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Born in Cambridge, England, to a Scottish father and a Gujarati Indian mother, Charlotte Aitchison began writing songs when she was 14. By 2008, she was posting her tracks online and performing at raves, taking her MSN Messenger user name as her alias. That year, she released a pair of singles, "Emelline/Art Bitch" and "!Franchesckaar!," and recorded her first album, which she sold at concerts but was never released officially. She returned in 2011 with the singles "Stay Away" and "Nuclear Seasons," both of which were produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, and appeared on Starkey's "Lost in Space" and Alex Metric's "End of the World." She also issued the mixtapes Super Girls, Super Love, and I Like Boys Who Cry, which respectively gathered the female and male artists who shaped her music.
Charli XCX's first original mixtape, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes, arrived in May 2012 and was followed by her U.S. debut EP, You're the One, and another mixtape, November's Super Ultra. Later that year, she scored her biggest hit to date when she appeared on Icona Pop's single "I Love It," which she co-wrote. It became one of the year's biggest songs, hitting number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the U.K. singles chart. Her debut album, True Romance, arrived in April 2013. Featuring production by Rechtshaid, Joakim Åhlund, and Blood Diamonds, the album reached number 85 on the U.K. Albums chart, was a top 20 hit in Australia, and reached number five on Billboard's Heatseekers chart.
Though True Romance earned critical acclaim, Charli XCX was already working on her next album later that year, with collaborators as diverse as Weezer, Stargate, and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij; she issued the single "Superlove" in December. Her big break came in 2014, when she collaborated with Iggy Azalea on the single "Fancy." The song became both artists' first number one on Billboard's Hot 100 that May (Aitchison also co-wrote "Beg for It," which appeared on Azalea's Reclassified and featured Danish singer/songwriter MØ). Also that month, XCX released the single "Boom Clap," which introduced a more straightforward pop sound. Featured on the soundtrack to the film adaptation of the young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars, it charted in the Top Ten in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, becoming her biggest solo hit to date. The single also appeared on the pop-punk influenced full-length Sucker, which arrived that December. Along with "Boom Clap," the album spawned several more singles, including "Break the Rules," "Famous," and 'Doing It," featuring Rita Ora. Sucker reached the Top 30 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and peaked at number 15 on the U.K. albums chart.
During this time, Charli XCX further established herself as a songwriter and collaborator, penning the Iggy Azalea/MØ track "Beg for It," as well as songs for Gwen Stefani and Rihanna. In 2015, she appeared on Ty Dolla $ign's single "Drop That Kitty" alongside Tinashe and collaborated with Mr. Oizo on his Hand in the Fire EP. Early in 2016, XCX launched her boutique label, Vroom Vroom, releasing an EP by the same name that featured Hannah Diamond and SOPHIE, and singles by RIVRS and Cuckoolander. That year, PC Music's A.G. Cook became Charli XCX's creative director. In October 2016, she released the single "After the Afterparty," the lead track from her scheduled third album; peaking at number 29 on the U.K. Singles Chart, it received silver certification from the BPI. Along with writing two tracks for Blondie's album Pollinator ("Gravity" and "Tonight"), in 2017 XCX released the Number 1 Angel mixtape, which featured contributions by MØ and CupcakKe that March. Around that time, she also appeared on Mura Masa's single "1 Night." Later in the year, the songs from her upcoming third album leaked, leading XCX to cancel the project entirely. A second mixtape, Pop 2, followed that December, and included the single "Out of My Head," featuring Alma and Tove Lo.
In 2018, Charli XCX joined the star-studded single "Girls" with Rita Ora, Cardi B, and Bebe Rexha, later releasing her own singles "5 in the Morning," "Focus," and "Girls Night Out." She also joined Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour as an opener. To close out her year, she issued the single "1999," a collaboration with Troye Sivan that became a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and climbed into the Top 20 around the globe. The song appeared on Charli XCX's third album, which also featured Lizzo, Christine and the Queens, Sky Ferreira, and Yaeji as well as producers including PC Music's A.G. Cook, Easyfun, and Stargate. The simply named Charli arrived in September 2019, and debuted at number 14 on the U.K. charts; in the U.S., it appeared in the Top 50 of the Billboard 200. In addition, she collaborated with BTS' Jin, Jimin, and Jungkook on "Dream Glow," a song from the soundtrack to the group's mobile game BTS World.
Early in 2020, Charli XCX collaborated with Galantis and 100 gecs and was working on her next album, but when the global COVID-19 pandemic required her -- and much of the world -- to shelter in place starting in March 2020, she changed gears. Along with conducting live chats with artists including Orville Peck and Rina Sawayama on her social media platforms, she used her fans' input to test out a new set of songs for an album she completed during quarantine. With production assists from Cook, BJ Burton and 100 gecs' Dylan Brady among others, how i'm feeling now arrived in May 2020 and evoked the spontaneous feel of her mixtapes. The album reached number 33 in the U.K. and was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. In 2021, XCX collaborated on the track "Spinning" with No Rome and the 1975 before releasing her own stand-alone song, "Good Ones." For her final album with Atlantic Records, 2021's dark-toned Crash, Aitchison drew upon an expectedly long list of guest features, including A. G. Cook, Caroline Polachek, Christine and the Queens, and Oneohtrix Point Never. The album was her most successful yet, topping charts in the U.K. and Australia and reaching number seven in the U.S. Its widespread acclaim also included another place on the Mercury Prize shortlist. She followed it with an appearance on "Hot in It," by Dutch DJ superstar Tiësto. XCX's next two songs were soundtrack contributions beginning with "Hot Girl" from the slasher film Bodies Bodies Bodies, followed in 2023 by "Speed Drive" from the Barbie movie. ~ Heather Phares