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Best Charli XCX Songs: 20 Essential Pop-Art Bangers
List & Guides

Best Charli XCX Songs: 20 Essential Pop-Art Bangers

Whether in collaboration or adding to her prolific solo catalogue, the best Charli XCX songs are the work of an artist at her peak.

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Charli XCX stands alone in the current pop world. She is as at home with avant-garde electronica as she is big pop earthquakes – and at her best when she’s blending the two together with a cool, clever eye and a heart full of messy emotions. Fantastically prolific, Charli began recording at the age of 14 and, over a decade on from releasing her first mixtape, Heartbreaks And Earthquakes, she has amassed an enormous back catalogue of brilliance. To prove the point, here we count down 20 of the best Charli XCX songs…

Listen to the best of Charli XCX here, and check out our best Charli XCX songs, below.

20: Unlock It (with Kim Petras and Jay Park) (from ‘Pop 2’, 2017)

“I remember coming up with the ‘Lock it lock it lock it’ part whilst I was in a car driving to New Jersey for a show on the Halsey tour,” Charli posted on Instagram. “I had it in my head all day and I kept singing it over and over.” She’s not the only one: once heard, that hook is never forgotten. Charli’s knack for huge pop hooks delivered in the freshest way possible is perfectly expressed on this track, with help from Korean star Jay Park and unconventional German pop artist Kim Petras.

19: Drugs (with Abra) (from ‘Number 1 Angel’, 2017)

The best Charli XCX songs are addictive, and Charli often uses narcotic metaphors and imagery to get across the sheer hedonism of love. But just as with drugs themselves, there’s a fine line between getting high and getting lost – and on Drugs, Charli’s blank delivery walks that line. It’s an unusual track and a really good illustration of why Charli’s mixtapes are essential to her art.

18: You (Ha Ha Ha) (from ‘True Romance’, 2013)

Based on Gold Panda’s You, this slick, sick track is everything that made Charli XCX so now-sounding in 2013. Treating the sample as her springboard, she throws so much shade over her capricious ex that it sounds like a total eclipse.

17: Lightning (from ‘Crash’, 2022)

A real grower. Lightning was easy to overlook when Crash first dropped – but time has found joy in its details, from a flamenco guitar which nods to Madonna’s La Isla Bonita, to the scratched vocodered chorus lines. Not only one of the best Charli XCX songs, Lightning is reportedly one of Charli’s own favourites from Crash.

16: Velvet Dreaming (Luv) (from ‘Super Ultra’, 2012)

From her early mixtape Super Ultra, Velvet Dreaming (Luv) is a fascinating glimpse at how Charli XCX could have developed had her pop nous not been quite so well honed – or if she’d been born 15 years earlier. Warm and numbing, the song lies on a bed of 90s-inflected ambient music, with Charli’s trance-like voice floating in and out. Charli has described Super Ultra as being made at a time when she “cried a lot… all the songs are about love. Sometimes it’s stupid love and sometimes it’s heartbreaking love. It’s about being confused.”

15: Femmebot (with Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco) (from ‘Pop 2’, 2017)

“Go fuck your prototype,” Charli snarls on Femmebot. “I’m an upgrade of your stereotype.” Here she imagines a future where female AI takes control, “programmed to search and destroy”. Charli’s vocals – on this and other contenders among the best Charli XCX songs – are stretched and glitched by machines; she knows that the distinction between human and automaton in pop grows ever smaller.

14: SuperLove (single A-side, 2013)

Such an exhilarating song! SuperLove captures the feeling of hitting the road with a new beau, feeling so high and ridiculous on love… and it absolutely defies anyone to stand still while it’s playing. Oh, and there are robots in the video, too.

13: Boom Clap (from the ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ soundtrack, 2014)

Originally offered to singer-actor Hilary Duff (whose management declined it without consulting the star, much to Duff’s later annoyance), Boom Clap was an enormous worldwide hit – and Charli’s first chart success as a solo artist rather than a featured guest. Its roots, however, were far more esoteric. Citing the post-punk influences of Bow Wow Wow and The Flying Lizards, Charli and co-writer Patrik Berger were struck by the way those songs had “dumb, hooky, shouty choruses. They’re all sort of childlike. So we wanted to make a song like that.”

12: Lock You Up (from ‘Heartbreaks And Earthquakes’, 2012)

Charli XCX’s first mixtapes continue to exert an influence on the way she works today – they are instinctual and experimental, throwing up raw pain and joy in equal measure. Lock You Up is from her first, Heartbreaks And Earthquakes, which (according to Charli herself) took her only one week to make. Confirming its place among the best Charli XCX songs, Lock You Up is also on her debut album, True Romance, but it’s this version – a short, sweet blast, before segueing into Spoons – that offers an early glimpse of Charli’s high-concept pop art.

11: 1999 (with Troye Sivan) (single A-side, 2018)

Later also released as part of her third album, Charli, 1999 stands better as a single: it’s pure retro-fantasy escapism, with probably Charli’s funniest video as she romps through late-90s pop culture. Charli deepfaked as Baby Spice got all the attention, but the split-second homage to The Blair Witch Project is the absolute best.

10: anthems (from ‘How I’m Feeling Now’, 2020)

The “lockdown album” How I’m Feeling Now captured all the frustration, cabin fever, fear and novelty of those early COVID-19 days. “I’m so bored,” Charli sings on anthems. “Wake up late, eat some cereal/Try my best to be physical.” Instead of a lament, anthems is an expression of the endless circularity of days, the dearth of human touch and the busting need to get out.

9: Gone (with Christine And The Queens) (from ‘Charli’, 2019)

“I feel so unstable, fucking hate these people” is a fantastic line in a song about isolation, introversion and the front needed to be part of what passes for society. Or, as Charli says: “It feels like one big external scream.” A collaboration with Héloïse Letissier (Christine And The Queens), who brings surrealism and queerness (in all senses), this synth beauty is a cold-wave expression of vulnerability among the best Charli XCX songs.

8: Fancy (with Iggy Azalea) (single A-side, 2014)

Charli has been influenced by film throughout her career – her True Romance and Crash albums are both named after transgressive cinema classics – and 90s teen flicks are also close to her heart. Heartbreaks And Earthquakes featured sampled dialogue from Cruel Intentions, and Fancy, with Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, paid homage to Clueless. In its video, Iggy and Charli gleefully dress up as the film’s characters and have chandelier-swinging, minibar-guzzling, Technicolor fun with a song that’s pure euphoria.

7: Lipgloss (with CupcakKe) (from ‘Number 1 Angel’, 2017)

Charli XCX is an inexhaustible collaborator – and, more than that, she is always generous with those she works with. It’s there in interviews, as she consistently shares any praise she receives with others, but it’s also apparent in her records. Chicago rapper CupcakKe, sex-positive and polymorphous on her own songs (such as 2018’s fantastic Crayons), is much more than a feature on Lipgloss. She’s the bared teeth behind Charli’s slick pout.

6: Body Of My Own (from ‘Sucker’, 2014)

“It’s so personal and I wanted it to be perfect,” Charli tweeted about Body Of My Own. Released on Sucker, she found it the most difficult track on the album to write, yet it’s a triumph among the best Charli XCX songs, joining other magnificent tunes such as Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop, Tweet’s Oops (Oh My) and The Divinyls’ I Touch Myself as a paean to the joys of self-love – and, by extension, control and empowerment.

5: Track 10 (from ‘Pop 2’, 2017)

Charli XCX’s ballads are never orthodox. This electronic glacier closes out the Pop 2 mixtape and stutters and glitches through a raw emotional landscape. It was later re-worked (with Lizzo) as Blame It On Your Love, for Charli, but it’s the minimalism of Track 10 that really chills the veins.

4: Good Ones (from ‘Crash’, 2022)

The lead single from Crash, this 80s-tinged colossus was a storming comeback to chart pop after the lockdown-recorded How I’m Feeling Now. Charli deals here with the theme of self-destructiveness in relationships – sabotaging the “good ones” and preferring the bitter to the sweet. “On top of that,” the singer says, conforming Good Ones’ place among the best Charli XCX songs, “it’s also a banger.”

3: I Love It (with Icona Pop) (from ‘Icona Pop’, 2012)

Charli’s first unstoppable pop monster – but certainly not her last. Swedish duo Icona Pop had met Charli in London, where she wrote two songs for them, I Love It and You’re The One. Caroline Hjelt, one half of Icona Pop, described Charli’s original demo as “really cool and cocky”, and Aino Jawo (the other half) related to the line “You’re from the 70s, but I’m a 90s bitch” as a reminder of her own sour experience with an older man. Unbelievably addictive, I Love It was a massive UK No.1 in the summer of 2012, and it has felt ubiquitous ever since.

2: Vroom Vroom (from the ‘Vroom Vroom’ EP, 2016)

The Vroom Vroom EP divided opinion on release. Some fans were turned off by its dystopian edge; for others, it was a fascinating electronica curveball that deepened their appreciation of Charli XCX’s incredible range. Produced by the late, much-missed SOPHIE, Vroom Vroom’s title track actually has pretty sassy and uplifting lyrics – not that you’d know it from the doomy beats and Charli’s deadpan delivery. This is a track that just gets better with each passing year.

1: Boys (single A-side, 2017)

“It’s a song called Boys, and it’s just about dreaming about boys, basically,” Charli said of the track which tops our list of the best Charli XCX songs. “That’s it. It’s very simple.” So much of the best pop music is just about dreaming about boys – and is all the better for it. Effortless, jubilant, incredible: no wonder the crème de la crème of celebrity manhood, from Stormzy to Tom Daley, Riz Ahmed to MNEK, were queuing up to have a cameo in Boys’ video.

Find out which Charli XCX song ranks among our best songs of 2022.

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