Album Review: Charli XCX- how i’m feeling now
Harry Edmundson reviews Charli XCX’s new pandemic album to transport a generation out of lockdown.
Charli XCX has had a complicated career as a ‘pop star’ writing mainstream chart toppers for Iggy Azalea with ‘Fancy’ and more recently for Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello with ‘Senorita’. However, this was not a failed attempt to secure her a place as a mainstream pop act – instead Charli XCX has experienced an underground path that’s been honest, experimental, and futuristic. The XCX sound has been perfected and pushed over the past few years since her 2016 EP Vroom Vroom and more recently with 2019 album-of-the-year contender Charli, of which mega-collaborations with Troye Sivan, Haim, Lizzo, and Christine and the Queens were a highlight. Charli’s bombastic pop talent was unflinching and exciting – 2020 was to be a year to celebrate and tour those efforts at festivals around the world.
Then everything went wrong, the world locked down and Charli XCX found herself residing in LA and resorting to what she knew best, making music. How i’m feeling now is the culmination of the last couple months in isolation. The very first lockdown-record produced and written with a constant stream of thoughts shared with fans on social media. The result is not a rushed, depressed, claustrophobic, GarageBand/Soundcloud collection of B-Sides; it is quite the opposite. In true Charli XCX fashion, how i’m feeling now is a fearless collection of futuristic pop to chronicle love, freedom (and a lack thereof), and friendships, with a brashness that seems fitting considering the lack of structure in all our daily lives.
Watching the process over the various social channels, and in weekly Beats 1 radio shows – the XCX work ethic is seriously impressive. Where others may see this period as demotivating and bleak, Charli XCX has sustained a relentless commitment to her craft and in the process has created ferociously catchy hooks on singles ‘Forever’ and ‘Claws’ – the latter featuring a music video filmed entirely at home with green screen and produced by the impressive 100 Gecs’ Dylan Brady. These aren’t reductive and repetitive songs for Capital FM, they are songs for an audience dealing with the complex emotional odyssey of a global pandemic.
When the world resumes again, the star tracks from this record will be played loud and together we will rave about love, desire, our friends and freedom – it won’t be taken for granted.
Opening the album with the audaciously aggressive ‘pink diamond’ reinforces the XCX futuristic flair that is to be expected after her last record – the energy is totally infectious (please forgive me…). As the record unfolds, the excitement generated by the run of amazing singles is proven to be worth it with tracks like ‘detonate’ and ‘c2.0’ – the latter being a ‘clicky’ ode to her own clique. The track ‘anthems’ is a total highlight, celebrating clubs and dance culture sonically, whilst lyrically yearning for the freedom of being out all night – a feeling that resonates particularly well today. This continues with closing track ‘visions’, an entrancing and searing electronic outing that encapsulates the record’s core emotions of love, desire, and freedom. You can practically see the violently hedonistic lights that would accompany this track in clubs around the globe.
how i’m feeling now is impressive. The intense efforts and sheer talent of Charli XCX is not unnoticed. It is not a flawless record, but it is as close to flawless as can be when made in a fraction of the time un-locked down albums take. how i’m feeling now is a brilliant account of a party animal’s psyche in a world forced inside. When confined and social interactions are kept to a minimum, we rely on music to transport us outside these boundaries and how im feeling now does that with force. Simultaneously the record pushes pop’s boundaries with a record to infect playlists and a generation in lockdown with a much-needed euphoria, even if it is temporarily experienced in bedrooms. When the world resumes again, the star tracks from this record will be played loud and together we will rave about love, desire, our friends and freedom – it won’t be taken for granted.
Until then, as Charli XCX stan twitter would say, “stream how im feeling now”.