The 30 greatest Charli XCX songs of all time, ranked from iconic to life changing
I will be shouting ‘DON’T MAKE ME BEG FOR YOU’ on my death bed
This week, Charli XCX brings her Crash album tour to the UK. The angels of this cursed island get to ascend to XCX World and finally hear the bangers from Charli’s first number one album live for the first time. I’m going in London, and I’m ready to bathe in a sea of poppers and twinks and shout the lyrics to Beg For You as loud as my lungs allow me. Since XCX fever has gripped the girls, the gays, the theys and the edgy music writers – what better time to round up and rank her 30 greatest songs from a career that has changed the music industry, consistently pushed boundaries and redefined what it means to be a pop star in the mainstream and an underground artist. Here are the 30 greatest Charli XCX songs, ranked from iconic to truly life changing
30. Move Me
On an album where Charli consistently leant into the main pop girl side of her artistry, songs like Move Me shine out of Crash like a blast of the future. Melancholic, stirring, sprawling – Move Me thrives in the empty space. The way Ian Kirkpatrick drops the production out at just the right times and the way Charli’s vocals almost go into yodelling at points? It’s so special.
29. 5 in the Morning
2018 was a year without a Charli album – instead, we were dripfed singles that we lapped up every crumb of with hungrily open gobs. 5 in the Morning was the first of those singles, a criminally underrated R&B tinged tune with an understated trap beat that sets itself apart from the high energy, hyperpop Charli’s come to be known for. Effortlessly cool.
28. I Got It
Starting a song with “Brooke Candy fag mob” is certainly one way to get every listener’s attention. I Got It lives up to the audacity of its first line – an unrelenting blast of loudness that hammers its repetitive chorus into your skull til it’s devoid of meaning. But in a GOOD way. Pop 2’s first appearance on this ranked 30 Charli XCX songs, and certainly not the last. I Got It is so iconic that every album that’s followed it has had an attempt to match its energy, but none come as close as the original. Pop 2 was all about Charli as a curator, sharing the stage with her collaborators. Brooke, Cupcakke and Pabllo Vittar make their marks with ease. Legendary.
Charli XCX and HAIM coming together on a song is MY Multiverse of Madness. And the fact it’s this wow is just a bonus, to be quite honest with you. I feel like the Haim sisters and Charli really meet in the middle with their styles and it works better than it has any right to – a summery bop that shines out as a little gem in either of their discographies. A bit slept on!
26. February 2017
One of the rawest and most devastating songs in Charli’s discography, it’s essentially just a big ol’ sorry. Referencing a Grammy night where Charli was “flyin’ out my mind”, consistently apologising and a chorus built around “hope you can forgive the things I’ve done, reply, give me a sign.” It’s vulnerable and frenetic – with Clairo and Yaeji along for the AJ Cook production ride. Very special – feels climactic.
25. 3AM (Pull Up)
Number 1 Angel was a turning point for Charli, a mixtape release that was easily her best body of work yet in her career up to that point but something that wasn’t allowed to be called an album due to label legalities. 3AM, the titslapping track two, has some of the finest production AG Cook and EasyFun have ever created in their careers. The banging beat of the chorus and Charli and MØ fizzling in pop perfection – it’s just sheer euphoria.
24. Roll With Me
The Twitter account that tweets out “songs that changed the world” needs to pay attention – SOPHIE and Charli XCX made magic here, on one of the most iconic songs ranked here. The production is unrelenting, the repetition and the pitching on the chorus and the “yeah yeah yeah” is just bliss. The way the song descends deeper and deeper into darkness in its outro never gets old.
23. Constant Repeat
The final song written for Crash, and the song named numerous times by Charli herself as her favourite song on the album, there is something so special about Constant Repeat. The power of the chorus, “you could have had a bad girl by your side”, puts Charli right in the driver’s seat. She’s sad, but she’s strong. The outro of “got me on repeat, got me on repeat” is a touch of genius when she knows full well every fan is going to have this song on loop for the foreseeable.
I think a lot about how unique Charli XCX is as a curator – a lot of the songs ranked here are her collaborating with artists she loves. On Lipgloss, the best and most iconic song on Number 1 Angel, Charli is pretty much the feature on her own track. This song belongs to Cupcakke’s legendary verses. Every word of her verses is timeless – word play like most could only dream of. Couple it with Charli’s sticky icky sickly chorus and SOPHIE and AG Cook’s production, where they heavily sample Lightning Lipgloss Life by Life Sim, and you’ve got yourself an instant classic. Historical.
21. How Can I Not Know What I Need Right Now
When Charli dropped the deluxe version of Crash a week after the standard edition of the album with four new songs, it was already a collapse. The fact that all four of the songs are album highlights was just a bonus, but its How Can I Not Know What I Need Right Now that stands out as the most special. This is Charli XCX in her 1975 era, produced like the album’s title track by George Daniel. I love Charli songs like this where she shares personal details, and the second verse details the chaotic nature of her partying life in an extremely vulnerable way.
20. Beg For You
This is truly main pop girl behaviour. Fans have wanted Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX to collab for a millennia, and Beg For You is a titan. With its Digital Farm Animals production, its heavy Cry For You by September sample and its thumping UK Garage beat – it screams HIT SINGLE. And hit single it was – it’s one of Charli’s biggest hits in years and sat comfortably in the UK Official Charts top 40 for a good few weeks. Easy to write off as charty fodder, there’s a replay value power to Beg For You that makes it get steadily better with every listen.
19. No Angel
Originally planned as a centrepiece on Charli’s scrapped third album, No Angel sees Charli self-deprecate with a hook of “I’m no angel, but I can learn.” The word angel is as associated with Charli as the XCX that rounds off her name, and this is one of the songs ranked here that shows a more vulnerable side to an artist who frequently self declares herself as the greatest pop star on the planet. The SOPHIE production is just heaven on earth, especially on the original version, but the released 2018 single edition is equally as special.
Despite being the only song on Pop 2 that Charli XCX doesn’t have a writing credit for, it still stands out as one of the best. The vocal production on Femmebot is outstanding, playing right up to the robotics of its title. The way the stereo pans in the bridge is just heavenly – an uncomplicated banger with amazing features from Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco.
17. Out Of My Head
The most straightforward song on Pop 2, but that’s Out Of My Head’s strength. SOPHIE’s production here is absolutely genius – there will never be another like her. The way she knows when to use silence and empty space to let Charli, Tove and ALMA’s verses shine before coming in with the infectious, boppy chorus? It’s just so lush. The ultimate predrinks mood setter. In a just world, this would have been a huge smash hit single.
16. Good Ones
And speaking of smash hit singles, what an absolute tour de force of a lead single Good Ones is. The bassy synth, the ominous verses, the funeral music video, the choreography – everything signalled the Crash era would be driving straight into the 80s and never coming back. There’s an apocalyptic force to Good Ones that has so much replay value. The breathy pre-chorus, the hook of “I want the bad ones cause they’re all I know, I always let the good ones go”. By the time it reaches its final chorus it’s in its prime – I could listen to it for hours.
15. Nuclear Seasons
Nuclear Seasons is Charli’s second ever single, and the opening track of her debut record True Romance. All these years later, it’s never stopped sounding effortlessly cool and fresh. In many ways, Charli’s sound has evolved full circle – Nuclear Seasons would sound right at home on Crash. The Ariel Rechtshaid production knows exactly when to be menacing and when to pop out. Maybe it was too ahead of its time for some people!
Somehow, Charli XCX didn’t write Boys – a completely bizarre piece of information considering how it’s one of the Charli-est songs of all 30 ranked here. Boys, with its iconic video game-esque one-up noise, soundtracked 2017 and went viral thanks to the male-laden music video, that Charli herself directed, featuring celeb guys and acting as a switch flick on the male gaze. Boys is just outstanding pop music – catchy, fun, repayable and loaded with XCX.
Perhaps if SuperLove was actually included on her second album Sucker as originally intended, that Charli XCX album might have had a single showing amongst the songs ranked here. Charli XCX’s career is split into two – the post Vroom Vroom EP years and the before. Of the before, it’s SuperLove that stands above the rest as the greatest – bratty pop with an addictive chorus and an attitude that’s hard to ignore.
1999 was the pop smash that took Charli XCX and Troye Sivan to number 13 on the UK Charts – and it’s a great, if basic, pop song. But it’s 2099 – the final track on Charli’s self titled third album – that is the superior collaboration. Everything about 2099 lives up to its futuristic year title. It’s the prechorus that ascends this song to legendary status – when I saw Charli live in 2019, watching her belt it out with a fan blowing her into oblivion was honestly a spiritual experience. This song is so underrated that it kills me. Such a masterpiece, and the perfect way to close her biggest and most sprawling album.
A bit of a divisive choice here for some perhaps, as not everyone is partial to a Charli XCX ballad moment. But Official is, and I’ll say it, the best written song Charli XCX has ever penned in her career. It’s a love song that nails the insignificance and the mundane aspects of falling for someone, and the point where a relationship is becoming, well, official. “The things that I say when you don’t wanna listen / Things that you say when I make bad decisions / Things that we do by the sink in my kitchen” – what a chorus. She doesn’t need to tell us what the things by the sink in the kitchen are, because we already know. We’ve all been there.
Sometimes, mindless dance is the best music of all. Focus is that song that comes on at 5am when you’re flying out your brain and all you want to do is mindlessly dance to repetition crafted so meticulously, with an AG Cook production that builds steadily and then blasts into euphoria by the climax. Lyrics that are both brilliant and daft in equal measure, like “Make it pop Coca-Cola, keep it hot Barcelona” give Focus a sense of whimsy and carefree joy that I personally think is irresistible.
Delicious is one of those Charli XCX songs that just feels huge, and considering how huge it is I think it’s one of the most underrated of all 30 ranked here. It’s the song on Pop 2 that really transports you to the future of pop that Charli is curating. If everything before that mixtape was Pop 1.0, it’s songs like Delicious that create the future of Pop 2.0. Tommy Cash and Charli are a match made in heaven – his verse is ICONIC. Then the phone call interrupts with Boom Clap as the ringtone – incredible. Charli’s bridge is then one of the greatest things she’s ever done, and the final chorus with the AG production switch up… 10000/10.
8. Party 4 U
The centrepiece of How I’m Feeling Now, Party 4 U is the perfect fusion of old and new. An old song that premiered in 2017 and was originally intended for her scrapped third album, Party 4 U finally resurfaced for How I’m Feeling Now with new lyrics and a new vibe. In many ways, it is the definitive Charli XCX song – an odyssey of motifs seen throughout her music and career. Charli makes no secret of how important parties are to her and how inspiring she finds them, so when the hook is “I only threw this party for you / come to my party” that’s a huge gesture from her. The verses of Party 4 U are some of the greatest lyricism she’s ever penned. A ginormous wow.
The menacing vibe shift between Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, both released in 2017, is instantly apparent with Backseat’s dark and soaring production. Pop 2’s opening song is a collab with Carly Rae Jepsen, who abandons her peppy pop magic for an ode to loneliness. Effortlessly sexy, Backseat is the ultimate mood setter. The way it descends and spirals into chaos is a bit of a Charli blueprint – and the car skidding crash of an ending will be echoed again on the title track to Crash. One of the best opening tracks to any record ever, quote me.
No song sums up 2020 and the early days of the pandemic better than Forever. It’s beautiful, it’s chaotic and it’s powerful. Its sense of togetherness when we’re apart makes it feel like a time capsule song. How I’m Feeling Now as a lockdown piece of work will always evoke such a time and feeling that will be hard to replicate. The context is so important. The song is so specifically written about Charli’s then relationship, but she has a way of writing that when you listen makes it feel like it’s about your own love life.
5. Track 10
Forget the commercialisation of Track 10 – the hideous Blame It On Your Love – the closer of Pop 2 is an experimental odyssey that is Charli XCX at her most Avantgarde and of all the songs ranked here, it is one that is easily the most unique. It feels huge – like it was recorded in some frenetic hyperpop cavern. The Life Sim sample, the way the song builds like no other in her catalogue, the repetition, the Björk experimentation – it’s just a masterpiece. When it comes to hyperpop, it’s genre defining.
4. Unlock It
When Unlock It went viral on TikTok last year, it felt correct. It was deserved. One of the greatest pop songs of the 2010s finally getting its flowers! Unlock It is pop perfection – a sickly sweet blast of joy that put Kim Petras on the map. Her and Charli sound beyond perfect together, and both their verses are some of the most iconic moments in either of their discographies. Unlock It is now and always was just an instant classic – one of those special songs that stands out on your first listen as a track that you’re going to spend so much of your life getting lit to. The amount of parties of mine that Unlock It has soundtracked is endless.
3. Next Level Charli
Charli XCX knows exactly how to nail an album opener, and that’s why so many of them have been ranked highly on this list of songs. Next Level Charli is the best of the best – a synthy masterpiece that feels exactly like the mood of the lyrics. The zooming down the highway with the windows down energy is unmatched – it’s got a teen spirit of euphoria and promise, listening to Next Level Charli makes you feel like you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. I will never forget how it felt watching Charli in 2019 and watching a huge cube light up as the opening synths slapped into the speakers. It’s so magical and special to me – and the repetition feels really emotional. One of my favourite songs of all time.
2. Vroom Vroom
Vroom Vroom didn’t just change Charli’s career, it changed the world. It changed music. It put SOPHIE production, PC Music and hyperpop in general on the map. It was ahead of its time and people had no clue what to make of it – a 2016 enigma. Vroom Vroom is SOPHIE at her biggest, she was such a pioneer and had a knack of making music that the world couldn’t stop talking about. The vibes shifted here so severely that fans, music critics and everyone else found themselves with whiplash. The music was so good though, that no one put a claim in. There’s a reason Charli’s song is pre-VV and post-VV. Its importance should be studied at universities until the end of time. BEEP BEEP!
“Why do we keep when the water runs” is now an age old question – interpreted by me as why do we stay with someone who makes us cry all the time? Well, we stay because if that relationship is anywhere near as Gone – the greatest Charli XCX song ranked here and honestly one of the best songs of all time – then it’s worth the tears. Everything about Gone is titanic. The production is massive, the verses emotive, the chemistry between Charli and Chris explosive. Gone feels like it’s about to implode on itself at any moment in the best way.
The “just kiss!” energy of the bridge that breaks down into the “keep-ka-keep” outro is perfection. Will Charli (Or Chris for that matter?) ever better this? Probably not. They don’t need to. It’s a magnum opus – a perfect fusion of hyperpop and the Christine and the Queens style that elevates both of these artists to the highest they’ve ever been. It’s one of those songs that every time I press play on it I just never want to end. “Don’t search me in here, I’m already gone, baby.
Listen to the playlist of all 30 songs here.
Featured image via @charli_xcx on Instagram.
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