Music in a time of mourning
Charlotte Emma Aitchison, better known by her stage name Charli XCX became internationally recognized back in 2013 with her feature in “I Love It” by Icona Pop. However, the English singer-songwriter has been active in the music scene playing in warehouse parties and at raves since 2007. While her debut didn’t chart as anticipated in 2013, the following year she joined Iggy Azalea on the Grammy-nominated track “Fancy” and once again popped onto the mainstream radar. Last year, she opened for Taylor Swift on her Reputation Stadium Tour and she has also worked on famous songs such as Iggy Azalea’s “Beg for It,” Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love” and most recently, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s popular summer bop “Senorita.” One of Charli’s most recent projects was her self-titled album which released in the fall of 2019 and featured her typical infectious beats and dynamic sounds. Now, amid the troubling times of a worldwide pandemic, Charli’s latest endeavor has been to write and release an album during quarantine, which she titled How I’m Feeling Now.
The project opens on an interesting note with track “pink diamond” that leans a little more experimental with a distorted, electric beat and repetitive lyrics like, “I just wanna go real hard/ I just wanna go real hard/ pink diamonds in the dark,” looped throughout the song’s duration. Maybe even more experimental sounding than “pink diamonds” is the song “c2.0” which features a similar warped background beat and repeated phrases with distorted vocals, however, towards the end of the track we get a taste of Charli’s normal voice and signature catchy verses like, “I miss them every night/ I miss them by my side/ catch my tears when I cry,” and, “white sheets, you and me used to lay close/ blue summer, sittin’ high in the window/ phone calls every night, had a new glow/ my clique running through my mind like a rainbow.” With this last verse, we’re reminded of Charli’s usual sound but also that we’re all feeling the effects of lockdown and missing our loved ones.
Songs like “detonate” and “claws” continue with the peculiar electronica vibe that seems to be prevalent throughout the album, and both make use of intense vocal effects as well. Another motif running in the album is the use of repetitive phrases and words as lyrics, but one of the songs that break that mold, even more so than “c.20,” is the track “7 years.” While still a bit too computerized, it has even more of an essence of Charli’s previous hits with a pleasant melody and the use of full verses like, “so hard, things that we’ve been through, yeah/ could’ve fallen, but we only grew, yeah/ so I made my house a home with you/ I’m right here and it feels brand new/ I used to live inside a lie with you/ and now we’re honest and it feels so good.”
Those familiar with Charli XCX’s sound and history know she tends to try out new things with her music whenever she can. She’s constantly evolving and growing. However, the project’s lack of diversity and overuse of repetition comes across as quite bland and definitely not up to Charli’s usual standards. As Charli’s previously stated, she wrote and recorded the album under quarantine, and it’s evident she didn’t give herself much time to truly craft her work. This week, Charli announced that since releasing this project, she’s felt she’s in a “fragile state” and further explains that she rushed a process that usually takes much, much longer and ignored her mental and emotional states because of it. She’s now learning the “importance of listening to herself and her needs” and she’s grateful for what this project has taught her. These trying times affect us all and the future still looks bright for Charli and her music.