Charli XCX is more than just another pop star; she’s an artist you can underestimate at your own peril. While on top of her own glittering career, the singer is also secretly one of the most prolific writers around. Having written countless hit songs for other artists throughout her career, Charli XCX’s talents even caught the eye of Blondie, marking the beginning of her collaborative efforts.
XCX made her big break as a featured artist on the Icona Pop track ‘I Love It’ back in 2012. However, what people didn’t realise was that the track was, in actual fact, her own creation, and she’d released it a year before. After falling out of love with the sound, Charli gifted the material to the Swedish pop duo, but they still chose to list her on the track, which started spreading her name.
It was an unconventional move that added mystique to her character, and even though that song was internationally recognised, nobody knew who she was, yet, they recognised her name. While Charli XCX has released four studio albums to much acclaim as an artist, the other portion of her life is not something she often discusses at great length, yet, she’s one of the most in-demand writers working in the realm of pop music.
“That actually happened over email,” Charli told Sunday Brunch in 2019 about the collaboration with Blondie. “I’d met Debbie a few times before and woke up to an email from Chris Stein. He was saying they were writing a new record, and they wanted to hear some stuff from me.”
She continued: “So I sent over a song that I actually wrote when I was 14, a song called ‘Gravity’. I used to perform it at my gigs that nobody ever used to come to, so I sent them this song. I was like, ‘This is crazy, this song is quite old, but maybe you guys will feel it?’ And they did.
“They re-worked it, and I went to see them play it at The Roundhouse with my mum. It was like the proudest she’s ever been of me,” Charli added.
Blondie gave the track a caustic facelift and moulded it perfectly to their sound while keeping in line with a modern sonic that aligns itself with the work of Charli. It’s startling to consider that the lyrics came from the mind of a 14-year-old hopeful singer, and it shows that Charli XCX was, in fact, a prodigal talent. Everything about the song, from the infectious hook to the relatable narrative, is spellbinding.
Naturally, there’s a reason why Charli chose not to scrap the song despite having it for over a decade when Blondie came calling. The material just required the right artist to take ownership of it, and her friendship with Debbie Harry would lead ‘Gravity’ into finding an ideal home. In fact, Blondie were so thrilled with how it turned out that they used another one of Charli’s discarded songs, ‘Tonight’, for the album’s bonus track.
“She’s an extraordinary talent, operating from a position of strength and determination in her songs,” Debbie Harry commented about her peer.
Meanwhile, Harry added, while on the press run for Pollinator, that: “She’s a virtual genius. She told me she wrote ‘Gravity’ when she was 15 — honey, when I was 15, I could only dream of writing a song like that.”
The Blondie singer added: “But she’s really got something. When you listen to her lyrics, it’s clear she’s been exposed to some really interesting literature. She has a frame of reference that’s very large — which is either because she’s read a lot or she’s had many different lives, which is a nice possibility.”
Blondie and Charli XCX are two artists who, on paper at least, appear to have little in common, but it’s commendable that the iconic band reached out to her for help. Evidently, the new wave pioneers do not want to remain glued to the past, passionately striving to move with the times, which means working with contemporary artists. It would have been easy for Blondie to think they were above working with an artist in their 20s, but instead, her assistance provided them with the most compelling moment on Pollinator.
Furthermore, thinking back to the days of CBGBs when Blondie arrived on the scene, their progressive sound is what made them such an enticing group. Working with Charli XCX demonstrates that they are continuing to look ahead rather than behind. Not only is this a credit to their younger selves, who would wince at the thought of transition into a dusty nostalgia act, it also explains why Blondie remain so alluring. Despite their age, Blondie still has their finger on the pulse.