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Music Review: Quarantine fuels Charli XCX’s creativity in ‘how i’m feeling now’

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Josue Arellano
Staff Writer

Pop has experienced a resurgence in creativity with Charli XCX at the forefront. In “how i’m feeling now,” one of her most interactive releases, Charli XCX delivers her most honest record yet.

One year after her critically acclaimed album, “Charli,” her new album was started and finished all during quarantine. She released several singles leading up to the album release, letting fans decide on the artwork. Charli XCX made this process transparent and enjoyable for the fans with several Zoom meetings and Instagram posts.

The album picks up exactly where “Charli” left off, embracing the PC Pop genre that defines her sound. The album evokes sensations of a bubblegum pop world layered with different emotions that Charli XCX is currently experiencing while in quarantine.

The opening track, “Pink Diamond,” shoots the listener into a world of lights, distorted drums and layered vocals. It is the start of a journey that screams drugs, fun and love. 

The central theme of the album is an artist dealing with life in quarantine. She touches on trying to expand her sound as an artist while struggling to maintain a stable relationship of seven years. 

There’s a level of uncertainty that rings all around the album. One of the singles, “Forever,” is about loving her partner forever even if they grow apart. 

That track is followed by “Claws,” a song that feels too scared to end because of the love that is attached to it. The hook carries an easy to sing-a-long melody saying, “I like, I like, I like, I like, I like everything about you.” This song reflects more on being an anthem for her love and celebrating the happy moments.

One of the best moments on the album comes with “Party 4 u.” Charli spills her soul onto the track accompanied by celestial chords and banging drums that sound straight out of a Kanye West song.

The song feels like a sad celebration of a bigger-than-life party she throws in order for her boyfriend to come. The song begins as though the party has begun and he still hasn’t shown up, leading her to blow up in the second verse as if she was crying out to him. The song builds up with heavy chords and without any drums, there is a feeling like something is missing and then the beat drops to distorted vocals. The vocals during the ending bridge sound like a cut from a Bon Iver album, which are distorted enough to create beautiful harmonies.

As the song ends, Charli XCX creates an environment that forces you to cry along with her. This is a point on the album that allows the listener to feel her emotions to the maximum. 

The album is cohesive as can be up until the track “I Finally Understand.” The song does not seem to go anywhere and just repeats the same verse melodies and hook till the song ends. The track contains several personal messages of overcoming mental health, but sonically does nothing to add to the album.

All of Charli XCX’s recent albums tend to end on a very high note, something which feels like a statement. On first listen, the last track, “Visions,” it did not seem to click with the rest of the album. But after several listens, the track makes perfect sense and once again Charli XCX ends her album with a stamp. 

The track discusses her relationship and what she wants for the future, beginning with angelic auto-tuned vocals that seem to be the start of something amazing. As the track progresses, we enter this party-like anthem that winds down into an extended outro that quickly turns intoxicating and scary. 

This is a perfect example of what the entire album stands for: being afraid and uncertain of what people can bring you and allowing yourself to be okay with it. 

Charli XCX plans to hit the road as soon as guidelines allow but continues to interact with fans through her social media. 

Josue Arellano can be reached at josue.arellano@laverne.edu.

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