dot dot dash | all about U


A personal pop experiment that reflects public discourse more than you may think. 
Published: 19/05/2020   Author: Oisin O’Brien
Photo: Courtesy of Charli XCX.
“I’ve got pictures in my mind”- Charli XCX confidentially declares on techno-pop closer ‘visions’, and this pop visionary sure does. Coming just under a year after the pop magnum opus of 2019 “Charli”, “how i’m feeling now” has been dubbed as THE quarantine album. It was announced on April 8th that Charli XCX would be undertaking her most creatively transparent project to date with this album, made and recorded entirely in quarantine. The album cycle has been a collaboration between Charli XCX and her fans, with the cover arts for singles being co-decided, the ‘forever’ video being composed of clips sent in by fans self isolating, and even the second verse of ‘anthems’ being written on Instagram live in conversation with viewers. There have been weekly Zoom calls with fans, and votes to decide which instrumentals to use for some tracks. The whole process has been like seeing the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain (minus the disappointment). During the livestreams, Charli XCX is unafraid to be messy and vulnerable, playing very rough vocal samples and humming melodies that, at the time, were wordless. This process was truly fascinating from a fan perspective, because even though an idea like ‘anthems’ seemed fairly simple and rudimentary in the stream, the initial spark of chaotic energy can be heard in the final product.

And how is the final project? Perhaps Charli’s most personal and cohesive work to date. This album is going to be in those ‘1001 albums to hear before you die’ picture books, mark my words. Not just for the album’s forward-thinking production, but the sheer fact that the album was written, recorded, produced and released during a history textbook moment. The subject matter is not at the forefront in a way that comes across as abrasive or overwhelming. We are not being hit over the head with the theme, rather Charli takes on self isolation and quarantine and talks about her personal feelings towards them. This means that a lot of the album is about her boyfriend who she is quarantined with, how much she misses her friends, and how bored she is. But while giving us hyperpop bangers to escape to, she is also inviting us to relate to her experience. She also gave us impatient, hungry fans a little gift in the reworking of the previously unreleased track “party 4 u” - a party track tinged in sadness, as Charli talks about throwing a party for someone who doesn’t show up.

Charli has spoken about the inclusion of this track claiming that she never felt it was right to include it on another project, but the sad feeling of not seeing someone you would die for is something that feels appropriate now. And it really does. ‘party 4 u’ as well as other tracks like ‘anthems’ and ‘c2.0’ have an emotional impact that would not exist if this album were released last year. We have all had a moment of emotional reckoning and re-evaluation, and this album highlights what is important. Those that we love.

Thus ‘forever’ was the perfect first single with the beautiful chorus stating: “I love you forever, even when we’re not together, I know in the future we wont see each other, cold just like December, but I will always love you.” OUCH. The track’s stems were released online for fans to remix, and I even created a little montage video of one of these fan remixes to send to my best mates who I can’t see at the moment and dearly miss. The project has spawned more fan creativity than anything I’ve ever seen before, and during times like these, it’s provided welcomed motivation.

So who produced this thing?

BJ Burton (Production creds include Bon Iver, The Japanese House) and regular collaborator A.G Cook provided the majority of the production, alongside Charli herself. The album also features production from PC Music regulars, Dylan Brady (of 100 Gecs stardom) and Danny L Harle. Charli continues to provide a gateway drug for fans of pop music into the experimental world of experimental electronic music. Autotune, techno dance mania and off-the-wall production choices bring this album to maybe more 2099 than 2020. The album is, for me, at its best when the chaos is turned up to 100. ‘pink diamond’ - the album opener - is perfect for getting dressed up and fucked up on a video chat with Charli, exploding into fiery verses of braggadocio. There are plenty of cute love songs on this thing, but none are as successful as the catchy Dylan Brady-produced second single, “claws”. This was an instant fan favourite, as it was voted to come out as the second single on Twitter based on its instrumental alone. The album is perhaps weakest during its more conventional moments (I do not understand the choice to make ‘i finally understand’ a single, with it being by far the weakest track of the release for me), however, this album process has been a conversation. We haven’t liked everything but Charli XCX has laid her creative process bare for us all to see and give our opinion on. I wonder what kind of work we could get from other artists if they allowed us the same access?

This 11 track album was written, recorded, produced and mastered in 30 days. This quick time frame was something us fans knew would not be a problem for Charli XCX. Charli recorded an album in a day for fun with AG Cook back in 2017 (with two of those songs going on to be released on other projects). This project shows what Charli can do when uninhibited by her label — sidenote: her third studio album had so many delays, and was actually scrapped entirely at one point. But what has sustained Charli has been the release of her now legendary experimental mixtapes (‘Vroom Vroom’, ‘Number One Angel’ and ‘Pop 2’). She wrote and recorded those projects in a similar time frame to this and held nothing back. Her last album, while beautiful and accessible, was perhaps a little more watered down sonically. Charli seems to work best when she doesn’t overthink and isn’t pressured to be mainstream. “how i’m feeling now”, is a raw, real body of work that both reflects our present state of mind and points towards pop’s future. It encourages us to join Charli in being creative and more so caring for those we love - and being vocal about it. The album practically screams out for you to ring someone and tell them you love them (preferably not a problematic ex though). We may not know what’s coming in our own personal futures, but in the future of pop music, in Charli XCX we trust!

Listen to ‘how i’m feeling now’ on Spotify or Apple Music.



How discovering music, in these times, equates to rediscovering joy.


Seven frightful films that remind us how good it is to stay in.  


A zesty precursor to her debut EP.