Album Review

Charli XCX - BRAT

An unmistakable representation of her very core.

Charli XCX - BRAT

“I’m famous but not quite,” proclaims Charli XCX over the unique balladry of the disarming ‘I might say something stupid’, a moment that immediately dispels the notion that ‘BRAT’ - the singer’s sixth studio album - is going to play out like any other club record. It’s an incredibly fitting statement for an artist who hit the top of the charts with 2022’s ‘CRASH’, landed a track on pop’s soundtrack of the decade for Barbie, yet whose affiliations with the comparably underground and now defunct label and collective PC Music and their shared love of musical unpredictability define them far better. Charli may have faced a fork in the road with ‘CRASH’ propping open the door for pop mega-stardom, but ‘BRAT’ unfolds as an unmistakable representation of her very core; an exhilarating ode to the multiple facets of club culture that have formed the foundations for everything Charli has become over the best part of two decades.

As she sings “sometimes I just want to rewind,” over an unapologetically heavy digital soundscape, her mutually shared debt to pioneering producers and friends AG Cook and Danny L Harle shines brightest. ‘So I’ takes every page from the rulebook that iconic musical powerhouse SOPHIE so brilliantly ripped up prior to her untimely death in 2021 for what is one of the most fitting posthumous homages in recent memory, Charli landing a complex balance between celebration of sound and lyrical heartbreak: “You always said it’s ok to cry, so I know I can.” This candour sits alongside the album’s heaviest calls to underground dancefloors - ‘Club classics’ and ‘B2b’ - which, at opposite ends of the record, pull a thread from the past to the present, the latter living up to its name with jarring precision. Yet even in these moments, Charli sends her vulnerability firmly to the forefront. “I don’t want to feel fearless,” she sings on a record that – at least musically – presents her as just that.

The album is fundamentally bookended by love letters to raves and everything that comes with them, the thunderous ‘365’ pushing opener ‘360’ to levels set to make any heads with a conservative mindset spin. And that’s the real joy here: it’s hedonistic to a tee, and an exhilarating ride through the highs and lows of going ‘out out’, whether the fundamental friendships and relationships that are formed and lost, putting the world to rights in the dark corners of clubs, or the pure ecstasy of an unrelenting dancefloor. If ‘BRAT’ will ultimately push Charli XCX into mainstream pop’s top tier still remains to be seen, but it absolutely guarantees the best night out of your life. 

Tags: Charli XCX, Reviews, Album Reviews

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