Charli XCX Copes with Isolation on ‘how i’m feeling now’

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Huck Kwong

Album cover of CHarli XCX’s ‘how i’m feeling now’.

Araminta Siegling, Reporter

2010s pop icon Charlotte Aitchison, better known as Charli XCX, redefined herself as an artist with her album how i’m feeling now. The release is avant-pop and came out on May 15. It took her six weeks to create and was a collaborative experience with fans. It is the perfect time capsule of how many people felt in quarantine, with lyrics like “All my friends are invisible, 24/7 miss them all,” in the song “anthems.” Aitchison does a fantastic job at capturing the emotions of isolation, with hopeful undertones. It was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize but lost to the album Kiwanuka by artist Michael Kiwanuka. 

Charli XCX is best known for her 2014 song “Fancy”’ made with Iggy Azalea. The song won a Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Song in 2015. Her first album was released in 2013, and is titled “True Romance.” What makes Aitchison’s newest album one of the best of 2020 is how she managed to leave behind her old popstar self and adopt more raw and personal lyrics while keeping her iconic style. What makes Charli XCX so unique is her ability to move equally within what is mainstream and what is not, which shows how her music has no boundaries. 

The most iconic feature of Aitchison’s music is how saturated in autotune the songs are. This unique style choice gives her music a futuristic feel, which perfectly matches the visual aesthetics of her music videos. Her layered vocals separate her from other artists and make her music immersive. Multiple musicians helped with the production of how i’m feeling now, the most notable being A.G. Cook, and Dylan Brady of the experimental electro-pop group 100 Gecs. Brady helped on the song “claws” which brings some of 100 Gecs distorted loops into the mix. 

Interacting with fans is important to Aitchison’s music. She created the album with live feedback from fans by writing lyrics while on Instagram live streams. This was very unique and shows how authentic and transparent she has become with her songwriting process. This helped to capture the feelings of loneliness and dependence on the internet for social interaction that we all have felt. Because of the pandemic artists like Charli XCX and 100 Gecs have had to creatively improvise their interactions with fans, with Minecraft concerts like the “Square Gardens” festival back in April which featured Charli XCX and other artists. 

how i’m feeling now has 11 songs and is 37 minutes long. The 10th track, anthems, sums up her experience in quarantine. The song is about coping with feeling isolated while reminiscing on the past. Listeners can tell that Aitchison tries to be hopeful, with lyrics such as  “Finally, When it’s over we might be even closer” juxtaposed with lyrics that are personal and show her vulnerability: “I feel afraid when I feel alone.” 

Aitchison’s album perfectly shows how many people coped with isolation, and her lyrics are simple and heartfelt. Her songs show the struggle to stay connected and maintain relationships during a pandemic, and her unique sound is something that many fans can’t get enough of. What makes this album one of the best of 2020 is how it is an example of people dealing with the uncertainty of quarantine and isolation.