Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now Album Review

Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now Album Review

Until the release of this album, it was inarguable that Dua Lipa had released the best pop album of 2020 with Future Nostalgia. Then Charli XCX released this. Recorded in isolation, taking thirty-nine days from start to release, it’s one of the first high-profile pieces of pop-art, to come out that hasn’t hinged upon a specific class and economic divide between artist and audience, with the artist away from the cares and worries and trappings of everyday life, and the concerns of their audience and fans. While Gal Gadot was busy with the, quite literally, tone-deaf, celeb-filled ‘Imagine’ video, and while Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande were busy singing about how happy they were to be in isolation with their respective partners, where they didn’t have to worry about anything (‘Stuck with U’), Charli XCX made how i’m feeling now.

‘pink diamonds’ starts off the album on a professedly “antagonistic” note that scrubs at the itch everyone has felt: wanting to go out and be out and go crazy, but ultimately being stuck inside and at home: “I just wanna go real hard for days/ I just wanna feel in different ways/ Every single night kinda feels the same.” Latter track, ‘anthems,’ echoes this sentiment whilst also bringing with it, a line that defines so much about how everyone has felt trying to make sense of the world right now: “I get existential and so strange.”

‘pink diamonds’ then moves into two love songs (‘forever’ and ‘claws’) that plumb the weirdness and craziness of intimacy and love in such close quarters for some, and across such distances for others. Being so close for so klong, after being so far apart (Charli and her boyfriend had been in a long-distance relationship prior to being isolated together), has changed Charli XCX’s view on the relationship, and her feelings towards Kwong.

‘detonate’ runs in the other direction, as prolonged contact and interaction with a limited number of people has left everyone looking inwards and questioning everything. It used to be at night, when nothing else was happening, that we’d lie in bed and let our thoughts consume us. Now, with little to do during the day, and nowhere to go, it’s so much easier to get stuck in negative thoughts, regardless of how valid they may or may not be. With bubbly synths fluttering away, Charli sings, “I don’t trust myself alone/ Why should you love me?” but then admits “I’m not tryna be rude/ I’m just feelin’ confused/ My emotions get blue.” She immediately counters this, though, with “Everything will stay cool/ But I can’t promise that’s true/ ‘Cause my emotions so blue.” It pushes and pulls, fighting itself as she fights her own invasive thoughts.

‘c2.0’ starts out as unnervingly surface level, a track that focuses on Charli XCX’s “clique,” an almost boast-track that seems to have little to say. It strikes the listener, at first glance, as a fun side-track, a diversion solely there to entertain and boost moods. It changes up, with no warning and with no change in the instrumentals or delivery, as she sings “I miss them every night/ I miss them by my side,” hammering the point home as she repeats “I miss them” almost as many times as she chants “clique clique clique” earlier in the track. It’s so easy to get stuck on the narrative of missing your partner or family in isolation, but there are swathes of friends and loved persons who are missed as well.

how i’m feeling now hits every point of weirdness and heightened emotion that a global health crisis has instilled. It’s poppy, outrageous, collaborative, vulnerable, explicit, untamed, and imperfect in a most glorious way. It’s blown out and intense, riding high and frenzied, frantic and uncontrollable, hopeful and loving even as it mills the uncomfortable darkness that many of us have found in our heads as we’ve looked inwards. It’s an isolation album that refuses to try and tell us what to do, or how to feel, and instead focuses on the duality of the times: some things are nice but things also do kind of suck.