I could barely contain my excitement when I saw Charli XCX was releasing a documentary following the creation and eventual release of her 2020 album How I’m Feeling Now.
While the film did document Charli’s creative process, ultimately, Alone Together is a vulnerable and sincere portrait of an artist exposing the very real and heavy mental health struggles that many experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Charli not only shows her audience the process of creating her fourth studio album, but what it felt like being alone and locked up during quarantine, and the emotional toll that came with it.
It was a humbling experience, watching her open-up about her struggles with mental health and taking her fans through the artistic journey of exploring those struggles and putting them to music. What was really magical was Charli’s openness to create with her fans, making How I’m Feeling Now a collaborative effort even if everyone was miles apart.
Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we live our day-to-day lives, especially our relationship to people and spaces. As music fans we are used to going to gigs and events, finding others to go with us, and making the most of a night out.
We look for ways to interact with our favourite artists in person, be it tours or album signings, where we are surrounded by other people and experiencing a blissful moment together. We look back fondly at dancing at a venue while being shoved around and drinks are spilling all over our hands, and for a few hours, we disconnect from the world around us and lose ourselves to the beats pouring out of massive speakers.
With the pandemic, many of us have had to keep ourselves hidden from the outside world, affecting how we interact with music, artists, and other people. In Alone Together, we see Charli understanding her fan’s need for a close-knit community, tapping into their collaborative spirit.
We watch how she creates spaces for them to connect virtually. She announces the release date of How I’m Feeling Now, with plans to keep her fans connected to the process. We see Charli open her world to the internet, asking fans to help her write lyrics to new songs via Instagram live, and debuting new tracks on Zoom meetings, where you see fans dancing and decorating their space for the event.
Charli uploads voice recordings of her dark thoughts to Instagram stories, showing her fans that even she has moments of fear, scared of failure and never being good enough while balancing the fact that we are all contained to our homes and dealing with being creative but in a limited space. Charli shows her fans that even with the distance, they can be “Charli’s Angels,” and continue to engage with her work.
The documentary is a beautiful story about the importance of online culture and social media. Fan engagement on Twitter and Instagram was instrumental to Charli’s album, be it lyric ideas for songs or art content for her music videos. They are given the opportunity to express themselves and love for Charli by taking an active role in her album production.
It is amazing to see how much someone can do when being behind a computer screen, and the impact that involvement can have on their mental state during a time when so many of us are struggling. Charli gave her fans a productive outlet for their emotions, using their love of her art and passion for creativity to come together. Most importantly, she gave those desperate for a community the space to do that, be it many miles away.
We are still unsure of what the world is going to look like for the next few years. Venues are opening up and tours are being announced, but travel is still limited and shows are still getting cancelled. Some people are still dealing with the aftermath of lockdown, and others are still waiting for vaccines. The world we once lived in has changed completely, and music will have to as well.
Artists like Travis Scott and 100 Gecs are looking to gaming platforms like Fortnite and Minecraft to host shows, while others are playing live shows streaming on Twitch. The internet has incredible potential for artists, and like Charli they can continue to give their fans the opportunity to engage with their music virtually.
While watching Alone Together, I couldn’t help but think that we are currently redefining what it means to be “together” and “alone,” as a response to losing our physical spaces. Charli XCX shows us that there is potential for a genuine connection with your fans, even if it is through the lens of a phone camera.
Words by Claudia Arnoldo // Follow her on Instagram