Charli and SOPHIE embracing the most kitsch end of both their personalities and creating something that Aqua would’ve begged for in the ’90s.
15. No Angel
No Angel has been floating around for years but after fans begged Charli to release it she finally gave in. In an alternate universe No Angel would’ve been the huge second single of XCXWorld but instead it’s an infectious deep cut. Melodically, the verse of No Angel features some of Charli’s greatest work.
Much like Stay Away, Grins was too far ahead of its time. It took the pop formula of the time and distorted it with swirling synths, dizzying vocals and crumbling beats. It perfectly creates the woozy, early atmosphere of a crush furthered by Charli whispering in desperation, “Oh my God,” amidst the chorus.
Rightfully so, 1999 has become Charli’s biggest hit since Boom Clap. While Charli is a futuristic star, there’s also a nostalgia of late ’90s rave pop that she evokes so it only makes sense that she explicitly references that period. It’s tongue-in-cheek bordering on ridiculous and yet, with the help of Troye Sivan, she captures all that’s great about escapist pop.
12. Unlock It
Unlock It flows so beautifully it’s as if a scientist concocted it in a lab while trying to make the perfect pop song. It’s shiny and smooth, the pop equivalent of a lava lamp or the best sonic depiction of the ‘Pop2’ logo.
11. Roll With Me
SOPHIE and Charli are one of the best partnerships in music right now and Roll With Me exemplifies exactly why. They take this rubbery, hard-hitting beat and create something that’s so minimal yet powerful. It doesn’t need a big chorus, it just needs expertly written verses and some of the most boundary-pushing production around.
10. I Got It (Feat. Cupcakke, Brooke Candy & Pabllo Vittar)
On paper, I Got It is absolutely ridiculous. Charli sings, “I got it,” more times than I’ve used the word ‘and’ this year and yet it never feels repetitive or overdone. Instead, it’s a hard-hitting melting pot of pop and hip-hop made brilliant by Cupcakke’s earth-shattering verse. Just when you think you know exactly how the song is going to end Pabllo Vittar steps in and drives it to another planet.
Dreamer defines exactly why Charli is such a good collaborator. The whole song is distinctly Charli but she allows both RAYE and Starrah the space to make the song their own. She then comes through right at the end with this ethereal verse that reminds us who the captain of this ship is.
8. Backseat (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)
The whole internet nearly blew up when they spotted Carly Rae Jepsen on the Pop2 tracklist. Backseat wasn’t exactly what we expected though. The pair are purveyors of bubbly pop songs but for this one they went for something far more emotional. Everything about this song is devastating from the auto-tuned vocals to the lonely sonic backdrop. Jepsen and Charli’s vocals are completely different but they bring their own fragile take to the table.
Lucky may be the saddest song Charli has ever written. The distant whispers in the instrumental conjure up a post-apocalyptic world while Charli delivers one of the most heart-breaking vocals of her career. Lucky provides the strongest argument as to why autotune is an artistic choice not a cop out. Here, it’s the puppet master of the heart, tugging at it with every gentle modulation.
6. You (Ha Ha Ha)
It’s wild to think that Charli released this as a single way back in 2013. You (Ha Ha Ha) is an experimental, anxious anthem that could have easily found a home on the Pop2 project. It was written over a sample of Gold Panda’s You and was an early indication of Charli’s pursuit to combine pop music with the experimental electronic world. Also, if we could bring back Charli speaking at the tail-end of her big pop tunes that would be great.
Lipgloss is so triumphant it feels like the victory lap of every Charli show which is quite an achievement for a song full of blow job metaphors. Cupcakke and Charli are an extraordinary collaborative pair as they have such a juxtaposing presence but it just works so well. Charli’s hook is sugary sweet while Cupackke’s verses are potent.
4. 3AM (Pull Up) (Feat. MØ)
Most casual Charli observers would write her off as a superficial party queen but it’s songs like this that prove party tracks don’t lack emotion. 3AM (Pull Up) is a bouncy ball of a pop song and yet it bleeds emotion from both Charli and MØ. “Go fuck yourself, don’t say you’re sorry,” may be the strongest middle finger of any pop hook.
The only song on this list not written by Charli and you wouldn’t even know it because she embodies every part of it. Incredible video aside, Boys is the sonic equivalent of a daydream. It floats by in a daze with this softness to it that pulls it back from being too kitsch. Charli’s vocal delivery is exactly what the song needed and one that very few popstars could’ve pulled off successfully.
2. Track 10
If Lucky is post-apocalyptic then Track 10 is the apocalypse. It’s that moment when you’re so heartbroken that you can’t see life past it and Track 10 manages to depict every bit of that. It’s angelic, like she’s ascending into the skies and yet this this impending sense of doom that finally hits as the song starts to break apart. The beat comes in like a meteor and smashes the whole thing to pieces in the most heartbreakingly beautiful way. It’s one of the most stunning closers to a pop record that we’re likely see for a very long time.
1. Vroom Vroom
This is the exact point where Charli’s career changed for the better. It’s the first released collaboration with SOPHIE and one that sounded so incredibly bonkers at the time. It was like nothing she’d ever done before and yet it sounded like she’d been working towards it her entire career. The verses smack you in the face and yet she juxtaposes it with this impossibly sweet chorus. “Sometimes we get aggressive, sometimes we get beautiful,” Charli said about her early collaborations with SOPHIE and this is the perfect depiction of that. If there were such thing as a perfect pop song, this would be very close to it.
And here it is in a playlist: