The red-hot songwriter channels a variety of influences on her latest

Charli XCX is blowing up—from her co-writes and features on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” to her own solo hit “Boom Clap,” the 22-year-old U.K. singer-songwriter has dominated the airwaves for the past two years (and earned two Grammy nominations).

After releasing several under-the-radar singles from various mixtapes, an EP and her 2013 debut album True Romance, Charli XCX (born Charlotte Aitchison) finally found success when “I Love It” was selected as the theme song to MTV’s Jersey Shore spin-off Snooki and JWoww—and was heard in an episode of HBO’s Girls. From there, her career took off—her “Fancy” collaboration with Azalea spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 last summer.

For her second studio album, Sucker, Charli XCX was determined to follow up that success by making a classic pop album. She co-wrote every song, with influences ranging from 1960s yé-yé singers such as Brigitte Bardot to ’80s new wave and punk by the likes of the Ramones to ’90s power pop à la Weezer. In fact, she collaborated with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. “I went to his house in Santa Monica, and we wrote two songs together in one afternoon in his back garden,” she says. “One, ‘Hanging Around,’ made the cut. You can definitely hear his touch in it.”

She also wrote with Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend. “I took him to this old, empty hotel in the-middle-of-nowhere Sweden to write and record—and drink Champagne. I organized a writing camp with some friends, and we were the only ones there. He’s a very different songwriter from me. He likes to take his time and work slowly and double-check everything, whereas I usually blaze through not thinking about anything. He taught me patience.”

While Charli XCX also worked with other high-profile male songwriters and producers—including Greg Kurstin and Benny Blanco—the record underscores her own feelings about female empowerment. “There are songs about romance, but there are also songs about owning and controlling your body, and my experiences in the music industry as a woman,” she says. “I would like to have listened to this album when I was 15 and see a different type of female in the spotlight. It’s sexy, just in a different way.”

–Katy Kroll

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