Charli XCX, the Gateway to Hyperpop and Finding Solace in Myself

Duh, 2020 was piercingly bad for just about everyone in this mortal realm. Unrest is higher than ever, environmental devastation is on the brink of a breaking point, and present social instability and uncertainty are looming all over us. But, damn, if there was one blue pill to guide us through this year, it was the music that was released.

Triptych of Charli XCX albums

Graphic by Zoe Axelrod
Album covers courtesy of Charli XCX

Prior to this year, I only really dove into music steadily back in 2017 right before I graduated high school. Before that, Hall and Oates and other '80s radio darlings were about my only experience with anything occupying the sonic highway.

From there, my hand was swiftly taken by Nirvana, who still has that damn iron grip to this day. Ouch! Easy, will ya, Kurt! Further interest developed in '90s rock, leading me to the basin of eventual local independent artists occupying the American indie scene today. Acts like Snail Mail, Phoebe Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast, Soccer Mommy and Waxahatchee all encompass trailblazing new precedents for establishing modern rock into the pylon it's become for alternative voices to seek. The signal is close, clear, but also far-reaching. Enter pop music.

While the seeming antithesis to everything I’ve established my narrow tastes to be so far *swats away a cooing Eddie Vedder*, pop music has always been skipping along behind me since my conception. With a mother heavily fixated on Spears, Perry and Madonna and an older brother going lala for Gaga, it had to hit me eventually. When the eventual mysticism circling my head known as pop music came to reveal its corporeal form, it arrived in unconventional means. It was glitzy, glammed, surely not planned and mixed with a dash of autotune for good measure.

Powerpuff Girls conceived of Chemical X and my new darling hyperpop melded out of ...its suffix. Alas, my new obsession zoomed in entrancingly with the most vigor you ever did see in cotton candy clouds running on eight decibels.

Whatever it was — the beginning of the end to a fresh year with 2020, the loving relationship I found myself in by the end of ‘19 and the equipped friendships to follow or just the coincidental release of How I’m Feeling Now by my newfound ethereal chancellor, Charli XCX — I was encapsulated.

Upon first hearing “I just wanna go real hard, I just wanna go real hard, pink diamond in the dark” at my girlfriend’s best friend’s pad about a week after the May 15 release, I grew enraptured, radicalized by the abrasive thumping and tearing screech of synth.

Alongside a failing friendship and having just finished a semester of school in an unshackled, job-free period, I was soul-searching methods to broaden my musical tastes and take in what more I had previously disregarded on genre alone.

Charli was my dealer. She was stocked to the brim with one of the quickest fixes in my entire lived experience. Awash I was, with saturated, bubbly luminescence oozing out from each strand of discernable instrumentation I could pick up on.

Pardon, but I finally understood just what I had been missing this entire time. There was no looking over my shoulder. Hyperpop was the new wave, one I wanted to be in the swell for right that instant.

Between the reminiscent and dearly-holding “Forever,” the blissful, yet melancholic yearning of “Party 4 U,” as well as lighting the charge with “Detonate,” multiple car rides were filled with ponderous, often nebulous quandaries of where I am at in life. After such trying years in the ones leading up to 2020, here I sat almost breathless.

Aching for something I finally got in a mesmerizingly bewitching relationship. Radicalization and hope through political guidance towards progressivism accompanied by a future coated in solidarity. Living situations and goals that didn’t feel so fickle, fleeting. All this with the backdrop of “I'm gassed up like I'm Texaco, I ride, ride, ride, ride, ride, ride, ride, ride, ride, ride it.” I know, it sounds delusional. Maybe I was hallucinating.

No matter the oddities that surface with such philosophical waxings over Charli XCX’s fourth studio album, I began to find renewed purpose. Actionable change within myself and priorities set straighter than an arrow. Thank you to Dorian Electra for helping me bend that once again!

From there, as the world plunged into more hypotheticals on the state of everything as we knew it, I at least knew where to meet myself. Those I cherish grew more visible and their aid strengthened my understanding of matters I now find crystalline.

Charli lent me the emotional depths I sought to plunge into when everything else in the dismal world status had removed the diving board. Her ability to interweave dancey melodies parallel to pointed lyricism just as much about finding solace in others as yourself was elucidating to my strengthened journey on this disco ball of an Earth.

Later favorites fluttered into my lap as Flamboyant and My Agenda by Dorian Electra, Pang by Caroline Polachek, Reflections by Hannah Diamond and Icebreaker by Cowgirl Clue found their way racing into my core. Hell, even QT became my girlfriend and I’s forever-summer hit, with us still reciting “I feel your hands on my body, every time you think of me” to each other at every possible turn months down the line.

Hyperpop provides a spectrum through which experimentation validates both its listeners and the artists behind masterminding their very own Mary Shelley creation. Yes, it’s alive, and, damn, does it kick supreme ass.

Through the sphere alone I’ve been able to find tons of artists I would have never considered prior like Quay Dash, Tkay Maidza and Pablo Vittar. The nebulous and at-times cosmic horror nature of the universe becomes easier to grasp, take in and swallow when your interests in cool music also align with causes and representation that have positive, tangible effects on the way its very people are propped up.

So, as the new year reigns in with… even further questionable, history-altering permutations, I’ll find myself reliving the silver-lined road I’ve charted thus far, taking new routes at every electrified fork in the road that stands in my path.

Pop 2 is the holy text, but, this year, Number 1 Angel is how I’ll earn my awaited, shimmering wings.


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