- 22 May 20
Charli XCX's record-in-quarantine is an innovative reimagination of pop music in a time of isolation.
Charli XCX’s How I’m Feeling Now is, quite frankly, the only pop album that feels right to listen to in quarantine. Opulent party anthems and songs about honeymoon romances feel like torture when the world is trapped inside in isolation and our social lives have turned digital. In the short span of only 39 days, Charli XCX has reimagined the genre for a time of social distancing and universal loneliness.
Charli has already made a name for herself as the “pop star of the future” with her eclectic style of hyperpop. In between mainstream hits like ‘Boys’ and ‘Boom Clap’, she’s ventured further into glitchy, underground electronic sounds that push the genre to its limits, similar to the sounds of SOPHIE, 100 gecs and PC Music founder (and frequent Charli collaborator) A.G. Cook. On How I'm Feeling Now, her big electronic sounds are incredibly polished, with melodies reaching more satisfying peaks and valleys than her last experiments. The stylistic use of autotune and vocal filters feel sincere and transform her voice into another instrument amid the intricate layers.
Her signature antagonistic flavour of glitch-pop hits you over the head from the get-go with the aggressively experimental and unrelenting opener ‘pink diamond’. A classic club track upon first listen, 'pink diamond' is about partying and "going hard" -- except now the club is replaced by a computer screen.
References to partying in isolation continue throughout the record. On 'anthems', another high-energy banger, she's desperate for the old normalcy of going out with friends. She sings what we're all thinking two months into quarantine, but feel too selfish saying -- "I just wanna go to parties". 'c2.0' reimagines her abrasive Kim Petras and Tommy Cash collaboration 'Click' from last year's Charli as a brightly-textured song simply about missing people. It's an incredibly clever remix, tearing a boasty song about rolling with a powerful clique down from its pedestal. She's breaking down barriers between fan and artist to create a sense of community, even collaborating with fans on lyrics via social media.
Charli trades opulence for vulnerability on the calmer tracks on the record, largely dedicated to her boyfriend with whom she's been quarantined with. Frequent therapy sessions and the new closeness she's found with him amid their rocky relationship have forced the pop star into a state of deep introspection. Her love songs are more complex than ever, analyzing the ups and downs of love and how she sees herself in the context of it. On 'enemy', she grounds herself with a voice memo recorded directly after a therapy session. The emotion in her voice is palpable and it's the most raw she's ever been on a record.
Charli XCX clearly knows how to make a pop record that sounds original -- look no further than her last two records for the big, borderline chaotic sound she's perfected. But How I'm Feeling Now stands out so distinctly from the rest, both sonically and lyrically. The way she's been able to foster such seamless collaboration, both with fellow producers/musicians and her tight-knit community of fans, also speaks to the new ways to create music for a brand-new decade.
It's not just a unique experiment in her discography, but a record that will be looked at for years to come as a zeitgeist of 2020.