The first three times, I didn’t mention it, but at this point it’s worth bringing up. “You know you’ve slapped me four times during this interview,” I tell Charli XCX. “No, I haven’t,” she protests, rolling her eyes. I start to recite the incidents back at her, counting on my fingers and then giving up after two. Both of us arrived here needing a drink, and now we’ve had more than I can count. The specifics have gotten blurry.
It’s 1a.m. in Oslo’s city centre, and we’re at Kulturhuset, a rowdy bar filled with Norwegian hipsters, their beards dangling perilously close to their pints of pale ale. “Oh, whatever, they were more like facepalms anyway,” she says, as the next round arrives. Sam, her buddy from home whom she’s made her assistant, refreshes us every 20 minutes or so.
Charli’s a British singer (and a British drinker) who became globally famous in the most American way imaginable: writing and singing the school-bully hook of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”. The video, in which Charli had a supporting role, was a scene-for-scene re-creation of the Valley girl classic Clueless: an orgy of cheerleaders, house parties, and red cups. Since then her videos have touched on other archetypes of American-youth cinema: she’s a trashy mess in the video for “Doing It”, a prom-ruining alpha bitch in “Break the Rules” and the world’s gnarliest cheerleader in her latest video, for “Famous”.
She grew up wanting to be “the bad kind of cheerleader, the one who smokes behind the bleachers” and is now obsessed with the forgotten pop misfits of her youth: Avril Lavigne, t.A.T.u., Hilary Duff (for whom Charli wrote the Billboard top 10 hit “Boom Clap”, recording it herself only because Duff’s people said it “wasn’t cool enough”). In person, she’s seemingly devoid of ego. She’s tactile and relentlessly honest, and she never breaks eye contact. If she wants to say something off the record, she doesn’t go, “Hey, this is off the record.” She goes, “Literally, you have to swear on your life. Swear on your life. If you put this in, I will literally hate you forever and ever and I will ruin your life. Do you swear? Promise?”
Not that she holds a lot back. An exchange about our respective hotel-room habits shifts easily to porn. “It’s not like I arrive in a new hotel room and immediately open up RedTube,” she says. “But I will if I need to.” Nearly all her stories involve big nights out and bodily functions. There’s the feces she found on the floor of her Mexico hotel room and spent an hour photographing. The night she got so drunk with a member of cutesy boy band 5 Seconds of Summer, she had to cancel her flight. The long, hungover appearance on live British TV, during which she kept a bucket under the table to barf in and napped on a sofa between segments. Just a few nights ago, she was out late and then got straight on the bus to travel to the next stop of the Katy Perry tour, for which she’s the opener. “I woke up in the night and I was in the middle of a 17-hour ride,” she recalls. “I was just like, I can’t be bothered to go downstairs, so I picked up my designer handbag and thought, Let’s just go for this. I threw up in it three times.” Which is not to say she’s entirely reckless. She wisely declines to name the luxury brand, explaining, “They’d just gifted it to me.”
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