“I always knew that I wanted to have a full album,” Charlotte Cardin tells Apple Music, though some of her fans could be forgiven for wondering if they’d ever see one. Ever since the Montreal indie-pop singer-songwriter first won the hearts of Quebec in 2013 with her appearances on La Voix, she’s taken a slow and steady approach to career development, periodically dropping singles and EPs that have allowed her to explore myriad styles while nudging her songwriting to new levels of candor. Cardin’s first proper album, Phoenix, delivers the great payoff to all those years of patient woodshedding, with 13 chameleonic tracks that synthesize her full range of influences—’80s Fleetwood Mac, ’90s R&B, early-2000s Britney Spears, In Rainbows-era Radiohead, modern trap—to soundtrack hot-blooded tales of love, lust, and distrust. “All of these songs are very personal,” Cardin says, “but some of them are more like storytelling than things that actually happened in my life.” Here, Cardin gives us a track-by-track survey of the ashes from which Phoenix has risen. “Phoenix” “This is a song about not being ready to love someone the right way, because you haven't discovered how to love yourself yet. And I find that's such a universal concept: not being able to welcome someone in your life just because your life is so fucking messy at the moment, and you're still looking for things that you haven't figured out yourself.” “Passive Aggressive” “I wrote this with Jason Brando, who basically cowrote the whole album with me, and at the time we made this song, we were both in such weird places in our life—looking back, we were both a little bit passive-aggressive about life in general. It's funny ’cause thinking about, like, where we were in our lives, I remember the specific moment we wrote that opening line [‘Hallelujah, baby/We’re no longer together’]: We were in the studio, and we were both so tired. We had been there for hours and days and we had come up with nothing. But when you're so tired, you're almost hyper—you get this energy rush. And we were like, 'Okay, we need something that sounds a little bit like gospel, something that just like brings people together.' We were freestyling and the ‘hallelujah, baby’ line just came up as a joke. But then the next day, when we listened to it, we were like, 'Oh, this is actually pretty good!'” “Anyone Who Loves Me” “This actually started off as an '80s dance/rap kind of song. It was just a freestyle on this track that [producer] Oclair [aka Gaël Auclair] sent us, but it sounded completely different. And when we listened to the little freestyle we did in the studio, it kind of sounded like a dancy version of Sinéad O'Connor or Cranberries or 4 Non Blondes. It reminded us of very strong, powerful women who had weird, different vibes. And so that's when we decided to write a song about how being a woman comes with huge, constant pressures to be or present yourself a certain way.” “Meaningless” “'Meaningless' is definitely a very sad song on top of a very dancy kind of beat. It’s a song about choosing to do things that are probably really unhealthy and toxic, but it feels like you're finally alive when you do them. So it's not necessarily a song about addiction, but it can be about addiction, or it can be about relationships that just fuck you up because they’re so intense and so good at the same time. I feel like everyone has one of those things that you kind of cling to your whole life because you'd rather choose that unhealthy thing that makes you feel really good about yourself than to just be numb and go through a calm, planned-out life.” “Daddy” “When we wrote the song, we were thinking of that moment where you're at a bar and flirting with someone but then you know that this person also has another crush that's in the room and they might be seeing you hitting on that person and you're just like, ‘Fuck it—I'm going for it and I'm gonna win this person over.’” “Sex to Me” “I grew up listening to Britney Spears’ ‘Slave 4 U’ and Christina Aguilera—all these very provocative, sexual songs. And with this one, it was like, ‘What if we go fully in that direction and just be reckless?’” “Good Girl” “I wrote this song like four years ago, so it sounds like my older songs. I like the fact that I have a song like this on my album, because it reminds me of the first songs that I wrote as a teenager. It’s about being in a toxic relationship and being completely blinded by something that's obviously unhealthy.” “Sad Girl” “This has very autobiographical parts, but they’re definitely exaggerated. It's about that moment where you've been dumped for the first time, and you've never felt that way before, and you’re just like, ‘What the hell—you dumped me?' You’re almost more angry than sad, because it was supposed to be the other way around!” “Xoxo” “This is actually my own voice pitched down. It happened as an accident. We had recorded the song and the pitch was much too high, which is not in my favorite range. And so we just pitched it down to hear what it would sound like, and we were like, ‘Oh my god, it sounds so cool.’ So we kept it. And then we changed the story a little bit, so it became about a man apologizing for cheating on his girlfriend. And then in the chorus, I'm answering him, and saying, ‘Send my love to all of your girls, I’m over you, I don't care.’ So they're kind of talking back and forth.” “Oceans” “'Oceans' was so hard to write. It took months. We wrote verses, and then we wrote bridges, and then we wrote choruses, and you can really hear that in the song: It's a very surprising mix of genres. At one point we almost didn't put it on the album, but there's something that I really like about it, because it's very representative of a moment in my life. I was and still am in a long-distance relationship, so the whole messy process of piecing the song together kind of makes sense with the theme of the song—like, ‘We get to see each other for a second, but I've spent all the money I have on my plane ticket, and now there's a pandemic and I can't see you.’ The whole concept of the song kind of goes with the fact it was such a struggle to write.” “Sun Goes Down (Buddy)” “This is definitely the most personal song I've ever written. It's actually about a friend who was going through a really hard time as he was struggling with addiction and anxiety and mental-health problems. I feel like everyone knows this one person who you want to help, because everything is so much harder for them than it is for other people. Thank god my friend is doing so well now, but this is a song about that moment where it was like, ‘I might lose this person that I love, and I just want him to know that he's not struggling alone.’” “Romeo” “This is also a very personal song. It's about the first moments that I spent with my boyfriend. We've been together for years now, but when we first started dating, we would listen to Radiohead’s ‘House of Cards’ all the time together—that was our song. So this is about those moments listening to Radiohead, and being like, ‘This is just magical,’ and realizing, ‘Okay, I think you're the one, like, I think you're my human.’” “Je Quitte” “‘Je quitte’ means ‘I'm leaving.’ It's a song about needing a break. The chorus says, ‘I'm leaving, but I'm not leaving you.’ It's just like, ‘I need to go for a walk, or go away for a weekend, or I just need to not be with you right now,’ even though you still love that person. But in that moment, you just need to leave or else you’ll punch your bedroom wall.”

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