There was a time not too long ago when influencers were hocking flat tummy teas while showing off their perfectly photoshopped faces and bodies to sell the idea of “hotness.” Some might say that if you were gullible enough to buy the product, drink the tea, and spend all day running to the bathroom, that choice was entirely on you. You were the one that got duped; how could you possibly think that a packet of poison sold to you by a Kardashian clone was going to change your life? But not Charli XCX.
The megawatt pop star understands what it’s like to want to feel hot, so much so that she’s crafted an entire sect of her career around that fleeting feeling of self-obsession. Her songs are intended to be the sonic version of the purported effects of a flat tummy tea: beat-heavy distillations of images and sounds that make you feel gorgeous just by listening to them. Her latest single, “Hot Girl,” proves just that.
A large chunk of XCX’s music is designed to delight the curious listener with charming, self-indulgent lyrics and propulsive, synth-heavy beats that make it impossible not to dance along with her.
Last month, she released a collaboration with dutch DJ Tiësto entitled, simply, “Hot In It.” It was the most overt encapsulation of her quest to make the world feel sexy yet, complete with a lyric video compilation of TikToks that showed users feeling themselves to the song’s chorus. “Tonight I’m gon’ be rockin’ it, droppin’ it, shake my ass, no stopping it/I look hot in it, hot in it, I look hot in it,” XCX sings as people of various sizes, skin colors, gender identities, and sexualities lip sync along.
Even if all of her songs aren’t filled with such blatant self-affirmations and compliments as “Hot In It,” the lyrical composition will still make you feel fiery. They’re about hot things: fast cars (soo hot), pink diamonds (icy hot), clubbing with your girls (who are also hot), and boys (known to be hot).
But XCX’s new song “Hot Girl”—which appears on the soundtrack for the upcoming horror film Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, about a group of self-absorbed 20-somethings whose hurricane sleepover turns murderous—is a lyrical master class in being hot.
The song begins with the sound of a luxury car speeding past your speakers because, as we have established, fast cars are hot. XCX then spends the next minute repeating the song’s mantra, “I’m a hot girl, pop girl, rich girl/I’m a bitch girl, fast girl, catch me if you can, girl…you just wanna be me!” Listen to it enough times and it will bore a hole in your brain’s pleasure center, implanting an XCX microchip that will be activated every time you start to criticize yourself.
A short break of trilling drum snares, hand claps, and more engine revs fills the song before XCX launches into the second verse, expanding on the cult-like mythos of the Hot Girl. This is where we’re treated to aesthetic images of all of the things that define this partially parodic world of hotness: your picture being someone’s screen saver, knowing the bouncer named Tony, and acrylic nails gripping a glass of white wine.
“Hot Girl” may be a hyper-realized pop song bordering on self-satirization, but that doesn’t mean that the way it can make you feel is anything to scoff at. Charli XCX knows that there is major power in crafting music that makes the listener feel good about themselves. Not necessarily in the obvious, Lizzo-fied kind of way, but by creating a safe space for a little much-needed narcissism—all ego, no regrets.
Sure, the feeling might begin as a placebo effect, but after a while, XCX’s repeated encouragements begin to take hold of your brain. It’s nearly impossible to listen to something like “Hot Girl,” “Click,” or, “Dreamer” and not want to writhe around your bed in Fashion Nova’s finest or lip sync in the full-length mirror you found on the street, framing your jawline with your hands the whole time. Her brand of danceable, futuristic electronic pop music functions as a form of manifestation that can make anyone feel like a star.
Charli XCX recognizes that there’s a clear need for hotness in a bleak, burning world. How are we supposed to get through the day without at least being able to enjoy what we see in the mirror? Even if the moment is ephemeral (“Hot Girl” and “Hot In It” don’t even clock in at three full minutes), it doesn’t have to be lost forever. That’s what the repeat button is for.