Charli XCX has found her niche as an entertainer but lost her way as an artist on How I’m Feeling Now.
How I’m Feeling Now, the latest release by British pop-star Charli XCX and technically her fourth studio album, came to fruition just under a month after its initial announcement. In anticipation of the album, Charli invited her fans to Zoom calls and hosted Instagram Live sessions in which she played beats and shared lyrics, allowing the audience to weigh in on their preferences. The decision to publicize the production process and rush the completion of the album, given the confessional lyrical content which mirrors the branding of her last effort as an identifying statement, is either a generous way to comfort and include her admirers or a self-involved solution to her own boredom, depending on how you’ve valued her output in the last few years. Though the hype around 2019’s Charli was quite fierce — due in large part to her ardent and vocal supporters, that record was largely an unconvincing return to the studio album format, with a few great choruses and features but an overall far cry from the compact, hit-filled tracklist of her Pop 2 mixtape from the previous year.
Her newest album mostly trades the tongue-in-cheek tone for an almost diaristic outpouring, all set over abrasive production from her usual collaborator A.G. Cook, and a few others including Dylan Brady of 100 gecs. Though she adopts a more intimate persona with this record, the music itself hasn’t developed in any significant way over the past two-plus years. Catchy hooks and unexpected sound combinations abound, but nothing sticks. With the help of various big name producers, Charli XCX has undergone a number of identity changes over the years, from True Romance’s goth-inflected synth pop revival to the rebellious rocker with the Sucker album and now to a purveyor of experimental-leaning electronic pop. It’s clear that it’s in this latest rebranding that she’s found her niche, along with a devoted fanbase, but rather than facilitating the opportunity for her art to grow in any substantive way, it’s merely given her sound the time to become stale.
Published as part of Pop Rocks | Q2 2020 – Part 1.