Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Charli XCX – Forever

How We’re Feeling (About “Forever”) Now…


Katie Gill: If you didn’t know this was off the album Charli wrote during quarantine, you’ll figure it out by the first minute or so. But that dissonance just draws me out of anything I can enjoy about the song. The lyrics are cartoonishly relevant, the music is cartoonishly abrasive. I’m sure Charli has some grand artistic vision for why she’s accompanied a decent vocal and lovely melody with a noise that sounds like the electronic equivalent of a car crash, but I’m not jiving with said vision. Everything about this feels forced.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: A claustrophobic, anxious listen that still feels like an oddly compelling gesture of comfort — so, put another way, quarantine music. 

Katherine St Asaph: An arrangement like Bonnie McKee’s “Bombastic” played with an ice scraper, and a True Romance track unfortunately sung with the same narcotized-robot affect Charli’s work for the past several years. If you can get past that, her vocal’s actually quite good; the fervent feeling is there. It’s just that there’s just so damn much going on in “Forever,” so little instrumental distancing in this supposed quarantine song, that not enough gets through. How much does it really say that her beloved is “front of mind” when, judging by the arrangement, front of mind is crowded as a mosh pit?

Leah Isobel: Charli’s always written songs that let her production and visual choices speak just as loud as the music, but here she’s tasked herself with creating music in the shadow of a nationwide humanitarian disaster. As such, she doesn’t really follow up on the darkness of these lyrical images (“Love suicide,” “Drove the car off the road,” “The roof caved in and the water fell through”), and maybe she doesn’t need to; she just lets them hang, suspended in vocoder ice. That she looked into the horror of this particular moment and came out with a love song as pretty and cold as this one is weirdly inspiring, but I’m not sure that it withstands the emotional weight of its context. I’m not sure that anything can.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: There’s only one song from those early COVID days that captured the fear and desperation of the time: Charli XCX’s “Forever.” Really, if you heard this song for the first time today, it wouldn’t even feel the same; there’s something about hearing “Forever” at the beginning of it all: the uncertainty of our future, the frightening plausibility of death, the understanding that all relationships were rendered long-distant. The swelling noise captures the tumult of our world, but it also channels dial up-like cacophony, as if Charli is grasping onto every snatch of hope and affection she can from online communications with a lover. She knows their inevitable outcome — “I’ll love you forever” is sung with knowledge that things are effectively over — but she still latches onto every scrap of positivity she can. “Forever” is nothing if not a call to live more fearlessly, even when fear can be read on your face; relationships end, life ends, the world will end — don’t let those realities stop you from being happy, even if for a moment.

Andy Hutchins: How absurd it is that Charli recorded this during a time when she must have assumed we had collectively reached the terminal velocity of 2020, only for two months to go by and render its pleading-in-the-gale approach almost quaintly hopeful? Future nostalgia growing into a microgenre gives the “Forever” a place to live, trapped in amber, but the white, navel-gazing person who wants to make music explicitly created in this moment, by this moment, to be of and for this moment is not making that music for me, and asking that music to also somehow be listenable beyond this moment is pure folly.

Joshua Lu: Oh what a month can do to a song — conceived in quarantine, when the onus for many of us was simply to stay inside, “Forever” and its distorted production somehow feel more attuned to the restlessness and justifiable rage facing much of the world right now. Even more appropriate is how, at its core, the song carries a sweet, simple message of unyielding love and trust, and the frenzied backdrop is a stark contrast that represents the difficulties that this kind of love entails; the first line, “love suicide,” is another reminder of that tension. But does it sound good? If you’re part of Charli’s sizable cultish fanbase that finds joy in hearing the bass-boosted noise of her toilet flushing, you’ll probably like this. If not, then you might find this comparable to the quarantine pastime of making shoddy banana bread — a neat thing to try out, even if the end result is unpalatable.

Will Adams: The past few months I’ve had a recurring dream where I’m in a crowded space — a concert, a park on a sunny afternoon, a dive bar downtown — enjoying the company of friends until I have the horrifying realization that it’s the middle of a global pandemic and nobody is socially distancing. If those dreams had a sound, it would be “Forever.” The cacophony is the crowd, and Charli is me, pushing out professions of love in a voice that sounds leached of all hope. In the dream, the noise becomes so overwhelming I wake up; in “Forever,” it swallows Charli and weakens the song.

Tobi Tella: It occasionally feels like it’s fighting against itself, but the sincerity and love coming out of the chaos and noise is a neat trick, and it works perfectly by the end. 

Oliver Maier: How do you have this conversation with yourself? How do you grapple with the feeling that what you have with someone isn’t going to last? I’ve always liked Charli when she’s been abstract and larger than life, but the drab love ballads on her last album left me convinced I would never find her music especially resonant. “Forever,” though, stopped me in my tracks. Part of that is the formal maturation, the feeling that Charli is one with the music rather than wrestling with it for control or crushing it under her heel. The waves of crackle feel like meditative breaths, the bright synths feel emotionally charged instead of like vaguely futuristic signifiers. But the lyrics stand out, because I’ve had that crisis and found that peace, the understanding that a connection can persist even when true romance doesn’t. Love refuses to go away with some people. It changes shape and maybe one day it looks completely different to how it did before, but it’s there. When we’re lucky we can still call it what it is.

Reader average: [9.5] (8 votes)

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2 Responses to “Charli XCX – Forever”

  1. instrumental distancing! great blurbs, one and all

  2. It’s funny, I think I had the opposite experience of some people here, I didn’t think much of this when it came out, but it clicked for me when I listened to it again a couple of months later. I’m not usually the biggest fan of PC usic Charli, she’s very hit or miss for me, and when she released this one all I could hear was the distortion and the robot voice. When I stopped and paid attention to the lyrics, specially watching the video, I got the affection, and the distortion that seemed like a distraction became one of the stronger points. I mean, it’s more significant to keep someone front of mind when there is so much more to worry about, right? What I don’t get is why people say this is too quarantine-specific. The lyrics are vague enough that I think it could become about anything. Just like a lot of unrelated music can seem to gain a different meaning just by mentioning distance these days, I think this song will survive just fine when it’s no longer “of the moment”.

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