Over the course of her career, Charli XCX has always been a pop music innovator that thinks outside the box. Whether it is her insane level of output, her music and production style, or the way she markets herself online, Charli XCX has never been the type of person that will blindly follow the rules; Charli has done a really awesome job of controlling everything about her music and artistry, and she always does things her way. Even though she has been evolving and innovating for years(her mixtape Pop 2 was rated one of the top mixtapes from 2018 by a lot of music critics), 2019 was the year that Charli really came into her own; her album, Charli, received acclaim and positivity from music critics and pop music fans alike, and it was considered a top album of the year by many music publications and blogs. Charli was actually my top-rated album from last year on East Side Vibes; if you have not listened to it, please do that as soon as possible. Charli XCX is the type of person that can’t take a break for long; her creative juices are always flowing at a rapid-fire pace, and she always wants to be making music or art in some shape or form. Because of her insane work ethic, Charli decided to use the current lockdown we are in to create an entirely new album. She started this process at the beginning of April and was able to get a full album completely written, produced, and mastered in the last month and a half(her work ethic is pretty insane, as most artiste could not do this regardless of genre). CharliXCX’s How I’m Feeling Now is a project I have really looking forward to hearing since it was announced. Charli has really been killing it lately, and anytime we get new music and art from her it is a great thing! With that being said, here’s my review of the new Charli XCX album how i’m feeling now. Let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree with my review, as I would love to know now you all feel about this record as well!
Only Charli XCX would make a pop album has an opening track as brash and intense as the first song on How I’m Feeling Now. ‘pink diamond’ is a song that is pretty tough to explain. Lyrically, this track covers a sentiment that most of us probably have right now: wanting to rage and party your ass off due to not being able to for so long because of the lockdown. On this track, Charli talks about dressing up and logging onto her computer to have a video chat party with her friends, since there is nothing else to do. The instrumental for this one starts out with a sort of demented and distorted Euro-Pop sound. This sound does not last for long though, as ‘pink diamond’ quickly industrial dubstep sort of track that is nothing like anything else you will hear today. This song has a crazy beat, heavy metal distortion and growls, and laser sounds, and Charli just raps casually over all this like it is some Pop-Trap track. ‘pink diamond’ probably isn’t a song for casual Pop music listeners, but it will definitely be appreciated by Charli’s biggest fans, and it is definitely a great way to grab the attention of the listener right from the start(because after how wild and unexpected it is, a lot of people will need to hear what’s next). The next song, ‘Forever,’ was the debut single released from this record. This song got everyone who heard it very excited to hear this new record, as it is so modern and retro at the same time and it really encapsulates Charli’s progression as an artist. ‘Forever’ is a song that sort of marries the style of music that Charli came up making and the kind of music she typically makes now. Lyrically, it has the sort of Emo-Love lyrics that she was originally known for writing. The sentiment of ‘Forever’ is best explained from these lyrics from the chorus: I will always love you. I’ll love you forever, even when we’re not together… I know in the future we won’t see each other, cold just like December. But I will always love you. I’ll love you forever… It is a song that had as Emo-Pop and Electro-Emo base and undertone, with some distorted and brash and almost industrial production thrown in to make it really wild and bold. This track is pretty much a marriage between the music from Charli’s debut studio album True Romance and her record Charli from last year. ‘Forever’ is just an overall great doing that brings together everything that makes Charli an awesome and unique artist. Following this, we get the song ‘claws,’ which is also a single releases in anticipation of this album. ‘claws’ is another song that was highly acclaimed upon its release that just made everyone extra excited to hear this record. Charli is so great at picking the correct tracks to release as singles for her records if the quality of this whole album is anywhere close to the quality of its singles, this will be the second year in a row where she released one of the best records of the year. ‘claws’ is kind of a fusion of the music made by the Alternative EDM made by the artist 100 gecs and Charli’s music on Pop 2. It is a crazy Electro-Pop track with wild metallic sound effects sprinkled all throughout the song and heavy distorted bass that just makes me want to party. This song would be so damn fun to see live, and I can only imagine how crazy everyone in the crowd will go when the beat drops. This song is so positive and happy and carefree, and it describes the feelings of love and joy she experiences when with her boyfriend. It is really cool to see Charli this happy in her music, as she typically does not write mushy love songs like this. The instrumental matches the happiness and energy of the lyrics so well; ‘claws’ is the kind of song that ha the ability to put anyone who likes modern Pop music in a good mood. Compared to the first three songs on this record, ‘7 years’ is actually pretty soft and lowkey(obviously, this is relative compared to most other artists in Pop music). This song has a sort of Emo-Trap vibe that in a way kind of reminds me of artists like Lil Peep and Lil Aaron. It has a more distorted and brash sound to the instrumental than most Emo-Trap production, but it definitely has a similar melody, tempo, and lyrical tone to a lot of Pop-tinted Emo-Trap made today. ‘7 years’ is a song about Charli and her boyfriend letting themselves become vulnerable and open up to each other over the course of this Lockdown, and letting themselves become closer to each other because of this. ‘7 years’ is a that stylistically not very similar to most of the music Charli has made in the past(as it has a lot more of a Hip Hop feeling to it than most of her other music), and it is another example of how diverse she is as an artist.
Hurt me, know you won’t hurt me. I’m about to detonate. Pull you close, then I’ll be gone. Sorry, never say sorry. All my silence resonates…
The fifth song on how i’m feeling now, ‘detonate,’ has quickly become one of my favorite songs on the album. It combines two types of music that really love and it kind of strays away from a lot of the brash and distorted production that most of the rest of the record has. Don’t get me wrong, I love that distorted sound that most of the other songs have, but for the kind of song that ‘detonate’ is, a cleaner and more pristine style of production sounds really great in my opinion. ‘detonate’ combines the Electronic Emo-Pop sound that has been prevalent to this point and early 2000s EuroDance music. In fact, the tempo and sound of this song remind me so much of songs like ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom’ by The Vengaboys and ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua. Even though ‘detonate’ has a sort of a happy melody and sound, it actually has a kind of sad lyrical tone to it. ‘detonate’ is a song about not wanting to get to close to your significant other for fear of getting hurt. As Charli feels herself start to open up and become vulnerable with her partner, she wants to push away and not let this person in at all. The Emo feeling that has been prevalent throughout this album comes through in a Pop-Trap feeling on the next track, ‘enemy.’ I do not necessarily want to call this song Emo-Trap, because it is not really comparable to the aforementioned song in this style. It kind of reminds me more of Pop-Trap artists like Zayn or Bazzi. The melody and tone of this track have an Emo and almost New-Wave feeling to them; I feel like this song is partly inspired 80s artists like Flock of Seagulls and INXS, but is also inspired partly by artists like 3OH!3. ‘enemy’ is another song where Charli is debating with herself whether becoming so close with and honest with her boyfriend is a good thing. She feels as if he knows her better than her best friends, and that this could end up making him an enemy because he could hurt her more than anyone else could. One of the coolest things about this album so far has been to see Charli’s feelings play out in real-time. Most artists would not be this forthcoming and truthful in their lyrics, and it really makes the listener feel like they actually know her. The New Wave feeling from the last song continues onto ‘i finally understand.’ This track truly sounds like it came out of the early 1980s. The melody and tone of this song once again remind me of artists like INXS or Duran Duran, and the tempo kind of reminds me of early techno music. ‘i finally understand’ is another song where Charli is unsure of where the love she feels for her boyfriend is a good thing. She knows that she really loves him and that he makes her feel really good, but she also knows that things could go very wrong at any time. ‘c2.0’ is an ode to Charli’s homies that she can not see during the quarantine. This song is actually a sequel to the song ‘Click,’ which is one of the most popular songs on Charli. The first half of this song is actually pretty much just a more crazily produced and distorted version of the song ‘Click;’ the second half is a bubblegum Eurodance banger where Charli sings about how much she loves and misses all of her friends. ‘c2.0’ is most definitely going to be another fan favorite for Charli’s “angels,” and it is a song that I feel like will be so damn fun to see performed live.
‘party 4 u’ is is a super hectic song lyrically and sonically. This is another song where Charli is singing about nervously becoming closer and closer to her boyfriend. She wants to throw a crazy party for him to show her love for him. Even though Charli feels herself becoming more emotionally attached to this person than she is used to, she is trying to just let it happen because he makes her happy. It is tough to even describe the sound of this song. It has an overall Pop-Trap sound to it, and it has a ton of crazy electronic sound effects thrown in and a ton of weird sound effects on Charli’s voice. It is definitely the kind of song that sounds like it was made it a quarantine, as it is very cool and weird and experimental. Charli must be really loving Eurodance music during this Lockdown because the next song once again has elements of this sound in it. ‘anthems’ is another absolute favorite of mine from this album(which is saying a lot because every song is very good or great). This song combines two sounds that are prevalent in this album, Eurodance and Pop-Trap, and mashes them up in yet another new and strange way. I really love how the “Trap” beat of this song was made. Instead of using hi-hats as most Trap songs do, this song uses crazy synthetic drum sounds and high pitched synth keyboard notes in place of them. Only Charli can do something like this as have it sound natural and cool. The way Charli flows with the lyrics feels a lot more like Hip Hop than her flows normally do. ‘anthems’ is another ode to Charli friends and the party lifestyle she loves. It is very obvious from the lyricism of this record that she is very bored when she’s stuck at home. ‘anthems’ is a Synth-Trap banger that only Charli could succeed at making, and it is about the thing that she wants the most at the moment, which is to party(this is highly relatable because I think we are all sick of being stuck in our homes all the time). The final song of the album, which is called ‘visions,’ is kind of a culmination of a lot of the sounds and overall concepts that are on this album. This track is a weird combination of Bubblegum Future Bass music, Eurodance music, and Pop-Trap, all of which are very prevalent on this album but not all on the same song like this. ‘visions’ is a song where Charli is trying to be super optimistic about her future with her boyfriend. Even though she is still scared and unsure of what will happen, she is trying to put her best foot forward and believe that everything will be okay. ‘visions’ is the type of song that would be a great song to play at a rave and it is definitely not the kind of song one would expect to end an album, which makes it the perfect way to end how i’m feeling now.
Charli XCX is probably the only artist in Pop music that would be able to make a record with this much quality and this much innovation during a Lockdown. She has been one of the most creative, experimental, and ultimately best artists in her genre for a while now, and she is the only one who can be so prolific with her output yet still have all of her music sound fresh and unique and fun. On how i’m feeling now, Charli XCX once again combines so many different sounds and genres to make Pop music that sounds nothing like anything you will hear from anyone else. This album is uplifting, depressing, intense, emotional, and weird and is only something that Charli XCX can make. Lyrically, Charli lets her listeners into her mind more than ever on how i’m feeling now, deeply covering topics of mental health, missing your friends, and moving in with your significant other. It really is no surprise to me at all that Charli XCX was able to create one of the best albums of 2020 while locked in her house during a quarantine, because there are not many artists that are as talented, cutting edge, and hard-working as her. If you are a fan of experimental Pop music or just need something out of the ordinary to listen to right now, how i’m feeling now is an album you need to listen to because it is excellent.