Monday, January 4, 2021

2020 Album of the Year: how i'm feeling now by Charli XCX

This album for me is so 2020.  It captures so many things about this year so well, the most important one being a deep look at your own existence and the people you have chosen to be in your life with you.  In her case it is a hard look at her relationship with her boyfriend, who she was in quarantine with when making this album, and the friends and others in her life, like producers, fans, etc.  

pink diamond

If you look this album up at you can see comments she's made about each track, which is pretty cool.  So I'm not going to go into that stuff here, I'm just going to talk about what it is for me that makes this album work.  I love this as an opening track.  It is not a traditional opening track in the sense that often people go with a real melodic song.  She has chosen instead to go with what I think of as a mood song.  It does a good job of setting the tone for where things were in April of 2020 when she was making this.  The best line for me is in the second verse.  
Every single night kinda feels the same
I'm a pink diamond, I need space
I'm online and I'm feeling so glamorous
Watch me shine for the boys and the cameras 
In real life, could the club even handle us? 

I love the idea that this life of being online all the time and talking to people through video conferencing is not real life.  I've definitely felt that way throughout 2020.  My real life was the life I had with the people in my house.  My wife, kids, and dog made up my real life.  People I saw almost daily through online meetings, etc. felt unreal to me.  At some point as well you just feel this need to break out of this tiny life you have and go back to the bigger world, the real life.  


My video of the year for sure and this kicks off the section of the album about her relationship.  So she and her boyfriend have had a 7 year relationship with an on-off vibe from the way she talks.  They ended up together in quarantine in NY.  This song does a good job I think of reflecting on what she's learned in being with this person and the reality of what their life was like and may be again when quarantine is over.  


A fun song but what makes it work I think in the context of this album is that it captures those moments when you are with this other person where it all clicks.  In those moments everything is so great, and in those moments are when you are most likely to completely let go of all your self doubt and anxiety. 

7 years

Similar to "forever" in some ways but in this song she is looking at this long path they have been on together and acknowledging that some of their problems have been her inability to talk about how she feels.  It's also very interesting because like "forever" she is acknowledging her love for this person, but also saying that maybe things won't be like this forever.  


This is an interesting turn in the album.  Just like with "claws" where there are moments that everything feels right, there are other moments when things seem wrong.  I like this lyric a lot. 
I'm not tryna be rude
I'm just feelin' confused
My emotions get blue
Had to push 'em all through
Know you hope that I'll prove
Everything will stay cool
But I can't promise that's true
When I was younger, one of the things that really held me back in relationships was this fear that things would always turn bad.  If the other person was in a bad mood or everything wasn't great I had a tendency to assume everything was doomed.  When you pressure the other person to assure that everything is going to be OK, it doesn't always help the situation.  This song does a great job of capturing those moments between people I think.  As I've gotten older I've learned that when someone is in their own head and in a mood about something you are better to just give them space and have faith that things in the end will be OK.  You have to remember the good moments, and you have to remember how you feel about each other.  Not saying that everything will always work out OK in the end, but you won't help things by trying to always get reassured that everything will be OK.  


I love the idea of this song.  That this person who is so close to you could end up being the person who can hurt you the most.  They could turn on you and be your worst enemy.  As we've journeyed through this relationship with Charli, this seems perfectly reasonable.  I think about someone I knew who had a boyfriend in college.  The boyfriend was an art major and at some point in the spring semester she broke up with him.  He then made his final art piece for school a whole thing about her, tearing her down.  I hear this song and it makes me wonder what Charli's boyfriend really thinks of this album and other songs she may have written about him and their relationship in the past. 

i finally understand

We close out the section about the boyfriend with this song.  It all comes down really to these three lines.
I finally understand, I finally understand
Feel it in my core and the feeling's raw
You love me even when I hate myself, I'm sure  
I think this is a good way to leave off on this part of the album.  What happens with this couple who knows, but at least we know that she understands he loves her for who she is.  I think though anyone could take these songs about her and her boyfriend and write up a good screenplay or novel based on the ideas here.  It's very solid writing.  


Charli XCX had a song on a previous album called "click" that was all about her and a group of other artists that she felt connected with.  Here she has played off of that song and turned it to talk about how much she now misses these friends as she's locked down in her apartment.  

party 4 u

A good single this song doesn't fit in with the vibe of rest of the album, but still works.  


The song of 2020 for me.  That feeling of being trapped during this pandemic has been hard for everyone, but I think about being young and living in a city.  Gotta be tough.  Really like this line.  
I get existential and so strange
I hear no sounds when I'm shouting
I just wanna go to parties
Up high, wanna feel the heat from all the bodies
I'm older now and don't go clubbing these days, but even I like going to a crowded movie that everyone is into, or sitting in a busy restaurant with good food.  Something is lost when all the experiences are done alone or with just your little family unit.  90% of the time I just want to be home with my family and chillin', but there are those times I want to be around other people.  


A good final track for this album.  In this pandemic life it is so easy to see what you think the future should be.  My wife and I talk about this all the time.  We have spent so much time together with the kids you start to think this is just what our life will be like going forward, but will it?  What will change when things go back to "normal?"  Charli has all these strong feelings for her boyfriend now, but will she?  When she's back on the road touring and he's working his job what will change?  The distance may bring out both of their insecurities?   What happens then?   

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