Charli XCX’s lockdown productivity is next level

Written by Reilly Hodson

Lockdown, naturally, has got a lot of people down. The overarching anxiety that comes with global catastrophe can make it really difficult to think of anything except frantically refreshing social media and waiting up for those must-see daily briefings. It’s hard to think about anything else, and anything we can do to cope becomes priority number one.

For some people their coping mechanism has been baking, at-home fitness, reading books or watching a load of TV. Sometimes, it’s all of the above. For Charli XCX, a renowned workaholic, coping means insane, relentless productivity. Stuck in lockdown with her boyfriend in LA, Charli, who you might know from hits like ‘Boys’ and ‘I Love It’ or her insane Laneway performance at the start of the year, has committed to recording, producing and releasing an album, called How I’m Feeling Now, by 15 May. Not content to just make songs, though, she’s also making music videos for the singles, and documenting the whole process on a Beats 1 radio show for Apple Music, called, fittingly, Inside the Candy Shop.

Charli’s first single off the album, ‘Forever’, is a love letter smothered by rough electronic beats. The video is a crowd-sourced effort, patching together footage of Charli singing in her bedroom with images of fans, their pets and their loved ones. It’s not a new idea to make a music video out of fan footage, but in this time it feels uniquely touching. I’ll admit to tearing up a little when I first watched it.

That collaborative spirit goes beyond the videos though; Charli is asking fans on Instagram which images to use for album artwork, and getting artist friends to work on the final products, and even consulting them on choosing singles. The music is being executive produced by frequent collaborators AG Cook and BJ Burton, and she’s releasing the stems of every track to encourage people around the world to make their own remix. I’m particularly enjoying this one from new wunderkind and Charli protégé Elio, which smooths out the rough edges of the original and adds an extra verse.

It’s not all successes, though. Charli has also been upfront about feeling overwhelmed and anxious while in lockdown, and honestly, who among us can disagree? It’s certainly important for people to see bright spots in the seemingly never-ending slog that has come with staying at home, but it feels just as valuable to hear people admit that they’re finding it difficult. Everyone is getting through as best they can, but not even the brightest success stories of lockdown can claim to be all positive, all the time.

Charli’s is the kind of project that illustrates the creative opportunity that lockdown can provide. No one should feel any pressure to write their own King Lear while in quarantine, but if you cope by working more, the extra free time, plus the fact that everyone is pretty much home with very little to do, presents a way to make something new, in different, and maybe better ways. Charli, who has always been an innovator, is taking a new approach to major pop music releases, one that involves fans every step of the way and that takes advantage of the unique situation we find ourselves in.

If you need more, there isn’t long to wait. Charli’s new single, ‘Claws’, drops on Friday.

charli xcx album cover

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