how i’m feeling now // Charli XCX

Reviewed: 16/05/2020

Rating: 0.9 // 10

Genres: Hyperpop, Dancepop, Electropop

Released: 15/05/2020, Asylum Records

Charli XCX has been non-stop since bursting onto the scene eight years ago – how i’m feeling now combines a sound that has naturally progressed over the years, with raw lyrics we haven’t seen from the star before.

Less than half a year after the critically acclaimed Charli, the British popstar continues her prolific streak with this effort – recorded during lockdown in the UK.

Her previous three albums, four mixtapes and two EPs have seen her progress down the same road in terms of her sound; finally taking a deeper plunge into the up and coming genre of hyperpop (AKA Bubblegum Bass, PC Music.)

Despite advancing Charli’s evolution from electropop into hyperpop, the lyrical content of this album is a stark contrast – the rawest, most open she has been on a record to date.

Rather than coming off as an attempt to profit off the current crisis, how i’m feeling now does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing Charli to vent during a stressful time for the whole world.

Her previous records have been stuffed full of features that have never felt out of place, but now limited by social distancing measures, they aren’t exactly missed. Whilst I’m not saying that having CupcaKKe join Charli for a fourth track in as many years would be awful, the lack of guest performers embodies how personal this album is.

pink diamond chucks us straight in with a slightly grating beat, and the opening lyrics of the album being “I just wanna go real hard.”

Charli certainly does on this track, using a restrained rap approach to her delivery, as the beat behind slowly turns more sinister sounding.

The opening to forever also starts off jarringly, but the immediate switch up as soon as Charli starts signing changes the tone of the track entirely. That jarring opening will return midway, but this song is a simple love song despite its fancy autotune trimmings.

claws, the second single for the album fits perfectly into place, continuing the loved up feeling but scaling back the more abrasive sounds and turning towards the cutesy sounds more akin to hyperpop.

Definitely reflective of the happier beat, the lyrics are wholesome and positive, but we can’t escape the abrasive sounds that are slowly becoming a theme, as the whole things collapses into a mess of glitchy sounds.

The good vibes continue into 7 years, as Charli sings about her relationship. As with any couple, there were ups and downs, and whilst they backing track may not reflect the bad times, the lyrics certainly do.

As the song progresses, even more aspects of hyperpop are brought in, as if they were almost corrupting the song. What starts off firmly in the electropop genre, the song calmly comes to an end in the hyperpop camp.

detonate is the first time the lyrics themselves become negative and self-destructive, with Charli revealing her confusion and worries.

I don’t trust myself at all

Why should you trust me?

I don’t trust myself alone

Why should you love me?

Another glitzy, uptempo beat, there is little distortion or changes throughout, allowing for the lyrics to really catch you.

Staying down the route of slightly darker lyrical content, enemy sees Charli imagine her boyfriend one day becoming her biggest enemy, thanks to how close they are currently.

Incorporated into the song is a voice memo after a therapy session, where Charli lays bare her thoughts about being surrounded constantly.

Quarantine has impacted us all in different ways, sometimes dividing couples physically. However, as revealed on i finally understand, Charli is finally spending time with her partner in the same house, and a relationship on the rocks is given new life by the proximity.

c2.0 is the hyperpop bop that this album had been building to – as fan favourite Click from her last album gets a major overhaul. Using lyrics from the original, the opening half of the song is a lively affair, before we get to Charli’s new lyrics.

With the original boasting about her clique, the tone is completely changed to one of reminiscence, when we could spend time with our friends without worry. Personally, the creativity and the repurposing of the song make it my favourite on the album.

Nearing the end of the album, party 4 u is another song about love, and the lengths Charli goes through for her partner. Originally played live way back in 2017, the song had picked up a cult-hero-like status, with the final cut utilising crowd noises from a 2019 show.

The longest cut on the entire album, it had been considered for many previous releases, but its inclusion on this set of songs fits very well. A beat switch roughly half way through that builds back into the original loop gives it extra life, meaning despite its length on a very fast-paced album, it doesn’t drag.

Despite the album having some catchy hooks and choruses all over, very few of the songs would be classified as club hits or even dance pop, which is cheekily addressed in the aptly named anthems.

Stuck indoors and missing going out at night, this song harks for the club anthems and messy nights out that will inevitably arrive once this is all over.

visions rounds off a fantastic album by continuing the overarching themes. A bit more mellowed out, it still draws upon hyperpop sounds, but it is a nice closing note.

Overall this is Charli at her best yet again. Even listening back to her debut, True Romance, the sonic style feels related yet updated – whilst she has pushed the boundaries of her sound, it has never been a gigantic leap from her previous work.

Heavily recommend checking this one out – and her entire back catalogue.

Track Listing

  • pink diamond (A-)
  • forever (A)
  • claws (A+)
  • 7 years (A-)
  • detonate (A)
  • enemy (A+)
  • i finally understand (A)
  • c2.0 (A*)
  • party 4 u (A-)
  • anthems (A)
  • visions (A-)

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