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charli XCX’s DIY quarantine album 'how i'm feeling now' | review

“…Obviously, this time is different for everybody, so everyone should always do what makes them comfortable, but for me, my happiness goes hand in hand with being creative,” Charli vented to her fans on Instagram live. “So, I’ve decided I’m going to be making a brand-new album from scratch during quarantine. It comes out on the 15th of May.” And there it all began. On April 6th, just two weeks into a government-enforced lockdown and without any pre-existing material to hand, pop futurist and self-professed workaholic ‘Charli XCX’ announced that her DIY quarantine album ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ would be realised live from her home in LA in just over a month with the help and input of her fans. She explained that she would write, record and produce the album in isolation, utilising only the tools she had to hand and bringing in online collaboration from other artists and fans alike, through social media, zoom and the dropbox ‘howimfeelingnowinbox’ so that fans were empowered to participate in the creative process, sending her their beats, artwork and music references for inspiration. The collaborative creative process of ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ is characterised by a cocktail of Charli sharing unfinished demos and acapellas, live fan lyric writing sessions, fly on the wall recordings of her on the phone with her label, fan commissioned artwork, a virtual Minecraft concert, zoom listening parties, green screen music videos and fans leading decision making for song titles and album art rein free - all played out and documented in cyberspace. The result is an album that is satisfying in that it is reminiscent of the more experimental pop of her earlier mixtapes ‘Pop 2’ and ‘Number 1 Angel’ and sounds as if she’s indulging in the independence of making music exterior to her more commercial sound. Think glitchy synths and cutesy auto-tuned futuristic chimes. The beauty of this album really lies in the DIY and cyber ‘online’ nature of the creative process in which it was realised. It is the perfect backdrop to Charli’s unique electro-pop lo-fi sound, her self-isolation acting as an imposed microcosm or nostalgic flashback to her teenage years in which she was consumed by recording demos in her bedroom, early internet culture, Myspace and the early 2000s rave scene. The fan and artist collaboration that is intrinsic to this record perfectly embodies the agenda of DIY and rave culture alike which is democratic in its very nature, where the technology of mass reproduction acts as a progressive force. Along with her largely LGBTQ+ fan base taking refuge in her fantasy cyber world and its emancipatory potential. My favourite tracks: forever, pink diamond, claws, party 4 u, i finally understand

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