Album Review: Charli XCX’s how i’m feeling now is the quarantine album we deserve

by Car Car Binks

Just seven months after the release of her last studio album, Charli XCX announced that she would be using her time in self-quarantine in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to create an entirely new album from scratch. The album would be a sort-of DIY challenge for the artist that would include her fans throughout the entire process, and on Friday, May 15th, how i’m feeling now was released.

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Charli XCX’s new album “is a lesson in creativity and industry.”

how i’m feeling now combines the work of AG Cook, BJ Burton, and Dylan Brady to create a hyperpop record that explores the feelings of mindlessness, loneliness, and hopefulness that have defined many people’s experiences in these past two months. Each song guarantees a sensory overload through its production—something that’s fairly welcome in a time where we find ourselves doing nothing more and more each day. 

I stand by the belief that the strongest songs off of the record are the singles that Charli used to tease the album over the past month—“claws,” “forever,” and “i finally understand”—but that doesn’t mean the album was disappointing in any sense of the word. “pink diamond” starts the album off strong with a very quintessential Charli sound. It’s metallic, abrasive and repetitive, so it’s perfect. 

Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now: making the album, week 4 & 5 ...
The album’s recording in isolation was documented on YouTube.

“enemy” and “party 4 u” are similarly welcome additions to the album with their more relaxed melodies providing a nice break in tone. The lyrics of “party 4 u” may be my favorite off of the album, with Charli showing off her ability to make specific details—like one thousand pink balloons—hold an immense amount of personal and emotional weight.

how i’m feeling now also features the classic party tracks you expect from a Charli XCX album. “anthems” has very quickly grown on me as one of those songs you’d love to blast while speeding down a highway with your best friends, not to mention how well it captures the essence of being stuck at home: “I’m so bored / Wake up late, eat some cereal / Try my best to be physical / Lose myself in a TV show.”

how i’m feeling now is no Charli, but why would anyone expect that? Charli was a fully fleshed-out  project that took upwards of a year of work and had the best technology at hand in its creation. Instead, how i’m feeling now is a lesson in creativity and industry. 

All of the delayed album releases in March and April demonstrate that there is a clear status quo in how all of this goes: you create a product, you market the product, you sell the product. There are entire careers and algorithms dedicated to ensuring that artists properly market their material and profit accordingly. With more people staying home and less people spending money, COVID-19 made these algorithms obsolete, and Charli proved that you can work without them.

Charli’s latest album is a success in any way that you look at it. From the quick turnaround after it was announced, to the glimpses into the creative process, to the non-traditional and limited marketing, how i’m feeling now provides fans with well-made music without all of the strings attached in a moment when they need connection the most.

There is no denying that this pandemic has shaken up everyone’s world, including ours at WUSC, and no one knows what the future holds for us. But how i’m feeling now is a refreshing break in the gravity of our current situation. And as Charli sings in “anthems,” when it’s all over, we might even be closer.

how i’m feeling now is available now through Atlantic/Asylum.