Charli XCX — how i’m feeling now ANALYSIS & REVIEW

On one side, this is an interesting, thoughtful, introspective work highlighted by a vibrant synthetic sound that keeps you on your toes. From this perspective, the album seems like a rather unique force of nature in today’s world that demands attention. On the other side, though, this work falls into several bad songwriting traps that are all too familiar to the modern pop listener, and it doesn’t actually end up highlighting the aspects that were meant to be the alluring material in the first place. There was quite a tug of war going on in my ears while experiencing this, and while neither side actually won, it did leave me with a mix of frustration and indifference, which isn’t ideal.

Aside from a couple of obvious spots, the general positives stayed rather consistent throughout. One of the blatant ways in which this work sets itself apart from other stylistically similar works is its rather sharp, brash synthetic timbre that permeates many tracks. Some listeners may be turned off right away by this sound that sometimes goes considerably beyond the boundary of what we’re used to in pop music in terms of dynamics and harshness. I actually found myself enjoying some of those moments of abrasiveness, as it gave me something to attach to, think about, and get lost in for several seconds.

The song “c2.0” took it way too far with industrial sounds and vocalizations that had no support and sounded very obnoxious, but other than that no song took any egregious sonic turns. I enjoyed the use of the synth arpeggiator, especially in the final three tracks, as it did well to combine a unique, individual sound with energy and a platform for harmonic motion. The sonic experimentation here was not too shabby and played an interesting role. In fact, I wish it played an even bigger role, which I will discuss a bit later. There were other things to be turned off by here.

One of them was the flip-side of the overall timbre, which was that despite having a neat experimental basis for the sound, there were still some head-scratching additions of very typical and basic sonic layers that almost seemed to fight the more expansive direction that the other parts of the sound were going towards. I thought the sonic boundary pushing did rather well and found some cool space, but the rest of the space was taken up by a rather lifeless, polished, standard sound that never forced the issue. This was mainly present in the vocal layer and vocal additions, along with many choruses where the textures didn’t bother developing, seeming like a decision made due to not wanting to step on the singer’s toes and lose some sort of hook. Well, that actually might’ve taken the hook away. While the timbre was at an appreciative level of nuance and interest, it didn’t really go far enough in that direction to carry the album.

The background elements of the music were generally satisfactory; there was some good sonic interest, harmonic motion was sensible and rarely stuck in a rut, the general atmosphere was kept rather stable with some emotional variety. The foreground of the music was where the blandness lived and what weighed negatively on the album. There was nothing wrong lyrically; while not super potent or poetic, they paint a good emotional picture about isolation and struggles with self image. Unfortunately, they were set to some colorless, characterless melodies at times. It wasn’t awful beyond belief, but there was lots of room to grow.

The root of my frustration with this album is in the roller coaster melodic layer. In almost every song, there was a well put together, fun, catchy, melodic phrase, but aside from the song “anthems”, none of those songs ended up using the phrase as a big part of the form, instead deciding to employ repetitions of the boring, lackluster ideas. When melodies had some sort of range beyond a 5th that outlined the harmonic motion, or when they utilized rhythmic patterns that went outside a basic 4/4 meter (“anthems” had the latter), she generally found a cool line worth repeating. That’s not what was being repeated, though, as what was saved for the crucial moments of the music were basic two or three note patterns with no tension or direction.

The song “detonate” exhibited this melodic inconsistency very well, having a neat intro line that used a rather wide range and a nice non-chord tone landing at the 2nd bar, only to never use that line again and move right into boring, strong beat poundings of scale degrees “do” and “re” for most of the track. The melody hardly ever goes beyond a four-note range for the remainder of the song. To pour salt in the wound, “anthems”, the one song to actually expound upon an interesting melodic line along with a great driving, amped up, rhythmic background, had the weakest harmonic progression on the album, using a flimsy repetitive bass line of “fa mi do” that has no direction or satisfying arrival points.

The story of this album, for me, was sensing and hoping for a breakthrough only to be let down time and time again, instead settling on the fairly pleasant aspects of the background. It’s not a bad album, and it has its moments. It sadly fell short in several typical modern pop traps, but it didn’t completely sink. There’s still some artistry on here, and at least it has some consistently positive aspects. It’s just unfortunate that the big negatives of the album are what the music really ends up revolving around.

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I’m Sam Mullooly, founder of the music review platform Album Analysis. I provide in-depth analysis and critique of new albums in a unique, music-oriented way.

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Album Analysis

Album Analysis

I’m Sam Mullooly, founder of the music review platform Album Analysis. I provide in-depth analysis and critique of new albums in a unique, music-oriented way.

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