Charli XCX – Brat

A subversive and conceptual body of work...

When Charli XCX landed her first gig, it was a warehouse rave in Hackney Wick. Marking her introduction to a new corner of nightlife, the avant-pop figure has shared a unique relationship with the dancefloor ever since, flitting between commercial success and the underground.

If 2022’s ‘CRASH’ set out to be the ‘perfect’ pop record, a tongue-in-cheek finale to her lengthy record deal with Asylum Records, then Charli’s sixth studio album ‘BRAT’ ushers a revolt back to her roots. Across fifteen tracks, the visionary stretches her artistry in all its forms; the production is all the more future-facing, the songwriting strikes with precision and the visuals are, as one could only expect, definitive of a new era.

Charli’s intrigue for pushing the limit appears effervescent, swapping out ‘CRASH’s 80s cool for big, slept-in hair, piercing eye looks and chic, muted fits. Elements of grunge, glam-rock and luxury all play their part, spilling into the sonics of her next chapter. On the one hand, ‘BRAT’ serves as a hedonistic flurry, charging itself with self-assertion and a distinct, 2010’s energy. Tracks like ‘Von Dutch’ are unabashed in their dizzying basslines, injecting each hook with a punchy, metallic grit. Quick to be snapped up by the TikTok mob, Charli feeds into her virality by inviting it-girl Addison Rae for a sassy, tag team remix, all the meanwhile appeasing to dubstep nostalgia with a Skream and Benga refix. In a similar fashion, ‘Club classics’ launches one of her most rave-ready offerings yet, a room one banger which is wobbly, anthemic and glitzy, all at once.

Yet, there’s much more to ‘BRAT’ than after-hours escapism, which is ultimately used as a tool to emphasise the anxious vulnerabilities that weave together the record. Take ‘Sympathy is a knife’, the first instance of introspection on the record where Charli investigates self-comparison and insecurities through a turbulent,synth-heavy production. Followed up by the stripped-back, downtempo ‘I might say something stupid’, the artist drops a spotlight on her lyricism in a more bold manner, crooning: “I don’t know if I belong here anymore…”

Elsewhere, the album presents ambitious, cross-genre experimentation, notably on ‘Everything is romantic’. Opening with lush, cinematic string sections, Charli skips between hyper-pop pitches and abrasive, techno stylings, piecing together a Berlin-twisted fantasy. Swooping into the glitching and nostalgic ‘Rewind’, the artist propels her songwriting across the record, leaning into a more direct, journal-entry style format. Whether in the anxious delivery of ‘I think about it all the time’, where the artist ruminates over motherhood or the complexities of ‘Girl, so confusing’, the singer tackles her subjects with a distilled perspective. Lyrically, Charli’s strengths are best captured by the incredibly personal and moving ‘So I’, a tribute to close friend and collaborator SOPHIE first previewed at Billboard Women in Music 2024.

Entering the final leg of ‘BRAT’ with a stroke of genius, ‘Mean girls’ is a unique addition to Charli’s discography, a daring highlight when it comes to production. Pairing the album’s driving basslines with interjections of euphoric, tumbling piano keys, the track struts with empowered euphoria. Coming full circle with ‘365’, a complimentary twist on star-studded opener ‘360’, ‘BRAT’ is determined to keep the night going, ramping up the energy one, final time.

On her sixth studio album, Charli XCX comfortably reaches into the extremes of her catalogue thus far, presenting one of her most subversive and conceptual bodies of work to date. From beginning to end, ‘BRAT’ is an album that seeks to drown out the noise, only to find that there’s only so much that partying can remedy. Tears, for all types of reasons, are well and truly in the club, and we’re so here for it.

9/10

Words: Ana Lamond

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