Charlie XXX’s ‘How I Feel Now’: Album Review – Variety3 min read
While any other contestant may be raised emotionally, it’s a safe bet that Charlie XCX’s “How I Feel Now” is the first album by a major artist that was made entirely in COVID-19 separation. The hyper-prefix performer, songwriter and producer – who waited nearly five years for the release of the third official album, last year’s star “Charlie”, excluding two mixtapes and dozens of misleading songs at the time – first announced the project on April 6, Give yourself a tough deadline on May 15th. “It will be very DIY – I’ll do it from the beginning, it’s very indicative of our times.” He said in a zoom session with fans. And despite some nervous-playing emails from his press in recent weeks that advance flows will come later than expected, enough is certain, there was our inbox on Thursday morning, 14 hours before it was scheduled to be released to the world.
And what does one of the world’s top pop inventors have to show for his 38 days of work? Lots. While the album obviously doesn’t include A-list collaborators in its usual Sluber Party price tag (featuring everyone from “Charlie” Lizo and Haim to Troy Sivan and Christine & Queens), “How I Feel Now” is a continuation of Fancy Futurist-Pop. His discography about has followed in the last five years. Beginning with 201’s “Broom Broom” EP, Charlie circled the PC label wholeheartedly, embracing the mutant-pop sounds of Sophie and other artists: mechanical noise, speed-up voice and cluttering, clashing with cacophony beats. Originally collaborating with co-producer-curator AG Cook, he explores the creative limits of pop music with Adventures Mixexpes (“No. 1 Angel” and “Pop 2”) and the less-than-yet-enveloped “Charlie”. “
And although the 11-song “How I Feel Now” features a formal album instead of a mixtape – it’s light by definition and more experimental – it actually feels more like the previous one than the previous one. It is confronted with “pink diamonds”, bitter beats, grind cords, video game noise and a steaming pot titled Charlie “I just want to go real!” – In other words, a song that a song like the 2014 smash “Boom Clap” is expected to terrify anyone (it’s still his biggest hit in his own name, though he’s Sean Mendes and Camilla Cabello’s “Senorita,” Iggy Azalia “). Innovation “and Icona Pop’s” I Love It “).
With so many enjoyable pop moments on the album, “Charlie” is less reluctant to immerse himself in the mole. “Forever” is a multi-tracked, autotunic repetitive melody that lyrically reflects individual reflections: “I’ll love you forever – even if we’re not together.” “Explosion” includes great vocal manipulations; Things pick up speed with the new wave-flavored “I finally understand”; In contrast, one of the sweetest tunes on the album is a song called “Enemy.”
Production – a tag team between Cook, Charlie and new collaborator BJ Burton (Bon Ivar, Banks, Miley Cyrus, early Lizo) – as usual, an amazing, shiny synthesizer, driving bus, a reshaping mesh of hard bits, vocals and Crashing mechanical listening wetland. But the most notable new collaborator here is Dylan Brady of the pop-deconstructionist 100 Guys, a musical manic American duo whose debut album (called, naturally, “1000 GEC”) twists into more challenging, ADD-Adele shapes. Of course, the pair have been deeply admired by Charlie, who performed at their Square Garden Virtual Concert in Mincraft last month. Brady made his presence felt in three songs here, most notably with the hyper-autotun vocal and pulse-racing beat “C 2.0” and the wild humming synth rhythm of “Anthems”.
Considering its short and spontaneous pregnancies, “How I Feel Now” is like a collection of shorter stories than the novel-scale “Charlie” – a challenge to itself, a productive way to prevent frenzy during a lockdown. But it does show this deeply talented and creative fickle artist that the boundaries of his music are actually pushing in real time (which he can do almost literally through his Instagram and zoom sessions) and hint at what might happen next.