r/popheads Album Of The Year 2020 #3: Charli XCX

Artist: Charli XCX

Album: How I am feeling now

Launch Date: Could 15, 2020

Hear: Apple Music |Spotify | Youtube

r/popheads [FRESH] Thread | Launch [MEGATHREAD]

In 2019, Charli XCX lastly launched her long-awaited third studio album after spending the second half of the 2010s radically altering her sound and by proxy her viewers, dropping an EP, two mixtapes and unfastened singles that pivoted the mainstream-skirting pop star right into a daring new experimental lane that ended up instrumental in paving the best way for what would finally turn into hyperpop. With the discharge of her album Charli, she very efficiently negotiated her new, abrasive sound with an abundance of huge visitor stars and extra radio and festival-ready crowd-pleasers, and whereas outdoors of some minor success for 1999 it did not produce any world-conquering smashes as in her Iggy Azalea co-starring heyday, it solidified her place as a cult artist with a following that was solely rising with each launch, in addition to roping in some long-awaited essential acclaim, particularly for much-beloved single Gone, which appears to have constructed its method into the pantheon of universally adored 2010s pop. Between this launch, her quite a few headlining competition slots, and the persevering with development of the hyperpop sound because of equally acclaimed releases from artists similar to Caroline Polachek, Dorian Electra and 100 Gecs, it was trying just like the 2020s had been going to kick off with a bumper 12 months for Charli XCX.


Look, this isn’t the place nor time for a recap of every thing that occurred in 2020 that led to the bottomless pit the earth fell into. God is aware of neither you nor I’ve the power for that proper now. However level being, mainly each plan that mainly everybody made in 2019 was useless within the water by March 2020, and that was not an exception for Charli. But when having a set of leaked tracks virtually as huge as her precise discography proves something, it is that Charli is nothing if not a workaholic (as she herself admits), and as such, when April rolled round and the room was coated with all of the shit that had simply hit the fan, she introduced in essentially the most 2020 vogue doable, through a Zoom convention, that her new album was titled How I am Feeling Now, that it might be labored on in collaboration with followers in addition to government producers BJ Burton and AG Prepare dinner, and it was scheduled for launch on Could 15, simply over a month out from the announcement.

The Type of Isolation

Moreso than maybe every other pop launch the previous 12 months, How I’m Feeling Now actually is the album of 2020 within the sense that nearly each aspect of the album was knowledgeable by the circumstances of the worldwide lockdown that dominated seemingly each aspect of life prior to now 12 months. With in-person contact relegated to at least one’s private house bubble and subsequent to nothing else, every thing and everybody went on-line in a giant method for any morsel of communication, and in Charli’s case, that meant having her album rollout consist of intensive behind-the-scenes protection, the place followers received to expertise items of the work because it was nonetheless being refined and put collectively, within the type of notepad screenshots with lyrical motifs, instrumental stems, ideas and choices for single art work and even direct video of working by means of lyrics and melodies in actual time. Charli additionally continued with using Zoom all through the creation course of, offering weekly streams the place she would replace Angels on the progress of the album and likewise take questions and discuss straight with followers and fellow artists in regards to the artistic course of in lockdown. Additional to all of this, the fan enter on this album may be seen within the quite a few polls that Charli put on-line to resolve on album art work and parts of tracks that will find yourself on the ultimate album, as much as and together with the monitor names, in addition to the contributions made to movies, both formally or solely in meme type.

But it surely wasn’t simply within the openness to the viewers of the album’s creation the place it mirrored the paradoxical interconnectedness of 2020. How I’m Feeling Now displays the need of resourcefulness in these UnPrECeDeNtEd TiMeS by means of its building, whether or not that be lastly utilizing a accomplished monitor that has been caught in limbo since 2017, remixing a monitor from the album that Charli launched not even a 12 months earlier, constructing off of stems that producers had been sitting on for years, or simply by advantage of creating and releasing an album of hyperpop, maybe the best sound to develop from the bed room and through e mail if the style’s explosion in recognition and mainstream-adjacent consciousness prior to now 12 months is something to go by. Whereas the overwhelming majority of this album was certainly written and developed within the house of the month-ish between announcement and launch, the craftiness of the album’s design in pulling collectively outdated parts to recontextualise them for the lockdown period is an excellent transfer that deserves an equal stage of commendation as the fabric made contemporary. By way of each its type and its content material, How I’m Feeling Now actually does contact on most of the most private elements of the adjustment to the brand new regular, and it begins off by representing the way it felt residing by means of late-March – like driving full pace right into a brick wall.

The Bodily Toll of Isolation

I simply wanna go actual laborious

Lip gloss on and I am lookin’ like a star

Bought a tiny bag, however I received a giant coronary heart

On the video chat, cute skirt and a bra

The nervy, manic power of all the Earth being thrown off its axis is conveyed completely in opener Pink Diamond. Musically one of the vital aggressive songs Charli has ever made, with its punishing wallops of bass and shrill high-pitched synths, it is a roided-up model of a few of the most chaotic bangers from Vroom Vroom or Pop 2 in its tone and lyrical content material, however by putting it initially of the album, it conveys the sense of getting boundless power and no outlet to channel it into. As a lot as you’ll be able to costume up and slut drop in your bed room, there isn’t any golf equipment to take that to, so that you’re caught doing it in entrance of a webcam in a useless try to recreate the joys. It is a jarring opener, however nothing captures the sharp handbrake of life in 2020 higher.

I am so bored (Woo)

Get up late, eat some cereal

Strive my finest to be bodily

Lose myself in a TV present

Staring out to oblivion

All my pals are invisible

Twenty-four seven, miss ’em all

I’d cry like a waterfall

I really feel afraid once I really feel alone

Examine that to the opposite aggressive, chaotic hyperpop banger on the album, Anthems, which comes close to the tail finish of the album. Tonally, the 2 are very related, however Anthems is pushed by a sooner, extra manic synth bounce courtesy of Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs, reflecting a better sense of desperation because the state of affairs of isolation begins to take its toll after spending too lengthy cooped up in the identical 4 partitions. Lyrically, the power of the monitor is constructed up out of anger on the compelled routine and the shortage of in-person connection as weeks alone flip to months. The feelings of solitude transcend simply melancholy and movement again right into a type of rage at having every thing you’re keen on ripped away by means of no fault of your individual. Regardless of the anger and frustration, there does exist a glimmer of hope that whereas the lockdown is an isolating expertise, it’s additionally a shared one, and that small piece of optimism carries the track away from bitterness and right into a kind of romantic longing that makes the abrasion a lot simpler to swallow.

The Emotional Overdrive of Love in Isolation

After all, for as isolating as an expertise 2020 has been, a few of us had been capable of a minimum of share our bodily areas with one other for the time. I don’t suppose I have to let you know, nevertheless, that being compelled into the identical house for many hours of the day versus a minimum of having the liberty to depart will change how you are feeling about these folks. You get time to speak, time to ponder, and time to get method, method too deep into your emotions. That is a facet that Charli doesn’t spare by any means.

You’re taking your time, I will take mine, we’ll be nice

Knew I might be right here, be right here, be right here with you

When the roof caved in and the water fell by means of

Hope after we’re outdated, we’ll be pals, reminisce

Hope we’ll be there, be there, be there, us two

All of the reminiscences, all of the images we took

A big core of this album is centred both straight or peripherally on Charli’s long-term boyfriend Huck Kwong, who was additionally the one particular person in Charli’s home together with her throughout the album’s creation, and the arc that’s created reveals in fairly important element the tribulations of their relationship, beginning with Without end, the primary track after the power launch of Pink Diamond and likewise the primary single launched for the album. The track is ostensibly a love ballad, however proper from the beginning it is clear that one thing is off. The preliminary dramatic swell of off-key blaring synth and blasts of fuzz on the beat threaten to swallow Charli and the remainder of the monitor entire, and the lyrics present Charli virtually resigned to the inevitable failure of the connection despite her clear devotion. The on-edge presentation of the track is reflective of the nerves that include now being put right into a state of affairs the place you are going to be compelled to spend all your time with somebody who you might be completely satisfied would not really feel about you the best way you are feeling about them, and it units up the rest of the album as Charli makes an attempt to reconcile her psychological and emotional uncertainty with the present actuality that she goes to be caught with this particular person for the foreseeable future.

I like, I like, I like, I like, I like every thing about you

I like, I like, I like, I like, I like every thing about you

So, do not you maintain me again

‘Trigger I do know once I know, I do not wanna be alone

So why not try to hone in on what it’s you do love about this particular person? Claws instantly follows, and it is maybe essentially the most upbeat track on the album in its infectious hyperpop bounciness and constructive, full of life descriptions of the feelings abound in sharing the most effective moments of your life with somebody. It’s a track specializing in the happiest facet of the connection, however there’s nonetheless an undercurrent of insecurity in that this particular person can also be all you type of have within the second. It is a compelled smile that turns itself into a real smile purely out of the quantity of effort being exerted, and it’s infectious, however the glint of disappointment beneath the enjoyment does linger nonetheless.

So laborious, issues that we have been by means of, yeah

May’ve fallen, however we solely grew, yeah (Uh)

So I made my home a house with you (Oh)

I am proper right here and it feels model new

I used to stay inside a lie with you (With you)

And now we’re sincere and it feels so good (Ah, ah)

And as soon as the chaotic pent-up power lastly subsides, we get a real second of reflection on 7 Years. Musically, the distortion, the chaotic basslines and the tough synth tones all fall away because the track begins with a multi-tracked acapella; Charli’s inside monologue discovering readability and perspective for the primary time for the reason that chaos started. Because the track kicks into gear correctly, the manufacturing is lastly placing Charli entrance and centre as she is sensible of the entire sacrifices they’ve made for one another and the way now that they lastly have the chance to decelerate and take inventory of every thing they’ve carried out collectively, she will begin to assuage a few of these issues that also linger, hoping that by laying down an goal view of their historical past, it might tame the irrational a part of her mind that claims one thing should be flawed right here. Realising the positives of this look again, the manufacturing is bouncy subsequent to Charli’s vocal timbre, but nonetheless nervy in its sudden stabs of synth to offer the rhythmic backdrop to the verses. It’s not within the clear but, but it surely’s taking as a lot time because it must work by means of all of it.

Perhaps you are my enemy

Now I’ve lastly allow you to come slightly near me, oh

Perhaps you are my enemy

You are the one one who is aware of the best way I actually really feel, oh

Now it is actually clear to me

You possibly can do some harm, you can minimize me deeper

And as quickly as a level of intimacy and consciousness of the seriousness of this relationship is established, Charli instantly leads herself down the trail of over-analysis on Enemy. The track builds on the outdated phrase “Maintain your folks shut, however your enemies nearer.” Nicely, at this second, there’s no person nearer to her than the accomplice she shares a room with, so does that make him the enemy? Ought to she be involved? After all, by this level, she’s established that this man just isn’t going wherever anytime quickly, so does that imply the potential for harm is likely to be extended by extra time spent collectively? It’s a track constructed on doubts that comes after a level of emotional stabilising. As quickly as one angle is roofed, the remainder of it will get internalised by means of one other lens, and the target eye by means of which Charli has been making an attempt to see her love comes again to chew her. As such, we get an actual glimpse on the tips that Charli’s thoughts is taking part in on her as she is sensible of her environment.

The Psychological Anguish of Isolation

As the identical 4 partitions bear down and each single piece of your environment will get over-analysed to loss of life, it’s not lengthy earlier than each uncooked feeling will get dragged out into the daylight, both to contemplate additional or to bury deeper. When the one particular person you can rely upon seeing in that house additionally takes up a lot of your emotional power, the conflicts of the emotional and the psychological collide in dramatic vogue. Charli has by no means been one to carry again, and as she runs by means of her emotional difficulties, we get specific visualisation of the ache she is coping with.

I do not belief myself in any respect

Why must you belief me?

I do not belief myself alone

Why must you love me?

As quickly as the connection lastly appears to be solidified following on from 7 Years, Charli’s psychological pressure and insecurity comes swinging again on Detonate. Each worry that she has about her accomplice will get pushed apart, and as an alternative comes a tidal wave of worry over what she may inflict given the chance to get too near somebody. As a lot as her rational recognition makes an attempt to slip in and reassure her that nothing this accomplice can do to harm her will occur, it solely feeds again into her concern for her personal stability and her problem with saying for sure that she received’t do the identical to him. As all of this is occurring within the textual content, the manufacturing is telling its personal narrative because it goes together with the theme of detonation, firstly centring Charli, then twisting and warping her phrases going into the outro as the emotions bounce round in her head, rushing up and distorting even additional because the detonation looms, after which the explosion is lastly constructed as much as…

Solely it by no means comes. As quickly because it appears every thing would collapse in on itself, there’s a tender hiss and the track ends, like somebody pouring a bucket of water on the fuse earlier than the gunpowder ignites. A final-minute rescue and reassurance that there exists stabilising forces which is able to guarantee Charli doesn’t come to her wits’ finish. It initially reads as an anti-climax, however when contemplating how the narrator’s psychological state by no means reaches this low of a valley once more, it’s a essential one. (And it’s not like there’s a scarcity of climaxes on this album anyway lol)

That child, I love you dangerous

‘Trigger these days, I lastly perceive

That perhaps this sense that I’ve discovered

Would possibly kill me, put me within the floor

I lastly perceive, lastly perceive

My therapist mentioned I hate myself actually dangerous

You inform me it is nice, let me cry and hug it out

It appears bizarre to say that the arc of the album resolves itself simply over midway in, however I Lastly Perceive does really feel like a private reckoning and second of readability for Charli regarding the foremost romantic narrative underpinning the album up to now. It’s a plainly spoken recognition of simply how harmful her devotion could also be within the long-term, however that with the assist of her accomplice and her therapist, this could all be managed and managed in order that it doesn’t proceed to steer her down darkish paths and probably sabotage the issues that she does have, which, in a lockdown state of affairs, could also be all she has. This revelatory feeling is punctuated by the manufacturing, which is probably the furthest this album will get from hyperpop, as a substitute leaning right into a UK Storage influenced beat courtesy of the only credit score from Palmistry. It retains the album’s frenetic power, however does so in a method that feels extra managed and fewer abrasive, as if Charli is now working to actively reign herself in for her personal sake.

White sheets, you and me used to put shut

Blue summer time, sittin’ excessive within the window

Cellphone calls each night time, had a brand new glow

My clique operating by means of my thoughts like a rainbow

We had been so in love, so we let go

Took it in our lungs, then all of us choked

Lengthy drive, so divine when the solar confirmed

My clique operating by means of my thoughts like a rainbow

Despite the fact that I Lastly Perceive does have a finality to it, the teachings taken in from it do resonate over the rest of the album, as proven within the following monitor, c2.0. This is among the most brilliantly heartwarming moments on the entire album, repurposing Click on from Charli’s 2019 album and turning it on its head. The unique monitor was a hedonistic shiny banger that utilised its visitor options to promote a picture of glamour and collective unflappability. So what occurs when that collective is stripped away and your viewers is restricted to what may be broadcast from the bed room? It comes with a recognition that nothing can change the in-person reminiscences, so one line from Kim Petras’ verse on Click on is flipped in a dozen other ways as the idea for a track about nostalgia and loneliness. However as established, the Charli initially of the album just isn’t the identical as present Charli, simply as all of us advanced over the course of the lockdown(s). The track is a recognition of the significance of friendship and the need of nostalgia in darkish occasions as one thing to carry on to and aspire to once more sooner or later. There’s nothing that may be carried out proper now, however this time, it’s completely outdoors of Charli’s management, so as a substitute of getting hung up on it, it’s finest to revel within the completely happy reminiscences and have fun the truth that they did occur, in addition to maintain on to the hope of creating some new ones within the close to future.

Holding Tight to the Silver Linings

Regardless of the anguish and the exhaustion and the ache of making an attempt to work by means of all of it, there exist glimmers of hope all through this album – the last-minute fizzle of Detonate, the unifying energy of Anthems, the dreamy nostalgia of c2.0. However essentially the most upbeat moments come within the two remaining songs on this album, which goal to create the absolute best current all elements thought of, in addition to spur hope that the perfect current may be represented to a point in a brighter future.

I solely threw this celebration for you

Solely threw this celebration for you, for you, for you

I used to be hopin’ you’d come by means of

I used to be hopin’ you’d come by means of, it is true, it is true

Celebration four U is the oldest monitor to make it on to How I’m Feeling Now, with proof of it present way back to 2017, and it reveals in the truth that thematically, this monitor has subsequent to no connection to any of the opposite songs on the album. It’s precisely because the title describes, whereby Charli is throwing a celebration with just one particular person in thoughts, merely describing the weather of the celebration that she needs this one particular person to become involved with. If this track was launched as a standalone single alongside together with her different 2018 tracks, it might doubtless simply be seen as a cute little hyperpop idea ballad, however by putting it on the tail finish of this album and on this context, it positive aspects a lot energy and resonance. The celebration she’d like to carry may clearly solely have one meant visitor no matter how many individuals she invitations, and that particular person is her accomplice she’s sharing the home they made a house with. As a substitute of simply being a cute crush anthem, it’s a logo of Charli lastly discovering peace with herself and her residing state of affairs, and taking advantage of the state of affairs by throwing a celebration inside the home they share the place they will lastly have some much-deserved intimacy with out interruption from intruding ideas or insecurities. It reveals the quiet confidence that the majority of Charli’s older bangers declare loudly, however that makes it a return to her outdated type and self-assuredness, and finally she’s settled into her new regular and is making the most effective of it.

Voices inform me maintain on

Somethin’ retains on pullin’ me shut, so shut

Grippin’ to you so laborious

Somethin’ retains on pullin’ me shut, so shut, however

I received footage in my thoughts

I can see it so clearly, see all of it so brilliant

I see you and I

Ultimately, the ultimate monitor of the album. Charli has gone by means of her psychological battle, declared loudly and proudly all of her pains and wishes, and now that each one of that’s on document, all she has left is Visions of the longer term. The image is obvious for her, and she will foresee the longer term that she needs and it seems to be tangible for the primary time in an extended whereas. Even when the psychological and emotional harm that she’s needed to work by means of doesn’t keep away endlessly, a minimum of for this one blissful second of actualisation, all of it seems to be so actual and so shut, and there’s nothing left to do however have fun that. After vocalising her desires and hopefully manifesting them by means of that, the manufacturing breaks out right into a full-on rave that finally ends up taking on the rest of the track barely midway in. The driving thump of the beat and blissful high-energy synth tones usually are not solely a joyous second appearing as an upbeat coda to the entire struggles of the arc, but it surely additionally evokes a super future for us all the place we will hopefully quickly be again in packed golf equipment, sweating alongside to our anthems. By reaching deep into one among hyperpop’s key influences, 90s trance and hardstyle, particularly invoking (to me a minimum of) the prolonged outro of membership traditional Born Slippy. Nuxx by Underworld, Charli extends the hand to a wider viewers previous and current than those that could sometimes take heed to her music, and asks us to experience the identical sun-soaked nostalgia that she revelled in throughout c2.0. There’s clearly hazard in falling too closely into that as properly, however for now, fuck it, we’ve all been by means of quite a bit. Get pleasure from this.

And If I Could Converse Personally

I’ve been a Charli diehard for the reason that second I heard Vroom Vroom. I knew she would at all times push boundaries, make good, iconic pop melodies, and at all times sound like she was having shitloads of enjoyable doing it. However I by no means anticipated an album of hers to wallop me emotionally from finish to finish in the best way that How I’m Feeling Now did. Once more, to not dabble an excessive amount of in a full-year retrospective that nobody needs, however clearly Covid and the following lockdown impacted lots of people, and for a lot of, they struggled desperately, however for some, they had been capable of finding a method to develop from an expertise that was a international idea no matter who you had been, and that’s what Charli did right here. She has by no means been this nakedly susceptible each on and off document, and that endeared me and so many others to her this 12 months much more so than what we thought she may.

The album launch additionally timed itself just about ideally to permit me to really feel it to its core. It got here out 4 days after an clearly troublesome birthday for me, but additionally one the place lots of people confirmed me a whole lot of love, greater than I might usually count on, so I used to be already feeling fairly tender about human connection. Extra pertinently, nevertheless, this album additionally got here out two days after my nation lowered alert ranges considerably for the primary time and we may see folks once more in small teams. I returned to work at this stage (a job I actually get pleasure from for the document), and my first take heed to this album was within the automotive on that second day driving in once more. Having an album that so succinctly ran by means of the emotional gauntlet that the prior two months had felt like was extremely cathartic, and to know that it got here from an artist I used to be already anticipating nice issues from was simply the cherry on high. It will not be as shiny and filled with earwormy bops as Charli, or as genre-shatteringly transformational as Pop 2, however that is Charli XCX’s most artistically completed mission thus far, and even whether it is only a one-off, I’m so glad she challenged herself on this method. As soon as once more, it’s THE album of 2020 for me, for higher or worse.

So, how was your 2020?

  1. Did you observe together with the album rollout and creation? If that’s the case, how did you are feeling about having such in depth entry to an artist’s works in progress?

  2. How do you are feeling this album suits in with the remainder of Charli’s catalogue, particularly in comparison with final 12 months’s album? Do you are feeling prefer it’s a one-off made out of necessity, or do you see a future for her with this aesthetic?

  3. Given how straight linked this album is to the expertise of residing by means of 2020, how do you foresee this album getting old? Will you need to return to it in 5 or ten years’ time?

  4. Charli labored with each outdated pals (AG Prepare dinner, Dylan Brady) and first-time collaborators (BJ Burton, Palmistry) for the manufacturing of this album. Did you just like the deviations from the hyperpop formulation, or would you reasonably see her burrow deeper into her established sound palette?


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