Charli XCX’s “Famous” Video: A Disturbing Snapshot of Modern Life

Charli XCX, who has become something of a video maven over the past year, has yet to disenchant us with her song narratives. The latest single from Sucker, “Famous,” doesn’t disappoint either–even if the message is highly sobering/disturbing. Moreover, it’s far more original than XCX’s last video, “Doing It,” featuring Rita Ora.

Narcissism
Narcissism

Opening with XCX doing what most people 30 and under do to occupy their free time–take selfies and use apps to modify the picture–we’re gradually eased in to how unsettling modern self-obsession is thanks to the invention of the smartphone. We relate to XCX’s plight when her phone dies while she’s in the midst of dancing, but not when a duo of zombie-like humans emerge from her closet to try to take her.

Luckily, XCX has a spare iPad on hand that she turns on, making the zombies instantly disappear as she re-enters her alternate world. But alas, the iPad then dies too, fulfilling every person’s worst nightmare–though XCX’s plight is made worse by getting pulled under the bed and into a hyper-surreal dimension (except it’s pretty close to reality at the moment) where everyone is using selfie sticks or watching the video on the screen in front of them.

The heightened grotesquerie of the selfie stick in XCX's "Famous" video
The heightened grotesquerie of the selfie stick in XCX’s “Famous” video

XCX tries to extricate herself from the environment by leaving for another room, but is briefly stopped by the famous singer on the screen demanding that she buys her album. After getting into the next room, XCX is faced with the challenge of plugging her phone into a fat man with an outlet as a belly button and selfie sticks for hands (it’s all very Kafka-esque). When she dares to get close enough to do so, the belly button electrocutes her and she falls to her demise–after which everyone takes a picture or video of it and uploads it to the internet.

XCX's emoji-filled end
XCX’s emoji-filled end

What XCX is saying is pretty clear: we’ve all become grotesque. It’s an unexpected message from someone with songs as upbeat as hers, but then, pop music has always been a source of making cultural and political statements (see the Holy Pop Divinity: Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince).