Never one to shy away from shifts in the musical status quo, one look at Charli XCX’s discography proves her status as one of the most adaptable artists of her generation. From the punchy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics of her earliest pop ventures ‘True Romance’ and ‘Sucker’, to the transitional ‘Vroom Vroom’ EP and succeeding mixtapes produced by PC Music founder A.G. Cook, Charli has aimed for one thing – making pure, quintessential pop. This was canonised by universally praised, self-titled album ‘Charli’ in 2019, a hyperactive, party-drug trip of a record, dripping in unique electropop sounds, on which she collaborated with similar misfits such as Kim Petras, Christine and the Queens, Brooke Candy and more. To many (including myself), it was Charli’s magnum opus, solidifying her place as one of the freshest voices in pop with no ego or need for ‘mainstream’ success.
Her most ambitious project to date – a DIY album that would be written, produced and released during lockdown
Smash cut to eight months after the release of ‘Charli’ and the world has completely changed. On April 6th, 2020, after a fortnight of self-isolation under a Californian order for lockdown, workaholic Brit Charli X announced her most ambitious project to date – a DIY album that would be written, produced and released during lockdown. ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ was to be the brainchild of XCX, her long-time PC Music collaborators and her Angels (XCX fans) - participating mainly through song writing sessions via Instagram Live, while Charli scribbled down their lyric ideas and most favoured demos. The result? A reflection on relationships and a deeply sincere pop record that is not only indicative of Charli’s progress as a pop artist but one that truly acknowledges the peculiar situation that it was birthed from.
‘How I’m Feeling Now’ blasts out of the gate with ‘pink diamond’, an unrelentingly repetitive dance anthem reminiscent of XCX’s past mixtapes - one might view it as the minor key cousin of Number 1 Angel’s ‘Roll with Me’. It is a stark juxtaposition from the rest of the album however, as though it is the last crazy night out with friends before lockdown struck. This is reinforced on ‘c2.0’, the direct sequel to a monster of an electropop collaboration called ‘Click’ from Charli’s previous album, focused entirely on the importance of being close with one’s ‘clique’, which obviously cannot be done during self-isolation. The album has similar emotional beats throughout, such as the closest thing to a ballad on this record, ‘forever’ and the track with the most fan input, ‘claws’, but always with that distinct, hyper-pop, XCX stamp.
Lockdown has also forced many of us to spend more time together than we have ever done before and on the romantic front, this is true for Charli, who remains isolated with her boyfriend. Detailing the rocky, one-sided start to their relationship in ‘party 4 u’ and her anxieties about feeling too close to him in the hauntingly beautiful ‘detonate’, we feel Charli’s claustrophobia and the constant state of nervousness that comes from being in inescapable contact with one’s significant other.
The album’s stand-out track is ‘anthems’, a celebration of quarantine ennui that opens with a drained Charli shouting – ‘I’m so bored.’ Charli’s slurred vocals detailing her quarantine routine, punctuated with stuttering production from PC Music darling Danny Harle and one half of 100 gecs, Dylan Brady, culminate in a discordant clash of metallic sound that is so purely Charli and perfect for how we’re feeling now.
A celebration of how far Charli XCX has come in the world of pop and how far she will go no matter the conditions, ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ is a testament to the artist’s unwavering dedication to a pure pop fantasy and will undoubtedly serve as a glimpse into just how wild this time in our lives was.
Overall, a 5/5