The world has been in quarantine now for months, and that quarantine applies to everyone. Everyone from laborers to restaurant workers to teachers to billionaires are feeling the effects of isolation and social distance. Now, artists are beginning to put these feelings into their work, and Charli XCX is leading a new movement with the aptly-titled How I’m Feeling Now.
However, the British pop star had already been leading another movement outside of quarantine. Charli XCX is probably the most recognizable name in a changing pop scene, and her along with acts like 100 Gecs, Dorian Electra, and even members of the cloud rap collective Drain Gang have been pushing a more electronic, experimental, and occasionally ambient brand of pop music. On How I’m Feeling Now, crafted in just over a month, Charli continues to form the sound of the future of pop, and also continues to showcase how she can make nothing but hits.
Prior to this album’s release, I had the single “Claws” on repeat, and it’s still my favorite song on the album. It’s one of the most infectious and bombastic pop songs I’ve ever heard. And “bombastic” is a great way to describe this whole album. The songwriting on this album can occasionally be weak, it was made entirely in a few weeks after all, but the impeccable production and chorus-work totally make up for any flaws. Take for example the song “7 Years.” If I was just reading the lyrics, I would think this an almost infuriatingly basic pop song. But the way Charli delivers the chorus on this song almost makes me want to cry and stop listening, as if my ears are not worthy of sounds so beautiful.
Another beautiful song is “Anthems,” which features second production credit on this album from Dylan Brady, of 100 Gecs, who also produced “Claws.” Nobody has done modern experimental pop better than 100 Gecs, so hearing their hyperpop sound on this album was an absolute delight. And I don’t think the songwriting on this album is all bad by any means. I think the concepts presented on songs like “detonate” and “enemy” are very well executed, and a great example of the vulnerability and overthinking that might come from weeks in isolation.
I think the bottom four or so songs on this album are okay, just lacking in some regard, like “C2.0,” which is a remix of the song “Click” off of Charli’s 2019 album Charli, that’s more like an interlude than an actual track, or “Pink Diamond,” which is catchy enough but feels incredibly underdeveloped. But the top four are some of Charli XCX’s best songs yet, filled with some of the best production jobs you can hear right now and an unparalleled energy that make this record a great contender for the current album of the year, and it’s certainly going to be my quarantine soundtrack for some time.
- Claws 2. 7 Years 3. Visions 4. Anthems 5. Enemy 6. Detonate 7. Forever 8. Party 4 U 9. I Finally Understand 10. Pink Diamond 11. C2.0