How Do We Make Art About Our New Solitude? Look to Charli XCX

Charli XCX live at O2 Academy Brixton, London UK on 31st October 2019RMV via ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.Charli XCX is going transparent. The pop guru announced this week that she’ll be writing, recording, and producing her next album, how i’m feeling now, with only the “tools I have at my fingertips to create all music, all artwork, all videos… everything.”
Her everything, it seems, includes fans. She’s playing demos for them over Instagram Live, asking them to shoot her music video, and dropping “forever” stems to remix. It’s a rapid process. The album drops in a mere six weeks, May 15. She wrote and wrapped the first single “forever,” she says, in two days. The speed fits the title: now. You can watch her work out the lyrics of “forever” two days before the track dropped. She is already playing new demos for fans today.

playing new demos @ 3pm la time on insta live. need ur help.
— Charli (@charli_xcx) April 10, 2020

“forever” is classic Charli. It’s repetitive, vocally synthesized down to the last note. It’s lovelorn reverb over an abrasive “is-my-computer-possessed-or-is-that-just-the-beat” production.
For every “I Got It” there’s a “Lucky,” every “Shake It” there’s a “White Mercedes,” but “forever” finds Charli dead center. Bouncing atop aggressive cyber-pop is an ode to Charli’s long distance relationship. “You stay right in front, in the front of my mind, front of my mind, in the front of my mind” she sings three or four times over. It’s an impressive feat, knowing who you are and what you do, and Charli doesn’t stumble packaging it all together in under 72 hours.
Charli’s messy (read: honest) and public process of creation is newly collaborative at time when many of us are more alone.  Maybe the only way to make art about our new solitude, it seems, is to try to bridge it.