The relationship between any creative person – musician, actor, director – and their fandom is complicated. The term “fandom” itself suggests a certain type of enthusiast, someone so passionate about his devotion that he is practically beyond control, and the nature of modern fame is that celebrity is on the receiving end of that loyalty with almost certainly is hyper-. aware of it and the protection it offers. (Let me whisper here for a moment: Snyder Cut.) So the Charli XCX Documentary “Alone together“For all of Charli’s heartbreaking honesty, for all of her willingness to invite viewers into her creative process, and for all of her openness in discussing their sanity, the question also arises: When does inclusion turn into exploitation?
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Perhaps that reconsiders an element of “Alone Together” that follows Charli as she struggles to deal with the restrictive measures created by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of 2019 Charli started an international tour with several sold out shows in which her “angels” took part. This is how their fans relate to themselves. For the singer “Boom Clap”, who has been known for her songwriting, singing and giving for almost half of her 28 years Riz Ahmed That next phase of her career, cuddling with a teddy bear in the cult favorite music video “Boys”, was a new kind of self-confidence. Charli has struggled with her sanity for a long time, she says in “Alone Together” – which is completely told by her – but connecting with her strong LGBTQIA fan base has given her strength and inspiration.
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A moment at a show in which Charli is dressed in a sexy devil outfit with red horns with sequins and a cage skirt and then falls into tears as she thanks her fans for their support (“You appreciate me for me, that’s really difficult to do the pop industry … without you I wouldn’t be here ”), embodies the duality of its attraction. She is not apologetic and provocative and knows that she is good at her job and loved by her fans, but also can never really accept that she is a success. For anyone dealing with depression or self-hatred, so much of what Charli is going through is presented here in a comprehensible, recognizable and refreshing way, without apologizing. Charli’s admission: “I rely on work to make me feel like a good person. I don’t think I’m pretty enough. I don’t think I’m smart enough. I don’t think I’m interesting or funny enough for me a person to function without my job ”hits particularly hard.
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The World Health Organization, which is declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic in spring 2020, Charli, which is canceling her remaining US tour dates, and the lockdown regulations beginning in Los Angeles, where she lives, are coming together in a kind of Cerberus situation. Desperate for a creative outlet to keep her on the ground (“I have to be busy”), Charli decides to make an album at home in 45 days and shoot a related documentary. The whole process will be collaborative, she announces, and “Alone Together” documents all of this. Her relationship with her boyfriend Huck Kwong, who isolated with her after they had been together for seven years but only spent a maximum of 11 days together (!!!). Her personal and professional relationships with her former classmates and managers live with her, including Sam Pringle, who usually owns one of the three video cameras Charli ordered for this project. And most importantly, Charli’s creative drive and work ethic once she decides to invite her fans into her process through zoom meetings and live streams.
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She scribbles texts in notebooks and then shares them with fans, asking for different ideas for the choice of words. She records her vocals and then plays them back. She laughs when a fan criticizes how “rough” her voice sounds: “I’ll fucking show you my trial, stupid!” She plays beats sent to her by producers and asks fans for their thoughts. She asks Huck to snap photos of her that could serve as album covers, and then posts three options for her fans to choose from. Virtually every aspect of this is collective, and as we can see from videos, comments, and text messages from fans, they’re cherished. They are happy to be asked to help Charli and they need a human connection as much as they do.
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So much of Alone Together is based on the connection between Charli and her angels, and that bond is deeply felt on both sides. Charli started with a 14-year-old blast on MySpace online and has since hung around in fan chat rooms, tweeted with them, streamed live on Insta and otherwise used practically all social media to maintain this dynamic. Many of the fans we meet through self-submitted recordings or live streams are gay, non-binary, and transgender individuals who are particularly struggling during the lockdown because they are either isolating with unsupportive parents and in cities with no strong LGBTQIA presence live or have lost jobs because of the pandemic. “When I started getting into their fan base, I finally felt I belonged somewhere,” says one fan, and that feeling is omnipresent. They need Charli, “Alone Together”, argues, and Charli needs them. The two sides here strive for one another so much that viewers may be tempted to ignore the question of whether it is exploitative to ask your fans to work for you, essentially for free.
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Inclusion is important and Charli makes her fans feel valued and appreciated by using her lyrical suggestions, videos and artwork. She participates in virtual dance parties that they organize, she asks her questions during the Zoom Fan Q + As, and communication is two-way. “Alone Together” informs us that by the end of the documentary, fans submitted thousands of items and “put in their time and energy.” And that’s all well and good. But were they paid? That’s the question “Alone Together” avoids, and it’s a frustrating sideline for an artist who has otherwise exposed so much of herself.
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If Charli did this recording in a traditional studio, in theory the people who helped write their lyrics, did the cover of their album, or who helped choose their beats would be paid for this support. They did work and deserved reimbursement for their “time and energy.” Why should it be any different if the person doing the job for you is a fan? It’s not that Charli is unique in this regard. Companies do it; other musicians have done it; Social media influencers do it. But all of this is a kind of manipulation of what you want to give someone to be close to, and despite all of the deliberately positive things Alone Together has about Charli and her fans, that unwanted negative element is in its own way tell.
Nevertheless, “Alone Together” races over its running time of 70 minutes. The vibe is exuberant (Charli decides to buy a green screen and some green suits and use them on her latest music video idea; she laughs when she asks Huck what’s the best thing about her, and his first answer is this Joke “your tits”) and dejected (Charli live streams a video exchanging depressive thoughts, a moment so rough it provokes a worried call from her mother and a hesitant expression of fear from Huck). Sometimes it’s like when Charli sings: “My therapist said, I really hate myself,” then he pauses and laughs sardonically and admits: “That’s what she said.” “Alone Together” vacillates between these two emotions in a way that Charli XCX himself sincerely reflects. But as much as Charli is the star of this documentary, so are her fans, and “Alone Together” manifests itself as both a wild ride and a calming balm – as long as you don’t think too much about the work ethic at the center of it. [B]
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