How I’m Feeling Now is the musical answer to all the questions we obsessively demand of ourselves on a daily basis. With little to no relief from our internal thoughts, we pick and dissect our every passing emotion until they turn into desensitized flickers. Yet Charli XCX gifts us with an album born in, and for, time under quarantine. She manages to mold her quintessential hyper pop into bops ideal for escapism while still retaining crystal-clear awareness of our current situation in the lyrics. The 11 tracks are a glittery, speakers-blasting explosion of catharsis, and an all-smiles album perfect for your bedroom dance party.
Charli is normally quite engaged with her fans online, but same as everyone else right now, she leaned even more into her digital network to produce this collection. She assigned the May 15th deadline herself, which naturally ramps up pressure and anxiety along with her workaholic mentality. Throughout it all, she stayed in touch with herself and her fans, and delivered. Her creative process became a completely transparent approach; from opening up questions on Twitter, to hosting Instagram live chats for sharing ideas and lyric options, to getting on Zoom calls to discuss…well..how she’s feeling now. Even though it doesn’t have all the production bells and whistles that her usual studio might provide, it’s born at home and plugged into the connective channel of human emotion pervading our lives at the moment. It needs nothing more than that.
Pressing play on this album is like taking a Mario Kart speed ramp out of our mind-numbing routines. As we endlessly stare into screens, grow chained to our schedules for a sense of regularity, and feel trapped by the painted white confines of 4 walls, Charli frees us from the daunting threat of losing spontaneity and thrill. The first song “pink diamond” is a classic Charli vibe, opening it up with talk of lip gloss, tiny bags, video chats, and car rides. About halfway through, everything evaporates for a moment save for a fuzzy thumping bass and this glamorous chant: ‘I just want to go real hard for days / I just want to feel in different ways / Every single night kinda feels the same / I’m a pink diamond, I need space’. Belt it out everyone, because same. “forever” has a more tender note of reassurance, that despite being socially distant, we can always count on our love. She remains consistently upbeat as the tracks progress, even when she reaches into the darkness and vulnerability of her long-term relationship and feelings of insecurities, longing, and sadness that comes with isolation. The last two, “anthems” and “visions” are the epitome of a manic climax. Charli cranks it up with absolute bubblegum fury and a blaring ‘I’m so bored’ entrance. By the time the end of “visions” rolls around, we’re left with screeching alarm fading into the finale. This pop queen’s album is a graciously welcomed wake-up call back to life. She grabs all the dead-eyed ravers and ragers out there by the shoulders, and shakes them out of their funks through her latest musical endeavor. So string some lights up, go hard, and dance it out.