Charli XCX is the world’s coolest party girl on ‘BRAT’

Date:

Atlantic Records.

Similar artists: SOPHIE, A.G. Cook, Kim Petras
Recommended tracks: “Club classics,” “Sympathy is a knife,” “365,” “B2b”

Charli XCX is keenly aware that her “legacy is undebated.” On her sixth studio album BRAT, the singer cloaks her insecurities, ambitions and “it girl” ruminations in insatiable electro pop that pulses, booms and thuds in a “party girl” manner.

“I’m your favorite reference, baby,” is the second line that introduces listeners to the world of BRAT, which has perhaps become XCX’s most anticipated release to date. After taking the sonic road less traveled on earlier projects such as her debut 2013 LP True Romance and her 2016 EP Vroom Vroom, XCX has settled into her spot as the leader of hyperpop music. Though she hasn’t always been at the forefront of popular culture, her signature electronic pop has defined a sub-genre of music while simultaneously influencing the mainstream. All of which is to say that, yes, she likely is indeed your favorite reference whether you realize it or not. 

Where her 2022 album CRASH opted for refined, creamy-smooth pop confections, BRAT pivots back to the lyrical and sonic ambivalence of 2020’s “how i’m feeling now.” The songs on BRAT might rhyme here and there, but they are largely stream of consciousness thoughts shared in a manner similar to that of a series of texts sent to a friend. Unrefined at times, lines such as “Why I wanna buy a gun/Why I wanna shoot myself,” and “Should I stop my birth control?/’Cause my career feels so small in the existential scheme of it all,” are joltingly honest admissions that contrast the “brattier” moments on the record. 

The dichotomy of bratty versus perturbed follows throughout the entire album, both in attitude and sound. Amid the promotional cycle for the album, XCX has sported both an apathetic “cooler than you” attitude, and one astutely aware of her own insecurities and fears. She has brandished both as a tool to humanize her pop persona further, while maintaining the essence of aspirational unattainability found in the divas of the early aughts. This duality emphasizes her acknowledgement that even the fiercest of divas sometimes “feel embarrassed when I call up the paparazzi.”

Honoring her unashamed prima donna side are songs such as the cocky “Von dutch,” the bad girl anthem “Mean girls” and “Girl, so confusing,” which tackles an anonymous tension between XCX and another entertainer in the industry (Lorde and Marina have each respectively been speculated to be possible subjects). Blaring and distorted synth back these celebrations of confidence as bouncy bass-lines keep things constantly moving. In the middle of “Mean girls,” a piano solo takes over before added 808 claps and jittery voice layering builds into the chorus once more. The flurry of instruments shouldn’t jive so well together, and yet the result is somehow crisp and dizzyingly infectious. Of course, one cannot forget the instantly classic (no pun intended) “Club classics,” which offers some of the finest thudding and brash declarations found on the album (“When I go to the club, I wanna hear those club classics/Club classics, club, club classics/Yeah, I wanna dance to me, I wanna dance to A. G.”).

In XCX’s more vulnerable moments, her fears and worries are brutally honest but wrapped in juicy synth croaks that nervously skate back and forth. Take the elastic synth pulse of “Sympathy is a knife,” for example, which sounds just as sonically anxious as the songs lyrics do. “So I” pays tribute to the late producer and artist SOPHIE in a cool-toned piano-sounding synth that offers a breather in the midst of the chaos. The most gravely confessional song on the album, “I think about it all the time,” explores the idea of motherhood through poignant contemplations such as “Would it make me miss all my freedom?/I think about it all the time.” 

But of course, even amid these moments of confliction and uncertainty, XCX makes sure to remind listeners that she’s still on top. Her moments of self-assured boasting become all the more resonant given their contrast to her confessions of insecurity, which paint the portrait of an artist facing the self doubt that plagues just about everybody. In capping things off, she revisits the instrumental from the start of the album and reworks it into a deliciously dizzying sonic freakout that threatens, “Who the fuck are you?” before making clear, “I’m a brat when I’m bumpin’ that.” Say goodbye to hot girl summer and prepare for brat girl summer because it’s obvious, XCX is bound to become “your number one.”

Don’t miss Charli XCX on tour this fall a part of her SWEAT Tour with Troye Sivan.

Keep up with Charli XCX: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook // Website

Avery Heeringa
Avery Heeringa
Avery Heeringa recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago where he studied communication and journalism. He is passionate about all things entertainment and popular culture. When not writing about music, he can be found in the aisles at his local record store or discussing new album releases with his friends.

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