Charli XCX announced that she was working on her fourth album via a zoom call with fans on April 6th, giving herself the close deadline of May 15th. At a few points in the month it felt as though meeting this deadline would be a close call, but once again, Charli has lived up to the hype and released an 11-track record reflecting on life in quarantine in California. Before I press play, I think we need to acknowledge that this was written, produced, and released in the space of 39 days. OF COURSE, it would be Charli to set herself this challenge while living through a pandemic. With her third full album release being only 8 months ago, I think this album proves that she deserves all the credit she gets for being one of the most innovative, hardworking people in music at the moment.
how i’m feeling now opens with a track with a similar feeling to the opener of her last album, ‘Next Level Charli’. Welcoming us to the album with a confidence and reassurance that what is to follow will be classically Charli, as visionary and inventive as ever. As with every song on this album, ‘Pink Diamond’ is a collaboration with fans and other stars; Dua Lipa and Jennifer Lopez helped with this track over facetime. Throughout the process of putting this record together Charli aimed at allowing fans to contribute to the process in a number of ways: lyric ideas, artwork and in providing clips for music videos, with this all ending up in a book she is making to document the process. All proceeds from merch sold as part of this album run will be going to LA Alliance, a charity which supports homeless people in LA. As a fan, watching her create this album at such a fast pace, with contributions coming from all over the world, has been a real insight into the process of creating an album. All too often I think fans think an album appears out of thin air, but in allowing us into this process, Charli has shown just how intense and at some points disheartening it can be to work so hard on a record and have this route to release day ignored.
One thing that really stands out with this album is that you can tell it was made in quarantine and this isn’t a bad thing. Charli invites us to reminisce on times with friends: “all my friends are invisible, twenty-four seven, miss ‘em all” within a record which at once feels futuristic and suffocating. As the product of five and a half weeks spent in self-isolation, this album is, as Charli sings in ‘anthems’, “existential and so strange”. Perfectly capturing just how she feels living in isolation, Charli has documented the ups and downs of lockdown life in a typically experimental pop XCX manner, with an added DIY sparkle. This album has shown us the more vulnerable, open side of Charli, not really seen before on previous albums. This is especially true of the slower, more exposed track, ‘enemy’ which describes her relationship with boyfriend, Huck Kwong.
This is definitely going to be an album I return to throughout the year. Every time I listen, I love it more. In late 2019 Charli announced that she wanted to release two albums in 2020; with this being the first, I can’t wait to hear what she releases next.
– Tilly Attrill
Featured Image Source: Charli XCX, Twitter