While leaving London hotspot Sexy Fish on Thursday night, Charli XCX was photographed by paparazzi. Other than the silliness of the restaurant name, that sounds pretty normal, right? Well, here’s the thing: She was wearing a graphic tee at the time. I can tell you’re itching to know what it says, so I will tell you. It read, “They don’t build statues of critics.”
Are you mad yet? If not, congratulations, your brain is probably intact. What does that feel like? Are you happy? Do you have any recommendations for tactile hobbies I could take up? You know what, we’ll take this offline. I have to get back to dissecting this grievous act of disrespect Charli committed.
In wearing this cute little baby doll crop top, Charli has invoked the ire of several critics and writers. “lmao pathetic,” wrote New York Magazine critic Angelica Jade Bastién. “oh yeah statues, the things that we've historically made zero errors in judgment making,” tweeted TV writer Caitie Delaney. Tom Zoellner, the politics editor at the LA Review of Books, replied directly to the Charli XCX stan account with evidence that there actually are statues of critics — he did misspell the critic’s name though.
A critic’s job is, I believe, to interpret art. Yet, when faced with an artist wearing a purposefully provocative shirt on the eve of her album being released, that ability flew out the window. In wearing this shirt, Charli isn’t, I don’t know, calling for a second 9/11 because Pitchfork gave her a bad review. She’s projecting an attitude.
In a conversation with Daniel Lopatin a.k.a Oneohtrix Point Never earlier this year, Charli basically admitted as much.
As major label artists crave to be more ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ and ‘involved’ and ‘left,’ I’m more interested in playing with the narrative of the opposite. For example, I didn’t really write much of ‘Good Ones’—I essentially took it as a pitch song, because I wanted to be a stereotypical, classic, major-label pop star. It was fun to play that game, but probably only fun because I know I can write a huge pop song. Does that make sense? I like seeing the whole thing as an art piece sometimes—it’s the ultimate version of playing the game.
The “stereotypical, classic, major-label pop star” was often a bit of a brat, or at least perceived as such by a famously sexist media. Charli is playing with that perception not just in her music, but in her sartorial choices as well. This has gone over the heads of people whose job it is to parse these things, apparently.
I’m sure an artist will do something that actually warrants a righteous call to arms from critics soon. Maybe next week Olivia Rodrigo will have Jon Caramanica swatted, then you guys can all freak out.