British singer Charli XCX tends to have a dark view of relationships. On her debut studio album, “True Romance,” she compares being in love to being trapped in a prison cell, getting poisoned and surviving a nuclear winter.
“I don't think true romance is just brilliant and dreamy like you're walking on clouds all the time,” said Charli, born Charlotte Aitchison 20 years ago. “To have actual true romance you need those moments where you're tortured and depressed and crying all the time. Otherwise it's not real.”
Even at its heaviest, however, “True Romance” maintains its playfulness, and it's possible to picture the album's gothic dance tracks playing between cuts by the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen during the weekly new wave night at local club Neo.
By phone, Charli opened up about her fascination with former Mouseketeers, her distaste for reality singing programs and the one time she was an unwitting accessory to a crime.
You’ve said in other interviews that you’ve never been on an actual date. So you never had that classic high school prom experience or anything?
No! I’ve never been on a “date” date, which is really sad because I love the idea of it. Maybe you could ask your readers to take me on a date [laughs]. I’m just kidding.
Is that a byproduct of starting your career so young?
I don’t think so. That’s just always the way I’ve been. I’ve either been deeply involved in a relationship or I’ve been completely the opposite.
You got your first record deal at 16. Starting out so young almost seems like a recipe for disaster these days, since every week another former teen star seems to have a public meltdown.
To be honest, when I was younger I’d have a lot of breakdowns where I’d cry all the time just because I couldn’t understand the whole process. I thought you signed a record deal and then a couple months later you put an album out and that was it. In hindsight, I’m really lucky I worked with good people who didn’t push me. I was given a lot of time to grow up as a person. I didn’t have that Disney-kid, child-star experience.
I've read you wanted to be a Disney kid though.
[Laughs] I’m not sure I’d really want to be a Disney kid, but I am fascinated by them. It’s this crazy world that’s wrapped in plastic and pink frills, and underneath it’s all really fragile. It’s like they’re puppets waiting to break out, and when they do break out it’s either amazing or a disaster. I just find that whole world confusing and scary and fascinating.
How do you think you would have fared on a reality singing program like “Pop Idol” or “The Voice”?
Oh, I would never, ever, ever in a thousand years do one of those programs. Even if someone paid me like the biggest amount of money I could imagine, I would never go on those shows because I feel like they put you in this box and tell you exactly what to do. It really pisses me off when the guy goes on and he has slightly long hair or whatever and they’re like, “Oh, this is the 'rock' guy.” Then he comes back for the final week and they’ve made him dye his hair red and wear some stupid tie with a piano on it. So they have him dressed up like Avril Lavigne’s 12-year-old boyfriend because he once had long hair and played guitar.
Did you record “What I Like” in response to Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”?
[Laughs] No, I didn’t. I actually haven’t heard that song, which is probably very uncool of me. I need to go listen to it now.
You did bring in Danny Brown for the remix. Are you a fan of hip-hop in general?
Yeah, I am. I have a theory that when the world ends, all rappers will survive and repopulate the earth, because rappers both female and male are, like, the coolest people, and I assume all their children would be really badass and amazing and funny and the world would be a better place. I used to want to be a rapper when I was younger. I was obsessed with Eminem and I’d wear big white T-shirts and write my own raps, but they were all [bleep].
The album closes with “Lock You Up.” Have you ever been arrested?
[Laughs] No, I haven’t. Is that really uncool? Well, we were driving the other day and we got pulled over for speeding. But that’s about as hardcore as I get, really.
Were you the one driving?
I wasn’t. I was asleep in the back and missed the whole thing.
So the best you can say is you’ve been an unwitting accomplice to speeding?
[Laughs] Exactly. Sorry to disappoint!
Charli XCX opens for Marina and the Diamonds, 7:30 p.m. May 20 at Riviera Theatre. Sold out.