In early January, ELIO tweeted out the chorus to her then unreleased track, "When U Saw Love," asking fans if they'd join her in dancing to it in the club next year. The preview, with its euphoric synth sheen, was retweeted by ELIO's mentor, Charli XCX, setting Twitter ablaze with excitement for her follow-up EP to 2020's u and me, but mostly me.
The 23-year-old singer's Can You Hear Me Now? EP — written over two years — delivered on all that chatter, featuring seven perfect songs that unfold like textbook pop. Every chapter carefully studied. Every technique flawlessly executed.
There's "Jackie Onassis," with its crisp production and a dreamy tale of leaving adolescence behind. "CHARGER" is a love song for the internet age as ELIO compares herself to an iPhone on 3%. "Hurts 2 hate somebody" has that chanting, lighters up charm, while "Come Round" offers a more chilled out groove with delicately autotuned vocals. The track named after her Instagram handle, "@elio.irl," emits rays of California sunshine, and "Fabric" — the EP's oldest — shows how ELIO's voice shines above an acoustic guitar.
Having started by producing songs entirely in her bedroom, ELIO sounds intimate enough to relate to a generation that shares her experiences of isolation online. But her music isn't restricted to the walls from which it was created inside, flipping from low to high impact with sudden jolts of electricity that take a track from singer-songwriter to stadium in seconds.
The only other contemporary who's nailed this sweet spot of emotional, weirdo-pop bred from the internet is Charli herself — a perfect teacher for her pop protégé, ELIO.
With Can You Hear Me Now? on rotation, we checked up on ELIO in quarantine to talk about everything from texting with exes to go-to delivery orders.
What's the first thing you do when you wake up?
Check my phone.
What's the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Check my phone, omg I hate myself.
Have you texted an ex yet in isolation?
Who's the last person you hugged?
My boyfriend or my doggy if dogs count.
What's your go-to delivery order?
Ground soy burrito or A&W beyond burgers, both with enough chipotle sauce to drown in.
What was the last concert you attended?
Tove Lo in LA.
Where is the first place you'll travel once the world opens up again?
UK or LA.
What website do you visit the most?
Probably gmail [laughs], that's so sad.
What's one thing you've learned this year that you didn't know this time last year?
My worth baby — well, the journey of being confident in my decisions and protecting my energy and not letting people question what I deserve. Very important, glad I learned that.
How have you managed to stay creative in quarantine?
At first it was really hard, I had to really force myself to produce and I almost didn't write at all. But I think for writing, I just needed a second to process my world and how I was living. Production really helped with that, it enabled me to make music and be creative without the emotional drain of forcing yourself to write a song.
How has the state of the world impacted your music-making?
I think just having the time to sit with myself without having to travel and tour. It's really made me think a lot about my life and I think the music I've put and that I'm working on now is reflective of that.
What is the role of a musician in 2021?
In 2021, the community that comes with releasing music people relate to is so important. Getting excited for a new release and sharing it with your friends or just talking about it with other fans really maintains a sense of normality. I think whether it's escapism or relatability, music is something to look forward to and it will always be there. I see the connections happen on my own platforms between people who love my music and it's a really amazing thing to see, I think, even more so as the artist.
Stream Can You Hear Me Now? by ELIO, below.
Photos courtesy of ELIO