Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is how i’m feeling now, the new album from one of our generation’s most iconic pop artists Charli XCX.
Barely over a month ago (39 days, to be exact) declared she’d begin creating an album in quarantine. Fittingly for both the times and and project, she made the announcement on a Zoom call with a select group of her “angels.” “For me, my positivity goes hand and hand with being creative. I really need to be creative to feel happy and to feel comfortable and to make sure my mental health is staying on track,” she announced to her webcam from her LA home on April 6, 2020. On all accounts, but especially considering the release of her 3rd studio album was in just September of last year, she created the album in whiplash speed, and is, in all likelihood, the first album by a major artist to be made in its entirety in COVID-19 quarantine. Despite its haste, and while it certainly isn’t “polished,” what resulted wasn’t sloppy, but her rawest, relevant and most open-spirited work to date.
Given her machine-like brand of dance electro-pop and forward-thinking momentum in the pop sphere, Charli has often been pegged as futuristic, or even “The Pop Star of the Future.” But how i’m feeling now demonstrates Charli’s unequivocal occupation of the prescance — a position that compliments quite beautifully the electrifying party girl, live-in-the-moment antics of much of her work. From physically aching to dance among sweaty bodies and “go real hard” (“pink diamond”) to being quarantine with a your lover, and perhaps living together for the first time, (“7 years” and “claws”) to falling into a spiralling fantasy of self-doubt brought on too much time alone (“enemy”), every jarring or tender or manic or moving moment on the album feels like a unique snapshot into this uncanny, unprecedented, and ever-changing, yet painfully-the-same stage in time.
Perhaps the purest distillation of the album and its spirit, both lyrically and conceptually, is the track “forever.” While Charli XCX admits the song was originally written pre-quarentine about her personal romantic relationship (“I will always love you / even when we’re not together”), it only takes on watch of the song’s accompanying video to reframe an understanding of the song. By stitching together fan-submitted clips of everything from couples and lovers kissing to cat videos to explosive pre-COVID concert clips with DIY clips of Charli mouthing the lyrics in her home, the song begins to recontextualize as an ode to the strength of the love and electric human current that unites us, and will continue to unite us, even when we’re not physically able to be together.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, the Head of Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.