Love in the Time of Isolation: Charli XCX’s “Forever”

In our current era of social distancing, the confinement of our bodies has birthed the liberation of our thoughts. Forced to remain inside with little else to do, we are also forced to confront our emotions, feelings, and memories, reinterpreting relationships and reevaluating change. In the previous period of fast-paced normalcy, it was incredibly difficult to have a moment to breathe and analyze one’s life; there was simply too much to be done and in too short spans of time. Yet, now, as we spend hours scrolling through our phones and peeking at ourselves in passing mirrors, we are both introduced to unspoiled awakenings and haunted by ancient ghosts. And perhaps nowhere does this feel most accurate than on Charli XCX’s latest single “Forever.”

Drenched in magnificent, punk-like distortion, “Forever” is a robotic liebestod mourning the possible death of a long-distanced union. Amidst a circus of jagged glitches, gnarled hiccups, and bubbly bleeps, Charli emerges a tortured, lovesick angel trapped in a digitized purgatory, her twisted coos evoking a vulnerability so harsh and so palpable one can almost feel her tears spilling through their ears. Though this omnipresence of mutation may create an atmosphere bordering on confusion and decay, it is, in fact, that degree of detachment which best captures the track’s essence. By default, any possible pain from a long-distance relationship is only amplified by the impersonal glow of a screen. And upon the delicious, zero-gravity fatalism of “Forever,” it is that impersonal glow of a screen which feels realest, mimicking our cyber tombs of reflection with an authentic unease.

That tug-and-pull of truth and fantasy may be what lingers most. Though Charli appears prepared for the worst (“We won’t see each other”), there remains a sliver of hope inside, believing the end is not near (“Said ‘I’ll love you forever’”), that is perhaps merely an unfortunate cycle of breaking up and making up. As the track erupts into a climatic colossus of cacophony, that maze of mixed emotions reaches a startling fever pitch—the tangled, interlaced unraveling of her mind transforming into absolute incoherence. It is the sonic spirit of one’s own romantic madness and uncertainty, of not knowing where to go and what to do. It is the audible glimpse of living in a world where the slightest form of connection can seem an explosion of possibility. And in these most mysterious of times, that cold, honest reflection of isolation is precisely what we need.

About Marsalis

poet of pop.
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