It’s been a week since the release of brat, Charli XCX’s eagerly awaited eighth album. In the last seven days, the (gay) world has been turned upside down by the fun buzz the album has generated. The former METAL cover star’s  alent isn’t static; it’s constantly evolving. Judging by the remixes of “Von Dutch” and “360” featuring Addison Rae and A.G. Cook, and Robyn & Yung Yung respectively, it’s clear that Charli is constantly refining her music. Whenever she wants, she can revisit her songs and add new layers, creating new versions that expand her imagery.
brat is the long-awaited follow-up to 2022’s Crash, which reached No. 1 on the official UK album chart, and it has exceeded all expectations. It’s an exhilarating club record built around high art references and social commentary, marking a new era both musically and visually. In some ways, these cultural references in her lyrics aren’t new. To understand Charli XCX’s universe, you must recognize the context of a down-to-earth pop star whose work is distinctly countercultural.
But beyond that, Charli is an impressive songwriter who once again delivers a set of songs that capture her essence in these new times, with references that are topical and contemporary. brat is not only rich in lyrical commentary but also serves as a statement for a generation of artists making a specific kind of pop music. The album’s introduction is one of the strongest in her singles history: the hit Von Dutch is a brash, synth-laden first taste of the album. Recent releases like Club classics, an amazing song to both dance to and honour her friends/peers, and B2b, along with the super pop 360, are some of the best tracks we’ve heard this year.
However, brat is much more than its singles. In Sympathy is a knife, she tells an honest story about jealousy and its accompanying feelings, with relentless production that shines brilliantly. brat’s beats are strong and forceful, enhancing its impact. Even in the most vulnerable moments, Charli invites us to dance with her. At other times, she lowers her tone to open her heart. I might say something stupid almost sounds like a Radiohead song brought to the present, where a personal story and the tale of a pop star who “doesn’t know if she belongs here anymore” coexist. It’s no coincidence that the sounds related to partying and clubbing serve as a political statement. The album perfectly combines raw honesty and lyrical irony, suggesting that in times when work and life are tough, the club is a new space for counterculture, perhaps the last refuge for individuality.
Talk talk is a story about a secret love that takes place in the club, with one of the simplest yet most powerful choruses we’ve heard recently. Everything is romantic is the gem of the album, the pinnacle of her work, diving into pop culture’s most contemporary manifestations. The artist creates a set of images depicting scenes, outfits, and aesthetics that capture the essence of millennials and Gen Z, reflecting the modern culture of working-class society. Pure contemporary poetry.
Rewind is a blast from the past, with Charli recalling when she “used to record CDs full of songs she didn’t know, and used to sit in her room, putting polish on her toes.” She recently confessed that American singer Uffie inspired her musical career, and Rewind seems influenced by Uffie as well—that incredible bridge! The song parallels Charli the girl and the pop star: ““I used to never think about Billboard / But now, I’ve started thinking again / Wondering ‘bout whether I think I deserve commercial success.”
The most emotional track is undoubtedly So I, dedicated to SOPHIE, the Scottish music producer, songwriter, and DJ who was a vanguard of this generation’s pop music and who sadly passed away in 2021. Charli and SOPHIE shared a strong bond, both belonging to a scene redefining pop music’s structure and sound, known as hyperpop. Charli talked about SOPHIE’s influence on her in a very interesting Apple Music interview last year. So I pays tribute to SOPHIE, acknowledging her support and missing her. The song also nods to one of her iconic songs, It’s Ok to Cry.
Other songs on the album reflect on feminism and critique how girls’ behavior is scrutinized. In Mean Girls, Charli describes how references and accessories can shape identity: “In the sheer white dress, wearing last night’s makeup / All coquette-ish in the pictures with the flash on / Worships Lana Del Rey in her AirPods, yeah.” Girl It’s So Confusing tackles sisterhood, moving beyond individual responsibility and reflecting on what it means to be a girl today. In a way, it sounds like her interpretation of Madonna’s What It Feels Like for a Girl.
brat is incoherent, gay Twitter-coded, and flaunts last season’s outfits as a statement. It embodies remix culture and pop music because it’s intertwined with pop culture. brat is sarcasm in all seriousness. It cements Charli XCX as one of the greatest musicians in current pop, a position she already held. The essence of the album is reminiscent of Hudson Mohawke’s Cry Sugar; both efforts describe a new generation’s language, whose existence is an act of resistance in a hyper-capitalist world where culture has become a sad, ironic mass-meme.
Charli is pop music’s power bottom, and brat is her milestone. Her songwriting skills and ability to capture cultural evolution are evident in her music. Charli is a friend to her friends, part of the scene she celebrates, but she also invites you and your friends to have fun while observing this decadent world. Her lasting impact was cemented last year when she was honoured with the Visionary Award at the annual Ivor Novellos ceremony in London, the Powerhouse Award at Billboard’s Women In Music ceremony in March, and the ASCAP Global Impact Award last month.
As ravey as the album sounds, there are moments for reflection on today’s music, arts, social networks, TV, celebrity culture, and fashion while waiting in line for the club toilet and making new (best) friends. brat is her own Party Monster, a continuation of her 2014 hit Break the Rules. The bass is even stronger now, and she’s still breaking the rules. This album is a non-stop journey through hyperpop, EDM, garage beats, techno, and electronic music in one night out.
But most importantly, this album gives us FUN, and we need that fun right now. brat was set to top the UK charts last week until Taylor Swift released another version of her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, exclusively for 24 hours in the UK. This move led to brat reaching number 2 on the charts. Some say it’s outrageous, but Charli XCX’s power goes beyond charts and diamonds. She’s a pop star who created an album with her fans during the pandemic, made Vroom Vroom, drives a vintage white Mercedes, and has built a career on generosity. It’s okay to admit she’s the fantasy. We’re obsessed, let’s confess it because it’s obvious: she’s our number one. Cult classic, but still pop.