Charli XCX’s New Album is a Lockdown Masterpiece
When a friend of mine told me to listen to Charli XCX’s record Charli last year, I was immediately met with thoughts of sitting on my school’s football field in Year 9 listening to ‘Fancy’ off someone’s iPhone. But then I listened to it, and I realised that while I was off finishing school and going through uni and doing my growing up, she was too, and her music has evolved more than I could have imagined. So try and put aside any preconceived ideas of Charli XCX you may have, because her new album how i’m feeling now (written and recorded entirely during lockdown) is an incredible diary of the kind of mood swings and self-discovery that we’ve all been going through, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The first thing to know is that every moment of this album has been created, start to finish, during the quarantine. The opening track ‘pink diamond’ is a dark, cluttered mix of frustration and claustrophobia, with Charli singing “I just wanna go real hard” over and over. It kicks the album off with a bang, which is later mirrored in the track ‘anthems’, which begins with the simple lyric “I’m so bored!”
But the anger cooped up in ‘pink diamond’ soon cools off in the tracks ‘forever’, ‘claws’, and ‘7 years’. These are my favourite tracks on the album because of their head-banging beats and catchy hooks, but they’re also the songs in which Charli (quarantining with her long-term boyfriend in real life) appears to look away from the outside world and appreciate what she has in front of her: a healthy and loving long-term relationship. She sings “so hard, things that we’ve been through / could’ve fallen but we only grew”, showing how much she appreciates having someone by her side that she can weather this storm with. To my fellow singles reading this, I know, I’m jealous too.
From there how i’m feeling now takes a real deep dive into Charli’s psyche and the issues that she struggles with regarding self-confidence and intimacy. In the song ‘enemy’, the manic mood swings of lockdown subside, leaving her forced to self-reflect. ‘enemy’ even includes a real recording from one of Charli’s therapy sessions, in which she admits that she’s been on a “tough journey”, made even more difficult by having to be “around a lot of people” all the time in her public life as a pop star.
She’s scared of pushing away the people close to her, and yet there’s a sense that she’s needed this time to evaluate the things that matter in her life. ‘c2.0’ (which is a sad response to her 2019 track Click, which detailed how much she loves her close friends) and ‘anthems’ show just how much Charli misses the things that she loved pre-lockdown: parties, loud music, New York, and the simplicity of feeling the heat radiating from the bodies of other people.
At the risk of sounding like a primary school teacher, I wonder if we can learn from Charli. After listening to how i’m feeling now, I feel that being in lockdown doesn’t necessarily have to be all doom ’n’ gloom. It could mean opening up in other ways, and I feel encouraged now to try to use this time to grow and realise the value of the things that we took for granted before this lockdown. As Charli herself says in ‘anthems’, “finally, when it’s over / we might be even closer”.