The backstory: “Every corner of my own romantic history is explored on this record”
Calling True Romance a debut album is a bit of a stretch: three releases, with original Charli XCX songs, predate it. All of these – Charli’s self-released 2008 album, 14, and the 2012 mixtapes Heartbreaks And Earthquakes and Super Ultra – contain clues to the development of True Romance.
14, a completely self-written album on which Charli sang all the vocals and played all the instruments, was created when Charli was a teenager, and is now extremely rare. “The songs I write are about my mates and experiences,” she explained in the CD booklet. Charli retained this basic strategy for True Romance, openly drawing inspiration from her immediate life. “Every corner of my own romantic history is explored on this record,” she said of the album.
The mixtapes offer a more obvious route into True Romance. Several tracks recorded for the album made their first appearance on either Heartbreaks And Earthquakes or Super Ultra. Like 14 and True Romance, these mixtapes also evoke her state of mind at the time of their recording. “All the songs are about love,” she said of Super Ultra. “Sometimes it’s stupid love and sometimes it’s heartbreaking love. It’s about being confused.”
The breakthrough: “I’ve always done this my own way”
Just before Heartbreaks And Earthquakes dropped, Charli XCX had a very, very big hit. I Love It, co-written by Charli and featuring her vocals, was a 2012 smash for Icona Pop. It flipped the chessboard: all of a sudden, Charli XCX wasn’t just someone making tracks for a cool audience, she was a budding international star in her own right. In addition, the song’s success made her very prolific. “I write – since I Love It blew up – every day,” she said in 2014. “Every single day.”