Charli XCX
Brat


5.0
classic

Review

by Dakota West Foss STAFF
June 10th, 2024 | 715 replies


Release Date: 06/07/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: POP 3

Thank god Charli XCX flopped.

The lack of success that followed her early hits like “I Love It” and “Boom Clap” would be enough to stall and break most artists, but one Charlotte Emma Aitchison would instead use it as her supervillain origin story. She chose, then, to sit at the weird kids table and work with rising underground stars in the burgeoning PC Music scene. Most famous among these collaborations was “Vroom Vroom," a song that served as a reintroduction of sorts and a clarification of intent. Mocked for its lack of subtlety and cohesion, the song would then go on to experience one of the impressive reappraisals in recent memory that has, in the ensuing decade, found previous critics writing apology thinkpieces and any would-be copycats playing catch-up to this day. Pop 2 and Charli -two fitting titles if there ever were ones- completed this metamorphosis with a veritable who’s-who on the periphery of stardom to accompany this proclamation of a bold new vision for pop. How I’m Feeling Now, slapped together in a matter of weeks due to COVID-19 lockdowns, became the quarantine album. 2022’s Crash, which was a slight downturn, still produced a collection of songs that others would trade an entire career for.

How many times does Charli XCX have to split an atom before we can just admit that she is the greatest working pop star?

brat -her latest and greatest effort yet- uses the ensuing pyrotechnics to light a parliament on the catwalk that straddles the line of pop’s past and future, while luxuriating on that exact question. “It’s okay to admit that you’re jealous of me,” she urges on lead single “Von Dutch,” which may as well be the thesis statement of a record whose cover is aggressively green. It’s hard to argue when she hypnotically taunts “I’m your number one” and “I want to dance to me me me me” -me too! But these braggadocious claims are not nearly as conceited as they initially scan, becoming more pleas and bids at self-assurance as the record reveals feelings of futility for failing to reach Main Pop Girl levels of success despite a decade-plus of acclaim and work. “Sympathy is a knife” finds her admitting that a girl who suspiciously matches Taylor Swift’s description “taps her insecurities” and that she “couldn’t even be her if [she] tried.”*

*In light of Swift’s recent material, however, I’d argue that’s a good thing.

This is, in fact, Charli’s most confessional album yet, pulling back the curtain to a far greater degree than before. “I might say something stupid” sounds like an SNES funeral dirge, giving shape to intrusive thoughts of worthlessness that extend beyond the world of music (“Wear these clothes as disguise [...] Guess I’m a mess and play the role”). “Rewind” finds her pining for simpler days, when she didn’t worry about her face shape, chart placement, or, in a bit of hilarious candor that teeters on inside baseball, feeling embarrassed about calling the paparazzi on herself -“everyone else does it constantly.” “So I” is a brittle one-way conversation with late-collaborator SOPHIE, where she mourns and continues to look for guidance (“When I make songs, I remember/Things you’d suggest, ‘make it faster’”).

Still, this isn’t a journal entry, it’s a pop album. Charli has always understood that a good pop song is about capturing the vibrancy of the moment, and you can sell just about any line with enough conviction and a hook that sticks like honey. Sure, it’s interesting hearing some of the sultry details of the romantic rendezvous in Italy with now-fiance George Daniel, but it stands as a mere component to how bonkers of a track “Everything is romantic” is. Its futuristic bloops and old-Hollywood strings are impossible to nail down, even after a dozen listens, and culminate in a climax that sounds like an apocalyptic version How I’m Feeling Now’s “party 4 u.” The same can be said about “Mean girls,” whose subject matter is far more dubious (although, it’s a testament to Charli’s restraint that she somehow hasn’t already had a song about the Red Scare podcast). It matters little in the face of such a transcendent production that caused multiple friends of mine to send the same one-word text upon release: “piano!”

It’s hard not to feel downright giddy during moments like that, and wonder what sort of black magic Charli and her collaborators conducted to make these songs so catchy and diabolically layered. There are no misses among the album’s fifteen* tracks, with each containing at least one moment that makes you want to jump up and cheer or break down and cry. Even the album’s most basic song, “Talk Talk,” is positively transcendent, when it ups the ante of its simple request (“I wish you’d just talk to me”) to impossible, deliriously romantic heights (“talk to me in french/talk to me in spanish/talk to me in your own made-up language/doesn’t matter if I understand it”). It’s the album’s most grounded track, however, that absolutely breaks me. “I think about it all the time” finds Charli weighing the possibility of motherhood against her career. She refuses any hardline conclusions on the matter, throwing the idea out there (“Would it give my life a new purpose? I think about it all the time”). She practically can’t get the words out fast enough when bathing in the joy of her friends’ newfound parenthood -“she’s a radiant mother and he’s a beautiful father”- that might quietly be the sweetest moment in her career. What better way to convey the song’s title than reducing her thoughts to merely humming the melody?

* Now eighteen, thanks to a deluxe edition that is somehow more exhilarating. “Spring Breakers” makes me want to run through a wall and “Hello goodbye” is as good as a Kero Kero Bonito impression gets

Hilariously, the album ends on an ode to coke. Girlhood is a spectrum, I guess. “360” opens the album by wondering if Charli likes what she sees in the mirror; “365” finds her doing lines off it. It’s a brilliant reveal, twisting the cutesy, catchy hook into a demonic and rousing proclamation that sounds as exhilarating as an actual come-up. Collaborators AG Cook and Cirkut empty the clip of every possible production trick as Charli commands “keep bumpin’ that.” It’s impossible to not oblige.

brat feels like the culmination of a hard-fought career; a substantial moment in the greater canon of pop. It makes me want to dance. It makes me want to cry. It makes me want to shout its cutesy and vulnerable lyrics while jumping on the bed (or make dial-up songs when it veers into territory that I cannot compute). I want to use anything within arm’s reach as a microphone. What else could a pop album possibly do? Charli has somehow squared circle of reconciling universal accessibility with once again upping the ante on her vision of pop’s future. She’s not sitting on fences, she’s sitting on her throne and showing once again how things should be done. On 2017’s Pop 2, Charli laid out the manifesto. It’s 2024: Katy Perry is posting pictures squatting in a corner, pretending to do coke; Camila Cabello is pawing at the door to be let inside. There are many imitators, but there’s only one Charli. And she’s a brat.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Odal
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


2203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sorry to say that if you think the album art is bad, you are wrong.

DoofDoof
June 10th 2024


15232 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

best thing about it ;)

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


60874 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good rev, hits all the key points and misses only that *this album's specific blend of deadpan confessionalism and fractured earworms as a whole is good as a Kero Kero Bonito impression gets

Odal
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


2203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The next time Charli does a project where she flaunts her rolodex, I hope KKB get the call.



rington (remix) is the anthem of an entire species, and the world could use more that now more than ever

jrlikestodance
June 10th 2024


1175 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Review wins album art wins album wins Odal W

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


60874 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It could, but it's also been in greater need of more Time n Place style 'honest' pop with a similar ratio of ecstatic bangers to complex self-mappings ever since KKB dropped that record. This is the first thing I've heard since that has really aced that brief (not that it sounds any less distinctively Charli for it)

although ig you easily could Softscars

anyway, easily the best pop of the year + her best so far lfg

Mort.
June 10th 2024


25559 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

didnt realise it had been so long since kero kero bonitos last lp damn



almost forgot about them



and yeah this rules etc etc

Odal
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


2203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Think they've been toiling away in the studio, so I wouldn't be surprised if they had an album drop before the end of the year

zakalwe
June 10th 2024


39147 Comments


Shut ya prattle John

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


5504 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

excellent read dakota west foss u have an appropriately bratty name

nightbringer
June 10th 2024


2730 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Can't get on with her artistic choices.

tyman128
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


4539 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fantastic review, and a fantastic album

granitenotebook
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


1272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love this review, the line about mirrors was so good

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
June 10th 2024


8349 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album owns and nice read

Odal
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


2203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!



Shoutout to tyman for some help. Writer's block has been rough

Cormano
June 10th 2024


4170 Comments


amazing review amazing record



Cormano
June 10th 2024


4170 Comments


tho I thought we would see a colton diss or two

Odal
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


2203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Believe you me, it was tempting

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


10267 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great write up

Slex
June 10th 2024


16647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The bass drop in 365 is better than other people's entire careers



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