A still from Charli XCX: Alone Together (2022)
Social media is full of countless pitfalls; from the perpetuation of unrealistic expectations, to a manufactured online presence that cherry-picks the greatest aesthetic hits. The silver lining in this sensory overload is the space given for people to find a sense of community and belonging. There will always be a yearning for human connection, made even more apparent over the past few years of collective isolation during a pandemic. Music can be that strengthening tool to bring people together from around the world. Whether one is a fan of a particular artist or not, the influence many of them have on people is crystal clear. In Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler's documentary Charli XCX: Alone Together, fans of the successful pop artist are in for an intimate vignette of her day-to-day process, where she creates her brand new album 'how i'm feeling now' in 5 weeks during the start of the pandemic. While this is a documentary about Charli XCX, her fans (known as Angels) are given just as much screen time, and the reciprocation of support makes this an endearing watch. The meshing of these perspectives sheds light on the artist’s impact on her fans, as well as her own insecurity in finding her voice and how best to share it with the rest of the world. Clocking in at 67 minutes, Charli XCX: Alone Together is a fairly enjoyable whirlwind of what goes into making an album during lockdown.
The most endearing part of this documentary is indeed the influence Charli XCX has on fans from around the globe. The journey of making a new album is for them; she invites Angels to be part of the creative process in real time, and opens herself up to constant feedback (and criticism). From curbing their enthusiasm and getting creative with a home studio, to the effects of isolation on mental health, the documentary touches upon plenty of subjects to maintain an interest all the way through. At the core, unwavering focus is brought to the connection between Charli XCX and her fans, as depicted in a wave of personal social media videos, messages of enthusiastic support and live interactions. The use of social media graphics throughout is a nice touch that reinforces the power of social media. Juxtaposed with words of encouragement from loved ones and fans, the documentary makes a point of stressing it is possible to find acceptance and form connections in the digital age we are all living in.
Beyond all the fanfare, Charli XCX: Alone Together addresses the question, what comes after success? When Charli XCX kicked off her first online tour in 2019 for her album Charli, she felt very much in control of her whole career in the pop music industry. Her beginnings were not carefully crafted; without having a particular goal or career plan, she just wanted to share her music with the world. It’s thoughtful to see how this sentiment repeats itself at a time when people are collectively isolated; that the artist’s response to isolation is to be creative and make things. The documentary briefly shows how Charli XCX comes to the decision to create a new album live in 5 weeks time, and getting fans involved along the way. At times Charli XCX: Alone Together feels more like a fan-made collection of videos than an in-depth look at its title subject. Sprinkled in between the fan videos is behind-the-scenes footage of her inner journey. The insecurity, the lack of creativity and fulfillment, the stress of not delivering her next album and trying to combat expectations. It would have been interesting to see a more candid approach at her evolvement as an artist in phases, and how she’s bene able to navigate industry experiences. There is a lot of sensory overload, from home footage and backstage glimpses to Instagram videos and news headlines. But once the noise settles, it becomes clear that the core of this documentary is being alone together. It’s about experiencing self-isolation as a collective through music, and the healing power music can have on mental health.
Beneath all the vignettes is the unity of listening to an artist you love with a community of people who share in your interests. There is an added layer of the world going through a pandemic. Of course, everyone is experiencing this crisis in drastically different ways, and many are in a privileged position not to be so severely impacted. The documentary makes smart moves focusing intently on the bonding power of music in a time when a lot of people are searching for a connection. This is an endearing documentary for Charli XCX fans, who get to see themselves reflected on screen through an intimate portrait of the artist’s music-making journey. Charli XCX: Alone Together releases February 24 on Amazon Prime Video.