charli xcx is producing an album and i can barely put together a paragraph
maybe an in-depth examination into what it means to be "accountable" will help??
Okay, I will admit that I failed to publish a newsletter last Thursday, no wait, two Thursdays ago, no wait, three whopping Thursdays ago, but in my defense, actually, I have no defense. Does having crippling anxiety count? Probably not when it’s pretty much a daily occurrence.
You might be thinking that skipping three weeks means I gave myself plenty of time to write the next newsletter, and if you are thinking that I truly appreciate your confidence in me but unfortunately I am going to have to let you down.
I think one of the biggest issues that stops me from blocking out a time to write nonstop for thirty minutes or whatever is because I have a thought process of, if you have a passion for something, there should be nothing holding you back from it. If writing is something that I really want to do, then why am I not blocking out time every day to write with no distractions? Matter of fact, why don’t I have bylines in prominent music publications like Pitchfork and The Fader? Ignore the huge leap in logic I just made between not practicing writing enough to not being a professional, accomplished writer.
A lack of passion is definitely what I am missing, never mind the terribly competitive field of journalism where full time jobs are hard to come by, freelancing is difficult and exhausting, and these problems are exacerbated by hundreds of layoffs and furloughs in the time of coronavirus. Passion is the true issue here.
time to change topics instead of examining my deep insecurities
I’ve been typing the phrase, “hold me accountable,” at a much higher rate since coming up with the title for this newsletter, and as much as I enjoy saying it, I still have to force myself to sit down at a desk and type out these words. Why am I still struggling? Is there something in the definition of “accountable” that I’m missing? When was the last time I’ve even looked up the word “accountable” in the dictionary? I thought this newsletter was going to be about Charli XCX?
Calm the fuck down, we’re getting there, but first we have to learn some shit. I’m writing this as I go and don’t actually know how Charli XCX is going to fit into this but I went into this post wanting to read a dictionary and discuss Charli XCX’s upcoming album that she is transparently producing in quarantine and you are all going to read about it by the end of this day I swear to god.
Moving on. Here is a definition from the Oxford US English Dictionary:
(of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.
If there’s anything I can latch onto here, it would be the phrase “justify actions or decisions,” because that provides a good explanation for my lack of productivity. It all comes back to making decisions, something I have never been good at! Case closed, stop reading, everyone go home! My work is done here because I’m never going to be accountable for anything if justifying my life choices are involved!
Believe me when I say I am absolutely horrible at making decisions. After waking up in the morning, I’ll spend hours laying in bed refusing to get up until I’ve decided whether to shower or not. Last week, I looked up online home workouts in the amount of time it would have taken me to do five of those workouts (I still have not done any home workouts). I get angry when someone refuses to tell me whether or not the ill-advised takeout order I placed for lunch was a good purchase because I can’t get myself to justify something I did all my own!
Maybe my thinking is too limited. Instead of getting friends and family to judge my actions and make decisions for me, I should acquire a massive army of strangers who love everything I do, watch every move I make, and endlessly tweet at me to “play ‘Taxi!’” Okay, that last part is more in relation to the life of an avant-garde underrated multi-fascinated electro-pop star, but my point stands. All I need to do is become famous and document even more of my life, like Charli XCX is documenting almost every aspect of her upcoming quarantine-album, how i’m feeling now.
a brief n(s)on(g) sequitur
It’s fitting for how i’m feeling now’s first single, “forever,” to begin with a distorted staticky beat that continues to get louder and more distorted, eventually inundating our ears with melodic chaos. If that isn’t a symbol of the nation’s rising panic over this wildly unpredictable pandemic, it’s unclear what is.
Luckily, we aren’t left to endure this audio anarchy for very long. Charli’s signature vocoder vocals shimmer in the face of heartbreak and leaving a loved one behind. While as a whole, the song seems to be about deciding to break it off with someone for their own sake, Charli’s lyrics in the chorus seem to evoke feelings we’re all having in the era of social distancing:
I will always love you I’ll love you forever Even when we’re not together
Much more joyful than the subject matter is the song’s music video, which enlists the help of fans who sent in hundreds of home videos and photos to be included just days before its release. In the midst of downright terrifying and saddening news coverage about the impact COVID-19 is having and will continue to have, especially for this nation’s most underserved citizens, the genuine compassion these fans have for each other and themselves is a hopeful sight to see.
back to it
“Fuck, I’ve forgotten how the fucking melody goes.” On April 7th, Charli XCX was still figuring out lyrics to the outro of her upcoming album’s first single. Two days later, “forever” was officially out in the world, lyrics finished and topped off with original artwork and a music video in the works. While I was haphazardly making plans to send out a weekly, subject-less blog solely for the purpose of writing more, Charli was putting in the work to create an album entirely from scratch in just the span of a month. Remarkably more than that, she decided to let fans and the general public in on almost every part of the process.
Hence, when Charli fucks up a melody or doesn’t know a lyric, she posts the mishap on Twitter for the entire world to see. I can’t think of a single pop idol of mine who forgoes the need for musical perfection in real-time. Many pop stars have filmed themselves in the recording process, the recent Taylor Swift documentary comes to mind, but even these videos are handpicked and edited by artists, publicists, and directors. It’s easy to see that Charli’s videos aren’t filtered through any of these lenses; she’s been writing lyrics on Instagram Live for heaven’s sake!
This, as I mentioned earlier, must be the reason why it takes me literal days to write a few paragraphs. With a whole legion of fans and total strangers watching her every move, Charli has the accountability she needs to set a deadline, and the fear of making an overt mistake compels her to write sensational music —
Wait. *looks at the previous paragraphs I just wrote*
I had previously hypothesized that Charli’s myriad of fans are providing her with the accountability she needs to finish a near-perfect album on time, when it reality it seems like Charli is actually… providing the accountability herself. The definition of the word makes clear that to be accountable is to “justify actions or decisions.” This could mean that by posting lyrical mistakes on Twitter or admitting in a video that she cried the day before, Charli is justifying her sudden album creation process and giving her fans a way of deeply connecting to her music.
In fact, in an interview with the BBC a few weeks ago, she accepted that not everything she was putting out in the public sphere was going to be great:
Some of my ideas, even the ones I'm posting, are things that maybe won't come into full realisation. But I think, for my fans, it's really nice for them to see the process.
When questioned on the short timeframe she had given herself to complete the album, Charli even noted that the likeliness of there being “some kind of screw-up or error in a short amount of time” made for a more interesting final product.
The development of how i’m feeling now was designed from the start to grow in a lawless terrain permeated with fault lines, where any preconceived notions on how to create a pop album were thrown into chaos. That it is all happening live in front of a studio audience doesn’t make the process any better or worse — rather, public participation becomes a part of the album. Simply put, Charli’s fans can’t provide accountability for the creation of the album because they are already such an integral component of the final product.
so where does this leave me?
Good question, me! I began this post with the stubborn idea that I was lacking passion for writing, and needed either a bigger.. better? .. bigger passion or a better.. bigger? better group of people who could force me to keep up that passion. But the fact that I’m writing something down right now sort of negates the claim that I don’t have enough “passion,” and even with a massive fanbase, I wouldn’t be able to write anything without first acknowledging that there’s still a chance of majorly fucking up.
Truthfully, even with such overt external pressure, mistakes will still happen and promises might be difficult to keep. Charli made the decision to make her album as transparently as she could, and the very act of making that decision was self-accountability in action. In a way, I’m doing the same thing, offering this journal to people I’ve never met, even letting people I have met in on corners of my mind that I haven’t much shared with anyone. My words might be total dogshit, but simply putting these dogshit words out into the world is a way of holding myself accountable. Basically, I guess I just need to keep at it.
What a longwinded way of realizing that I am completely back to square one with this accountability discussion. So sorry for taking you on that rollercoaster ride, but who am I kidding? How many of you even made it this far? Whatever, I don’t care. I’m trying to pull a Charli XCX.
Feast your eyes and ears on some of the other singles from Charli’s upcoming album, featuring a truly amazing green screen music video that has digital kissing, real kissing, and many cleavage shots.
With a finished record planned to arrive in our ears in just six days, there’s still a chance this could all go to hell. But I’m sure Charli won’t mind.. she’d probably say it only depends on what your definition of “hell” means.
Thanks to the readers of this newsletter for helping me hold myself accountable, but more importantly, a big thank you to myself!
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