We’ve all been picking up lockdown hobbies to stop ourselves from losing our minds completely, and Charli XCX is no exception. Leaping into action as soon as self-isolation became our day-to-day, she shared a statement at the beginning of April explaining, “For me, staying positive goes hand in hand with staying creative, and so that’s why I’ve decided I’m going to use this isolation time to make a brand new album from scratch.”
Now, just over a month later, she’s unleashed the final product, and it’s the lockdown soundtrack we all need.
Creating ‘how i’m feeling now’ in stages over the past few weeks, Charli has been open with her process, asking fans and friends to contribute via weekly Zoom meetings and enlisting frequent collaborators AG Cook and BJ Burton to help with production, alongside 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady. It’s this that makes her fourth LP such a stirring and immediate listen, as Charli takes us with her on her lockdown emotional rollercoaster in real time.
‘how i’m feeling now’ finds her diving into all the feelings brought on by being confined in your house for the foreseeable. “I just want to feel in different ways / every single night kind of feels the same,” she laments on dark electro-infused opener ‘pink diamond’, a track that reflects the want “to go hard” with its pulsing beat and shuddering glitches. Next up, lead single ‘forever’, a fizzing melodic number, muses “I’ll love you forever / even when we’re not together”.
On the trance-y club-ready ‘anthems’, she lays out an all-too-familiar “wake up late, eat some cereal / try my best to be physical, lose myself in a TV show / staring out to oblivion / all my friends are invisible / twenty-four seven, miss ‘em all”. Meanwhile, ‘enemy’, one of the more delicate moments here, alongside the twinkling bubble-gum pop of ‘detonate’, sees her include a voice memo tackling her self-doubt, recorded after a telephone therapy session. “I think it’s a tough journey to be on, whilst you’re around a lot of people, I feel like I’m learning that about myself, and I don’t fully really understand it yet, it hurts here, it hurts here.”
But, ‘how i’m feeling now’ is not a doom and gloom record, and it has Charli proving why she’s one pop’s leading figures. Full of anthemic and euphoric beats, the album flits through pop and electronic influences, with the work of 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady resulting in some of the album’s most weird and wonderful moments, channelling the distinctive off-the-wall gecs style into huge Charli-classic pop hits; the wonky and bombastic love song ‘claws’ a shining record highlight.
Yes, lockdown is shit, yes, these are “strange and unprecedented times,” and yes, Charli has made the perfect banger-filled album to get us through it. Get the Zoom party ready.
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Watch performances from the shortlisted artists on BBC Four at 10pm on 23rd September.
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The livestream was in support of charity LA Alliance.
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