Charli Adams once had an accidental date with a sugar daddy. “I didn’t realize that was his thing, and he ended up being horrible,” she recalls. “It was definitely the worst date I’d ever been on.”
With “JOKE’S ON YOU (I Don’t Want To),” co-written with Edd Holloway and producer Nick Atkinson, Adams utilizes her experience for her “first women empowerment anthem,” she tells American Songwriter. “Even though the song is extremely specific to my experience, I’m afraid it’s far too relatable. I think a lot of women have been told to ‘sit down and look pretty,’ and it’s just a reminder that women have been underestimated basically forever.
“I knew if I was going to make a women empowerment anthem, I wanted ladies to dance to it. It’s definitely the most pop-influenced song I’ve ever made, and I wanted it that way,” the Nashville singer-songwriter continues. “I think it has an energy that the album was missing. ‘Bullseye’ gets a bit heavy and touches on insecurities and the journey of self-love, so ‘JOKES ON YOU’ is speaking to the other side of that process.”
Lousy conversation / Ended up at the bar in the basement, she describes over crunchy percussion. Say you’re impatient / Asking me if I’m yours for the taking.
She continues diving into the situation’s agonizing awkwardness, singing, Busy talking ‘bout what you’ve got / I swallow my words with another shot / You’re talking ‘bout the things that you bought / Like everything’s for sale, but baby I’m not.
Originally from Gulf Shores, Alabama, Adams fell in love with songwriting because “it was my excuse to be as melodramatic as I wanted to be,” she shares. “I write songs about the things that I don’t really like to talk about. I’ve always written very descriptively and autobiographically so it’s sort of a musical diary. I basically start any song with a chord progression and a voice memo. I’ll improvise and sing to the progression until something comes out that I like. I tend to write from personal experience so stream of consciousness works for me.”
Since moving to Nashville, and discarding her toxic conservative upbringing, Adams blossoms into her own. As she continues liberating herself through her songwriting, she offers the best advice she’s received so far. “‘Don’t overcomplicate the song just because you can’一I think people flex with big words and sometimes it’s just entirely unnecessary,” she says.
As for the worst advice, that’s easy: don’t bore us; get to the chorus. “I love a good verse, and some of my favorite songs don’t even have a chorus,” she stresses. “If all songs were catchy, I’d get a headache. I think you should give the song what it specifically needs, and sometimes that’s six verses and a nice bridge.”
“JOKE’S ON YOU (I Don’t Want To)” is lifted from Charli Adams’ debut album, Bullseye, out everywhere now via Color Study / Ultra Records.