Brat Summer has commenced: A Review of Charli xcx's new album


Ruby Thorpe reviews BRAT, Charli xcx’s seventh album, and the deluxe edition which have hit the media by storm

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Image by Aidan Zamari

By Ruby Thorpe

BRAT, the long-awaited Charli xcx album has been named the best pop album of 2024 so far after its release on 7 June… and I could not agree more. The marketing for this album has been executed perfectly, so much so, that Charli is now directly associated with the colour neon green. The first single, ‘Von dutch’, was released on 29 February and was immediately all over everyone’s screens, as well as the three singles released in the run up to BRAT’s release. Throughout this album, she is very self-referential so even with the upbeat, seemingly fun tone to the album, she looks at her successful career and how it has impacted her relationships, mental health and sense of self. This review looks at both BRAT and the three extra songs released in the deluxe album brat and it’s the same but there’s three more songs so it’s not on 10 June.

The album opens with the last released single, ‘360’ which is a perfect introduction with Charli introducing herself confidently as an “icon” whose “legacy is undefeated”. This confidence, although seems egotistical, is perfectly correct as she has one of the biggest pop careers of the past ten years. Her influence has been seen even before the release of her first album with her and Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’ and her collaboration with Iggy Azalea on ‘Fancy’. Since then she has been nominated for nearly 100 awards for her music including Best British Female Artist at the NME Awards.

This confidence is similarly reflected in other songs on this album like ‘Club classics’, ‘B2b’ and ‘Von Dutch’ where she states that “it’s okay to just admit that you’re jealous of me”. These songs all have a similar theme and are released as obvious clubbing hits, however, there is a lot more depth to this album than the club culture, fame, and lavish lifestyle Charli is presenting in her four upbeat singles.

Additionally, ‘Sympathy is a knife’ and ‘Mean girls’ are very current tracks with pop culture references and gossip. The former track talks about someone who was dating one of the members of The 1975 who she feels uneasy about but is also jealous of. In light of the Matty Healy and Taylor Swift dating rumours, this has obviously caused some speculation. ‘Mean girls’ also seems to refer to one individual, and provides a satirical take of the ‘it-girl’ model so many people aspire to reach, complete with a Lana Del Rey obsession and daddy issues. One moment that I loved, in particular, was the piano break in the middle of ‘Mean girls’. It provided such a different sound to the track but somehow worked so perfectly, also exemplifying George Daniel’s influence with the very 1975-esque sound.

Although Charli oozes confidence in some songs, other tracks like ‘I think about it all the time’ and ‘I might say something stupid’ are much more personal and are the two tracks on BRAT with a much different sound. Her vulnerability is sandwiched between hits like ‘Talk talk’ and ‘365’, almost like she did not want us to pay much attention to these messages. Within these short interludes, Charli looks into her feelings of imposter syndrome within the music industry as well as her struggle in balancing the value between her career and having a family. These provide a different perspective to the album and allows the audience to really engage with Charli’s anxieties around her balance between her work and her personal life.

These themes are perpetuated further, but less explicitly, in other tracks like ‘Rewind’, ‘Girl, so confusing’, and ‘Apple. She speaks of how media and popularity have worsened her insecurities over time in ‘Rewind’ and how the miscommunication within her relationships have created ‘rotten’ apples. Despite these heavy topics, the ‘90s dance music style with heavy bass and vocal fry keeps the momentum of the album, which never dies down.

Parts of BRAT are also an homage to the loved ones in Charli’s life, with frequent references to her new fiancé, George Daniel (drummer in The 1975), as well A. G. Cook, and The Dare who are producers on this album. Most importantly, however, her late close friend and inspiration, SOPHIE, is mentioned in ‘Club classics’ and is the focus of ‘So I’. This is a heartfelt track about missing SOPHIE and paying homage to her impact on Charli’s music, something she has always been very vocal about over recent years.

‘365’, a remix of ‘360’, allows BRAT to be brought to a close seamlessly but also blend into the deluxe tracks of ‘Hello goodbye’, ‘Guess’ and ‘Spring breakers’. The latter of which was highly demanded after its initial place on her promotional sets and referenced to her backlog. I think these extra tracks really contribute to the album, especially with immediate hits of ‘Guess’ and ‘Spring breakers’. However, I do think these could have been in the initial release and still work very well, I do not think the deluxe album is necessary without other remixes and songs that were very popular like her remix of ‘365’ with Shygirl.

BRAT has taken the world by storm over the past week since its release and is definitely deserving of the attention as Charli is successfully moving towards her aim of reviving club music. The way this album was marketed really contributed to its popularity with the aesthetics of the album cover and the music combined exuding the smell of cigarette smoke and sweaty, overcrowded clubs. The biggest feat is being able to simultaneously celebrate club music while paying reverence to her loved ones and successful career. Overall, Charli xcx has managed to create both a sentimental and sexy seventh album laced with references to her personal life and their influence on her music today.