The 10 Best Songs Charli XCX Wrote for Other Artists
British singer-songwriter Charli XCX is a different sort of pop princess. She’s independent and infectious as hell, but she’s also quirky, insightful, a major hit-writer who proudly keeps a foot planted in the underground. (You can read our September cover story on this very subject.) Charli first made a name for herself as a pop writer when Swedish duo Icona Pop’s “I Love It” landed on the Billboard charts in 2013, and she quickly followed the success of that with Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” in 2014. Charli performed both songs in her set opening up for Taylor Swift on the Reputation tour, fully claiming songs that were hers from the beginning.
She has since helped birth hits for a number of artists, including British pop star Rita Ora, dance artists Afrojack and David Guetta and R&B favorite Ty Dolla $ign. Here are 10 great tunes featuring Charli XCX’s songwriting.
Camila Cabello and Sean Mendes – “Senorita” (2019)
This sensual duet slow-danced its way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, but a trained ear might recognize that lilting choral hook as being imprinted with Charli’s DNA. The song speaks directly to its performers’ off-screen romance, but Charli’s swinging melodic signature can clearly be heard inside those high-range vocals. She’s one of eight credited songwriters, including Mendes and Cabello themselves, as well as hit-writer Ali Tamposi (Cabello’s “Havana,” DJ Snake and Justin Bieber’s “Let Me Love You) and Norwegian producer Magnus August Holberg, better known as Cashmere Cat.
Brooke Candy – “My Sex” (ft. Pussy Riot, Mykki Blanco and MNDR) (2018)
“My Sex” replaces the “C” in the XCX moniker with a third X. Electro-pop rapper Brooke Candy actually toured with Charli throughout 2017 and 2018, and this fruit of their labor was born the summer of that second year. Trying to parse Charli from this industrial onslaught of ferocious empowerment can be daunting at first, but both the song’s message and brutal experimentalism hit the bullseye of Charli’s brand. She’s recognizable in the kittenish chorus, and you can also pick up in her influence in Blanco’s raunchy playground chants.
Kungs and Stargate – “Be Right Here” (ft. Goldn) (2018)
Through the rarely-used vessel of a male singer, Charli’s sound takes a different tone. This 2018 house-pop song became a minor hit for everyone involved, racking up nearly 20 million plays on Spotify, it gives Charli a bit of space to breathe. Her typical style blends with the surroundings, especially palpable around the verses, hiding in lines like, “I’ll be here for you / when it’s past 3 / in the morning / and you can’t sleep.” Co-written by Cabello, the song is delivered in a whisper rather than Charli’s usual snotty cheer, giving her words a daydreamy quality not often heard in her own work.
Camila Cabello – “OMG” (ft. Quavo) (2017)
Cabello knew Charli had the goods even before she nabbed a No. 1 with “Senorita”—“OMG” was released as a standalone single just as the former Fifth Harmony singer went solo. As soon as Cabello’s soprano hits that vocal fry intro, the bouncing brassiness of a patented XCX hook kicks in. Cabello even takes on some of the songwriter’s cheeky affectations, and lyrics like “I’m cut like a diamond, I’m cold / 4 a.m., bloom like a rose” trace back directly to Charli’s specific swaggering party girl brand.
DJ Fresh and Diplo – “Bang Bang” (ft. R. City, Selah Sue, and Craig David) (2016)
Charli’s first ever gig was at a rave, so she is no stranger to the dance floor. She sounds at home writing over “Bang Bang,” on which DJ Fresh and Diplo provide a mix of d’n’b rhythms and island moods. The legend Craig David steals the show with his inspired verse, but we hear a bit of that classic Charli simplicity in the song’s chorus. It became a hit in Belgium and was the first time XCX collaborated with Diplo, which eventually led to their 2019 single “Spicy” with Herve Pagez.
AlunaGeorge – “Jealous” (2016)
Charli finds the sweet spot between Aluna Francis’ solo style and her duo AlunaGeorge’s club-pop productions with “Jealous,” an album track from the group’s sophomore LP I Remember. You have to dig a bit through Francis’ fiery whisper to uncover Charli’s coquettish play, but when Francis sings “I’ma show you how I feel, my sleeves rolled up, no referee,” your eyes may spy a bit of Charli’s playful syllabic dynamism.
Will.i.am – “Boys & Girls” (ft. Pia Mia) (2016)
Will.i.am and his Black Eyed Peas were omnipresent in the late aughts, but by 2016 he had receded to making quietly idiosyncratic but mostly minor music. Still, this collaboration with Charli was a highlight, with repetitious wordplay and vocalist Pia Mia’s twisted Barbie girl delivery being dead giveaways of Charli’s involvement. In fact, if you didn’t see Pia Mia’s on the feature, you might think it was Charli from the start.
Selena Gomez – “Same Old Love” (2015)
While Charli was exploring the bleeding edge of pop with Sophie, she also wrote a Top 5 hit for Gomez’s grown-up sophomore LP Revival. The story fit right into Gomez’s personal narrative at the time, as the song explores the pitfalls of fame and her highly publicized relationship with Justin Bieber. The fierce message of a woman who finally puts her foot down, along with the honey-drip rasp of Gomez’s vocal performance, all hint at Charli’s style.
Iggy Azalea – “Beg for It” (ft. MØ) (2014)
Azalea saw firsthand what a Charli hit could do, so couldn’t blame her for trying for another one. When the rapper first teased the new song she wrote with XCX during a performance in London, fans and critics heard the writer’s influence and figured it would be a follow-up to “Fancy.” In the end, Danish singer MØ ended up singing it instead, but it’s easy to recognize Charli in the hook. The layered vocals, the high-pitch wall of sound, the sassy verbiage, the near monotone melody—all are telltale signs of Charli’s involvement.
Ryn Weaver – “OctaHate” (2014)
For the first single from her debut album, the alt-pop singer Ryn Weaver worked with Charli on the lyrics to “OctaHate,” with Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco providing the production. Their styles blend beautifully, as Weaver brings some of her natural strength to Charli’s kitsch. The song also taps into the edgier side of Charli’s sound, though, a predictor perhaps of the hard-hitting, clean edges that would appear on her third album. “OctaHate” is a great example of how Charli can both honor and elevate an artist’s existing sound; it remains Weaver’s sole Top 40 hit.