Allie X Puts the ’X’ in Your Music #Xperience
Over the past few years the lines separating pop and indie music have blurred, resulting in a group of artists who appeal to both masses, which Pitchfork’s Carrie Battan defined as a "Small Pop" in 2012.
Sky Ferriera, Grimes, Charli XCX, Solange, Chvrches, Haim, Jessie Ware, Blood Orange and even Lana Del Rey occupy an interesting space in the pop landscape. Their aesthetics and sounds draw on alternative legends, like Sonic Youth, Nirvana, the Strokes, the Ramones and more, but are cut with accessible pop tropes, borrowing elements from dance music and R&B. They’re not embarrassed to admit that they are inspired by Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Fleetwood Mac, Britney Spears, Sade and other top tier pop acts.
The latest newcomer to this quasi genre is the mysterious Toronto-based singer Allie X, whose sugary jam "Catch" put her in the spotlight after one of pop’s biggest stars got wind of the track.
In early March, Katy Perry tweeted out to her 52 million followers: "Currently I’m obsessed with this song CATCH by Allie X: SPRING JAM!"
Perry, who has more Twitter followers than anyone else on the social media platform, included a link to "Catch," and since then, Allie X went from relatively unknown to a "small pop" du jour.
Her reaction to the Perry shout out?
"I squealed," she told EDGE.
She added that that the pop star discovered the song on her Tumblr "through my GIF for ’Catch.’"
If you’re cynical, it may hard for you to believe Perry has the time to surf the Internet in search of fresh tunes and Tumblr-core aesthetics. So what’s the possible connection? Allie X has been linked to producer Cirkut, who worked on about half of the songs on Perry’s latest album, "Prism," including hit singles, "Roar," "Dark Horse" and "Unconditionally."
Regardless of how Perry came across "Catch," the endorsement has catapulted Allie X’s career into the stratosphere. And "Catch" hasn’t just been Perry-approved. TIME magazine and other publications hailed the shimmering electro song as one of the best tracks so far this year. Allie X says she’s found the praise, "really #Xcellent. I always had a feeling it was a good song."
Like fellow Toronto-born musician, R&B singer and rapper the Weeknd (who has seen crossover success after working with Drake), Allie X is keeping a low profile with regard to her personal identity and back-story, but if you poke around the web for long enough, you’ll find some details (her real name is Alexandra Ashley Hughes). Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t give much away in her interview with EDGE, but when asked what the "X" in Allie X stands for, the singer said, "Any possible variable. It is my hope that you will ad ’X’ to the equation of your own #Xsistence."
Whatever "X" represents, it may be the special ingredient that makes "Catch" a thrilling song. As Perry wrote, "Catch" is pretty much the ultimate spring jam. It’s incredibly infectious, due in part to the way Allie X emphases the hook "Wait until I catch my breath," and it’s coated in a saccharin sheen even though the lyrics are kind of a bummer: "I was devastated by the pain / But now I couldn’t call the doctor / You gotta stop the forces in my brain."
"Catch" sounds like it could have been a bonus cut from the soundtrack for Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2009 "Drive," starring an aloof Ryan Gossling. Except it’s mixed with the upbeat sonics of Cyndi Lauper, whom Allie X lists as an influence. Other artists who inspire the singer include Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Kate Bush, director Stanley Kubrick, author Haruki Murakami and "a black hole of ambition."
Also shaping her music is her move from Toronto to Los Angeles.
"LA has influenced the way I work," she said. "It is an accelerated environment. I am more efficient and less precious about songs."
Still, the acts to come out of Toronto, like Broken Social Scene, Drake, Crystal Castles and others, "have personally impacted / inspired / encouraged me," Allie X said.
Despite the blitzkrieg responses to her music, Allie X is still unsigned; yet again paralleling how the Weeknd first started a few years ago.
"I am #Xploring many options right now. Whoever I work with will have to want to continue to pursue the vision I have set in motion," she told EDGE.
Not being signed isn’t stopping her from releasing new tunes, however. Allie X recently dropped the energetic single "Prime," which is just as melodic as her breakthrough single. It’s stormier -- opening with finger snaps and a foreboding synth until Allie X cuts in with the lyrics: "Optical allusion, sexual confusion / in the best way / Liberal perception, premature connection." "Prime" builds off of the most compelling elements of "Catch," but this time around lush horns are added to the track’s breakdown, making it another frontrunner for a song you’ll find yourself adding to your spring/summer playlists over the next few months. It’s the perfect blend of indie pop quirkiness and glossy Top 40 sleekness.
From where I’m sitting, Allie X is two-for-two. If she keeps this up, she’s poised to take over the world with her clever brand of pop music. All she needs is a thumbs up from Beyonce or Rihanna.
Listen to "Catch" and "Prime" below: