Her fans feel free, too. That’s evident from the scene I witnessed at her show in June. When I tell Charli that my group of friends, all massive fans, see dancing at clubs as an almost spiritual exercise, she gets it. “Oh, definitely,” she says. “I’m not religious at all, but I feel like, yeah, if you want to take it there: The club or a party can be a church for somebody. It’s like a community of people who are just letting go and being free. It’s like gay church.”
If a random club is gay church, then a Charli XCX show is the gay Vatican. Her fans, aptly nicknamed “Angels,” are some of the most devout in stan culture. Charli tells me they’re a huge reason why she’s so fearless in her work. “After Pop 2, I felt the most connected I’ve ever felt to my fanbase. That was really me just doing me 100 percent. No filter,” she says. “[My fans] really care about me, and I really care about them. We’re speaking the same language, and maybe nobody else gets that language, but we totally understand. I just feel my music is now a safe space for me to be really honest. I don’t feel afraid.”
Charli was, however, afraid a few years ago, when a fan crashed her party early. In 2017, she was readying the release of what was supposed to be her third album, but a hacker broke into her Google drive and leaked several demos. And her phone number. People happily gobbled up the new material and even gave it a fake name, XCX World. Charli felt like she’d lost control.
“People call it XCX World, but I hadn’t even titled it,” she says. “There was no title. There was no track list yet. From fans’ perspective, if people want music, they feel like they’re helping you by hacking and releasing it. But it was an extreme invasion of my personal privacy and my life. People had my phone number. I didn’t feel safe at all. It made me feel like all this hard work, all this money I’d put into recording, all the producers I’d paid, all the time, and all the flights I’d taken, were just thrown back in my face.”
So she scrapped the project and started from square one, which she admits took some time. “It made me scared to literally do anything because I was like, ‘Is my whole life just going to get put on the Internet against my will?’ I definitely lost my confidence, for sure. I felt scared to make anything because I was worried it was just going to get released.”