Charli XCX – ‘Brat’ review: her most introspective work yet

On her sixth album, the British pop star gets vulnerable and candid – without compromising on club-ready beats

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In the months leading up to Charli XCX’s sixth album, ‘Brat’, things seemed like business as usual for the British pop star. She previewed the record with a series of singles that, while far from predictable, felt like natural extensions of the artistry she’s delivered over the years so far. ‘B2b’ found her telling a lover to go back to their previous partner over pounding beats, and ‘Club Classics’ merged industrial, house, and a bratty lyrical flow that had the singer declaring: “Yeah, I wanna dance to me, me, me, me, me / When I go to the club, club, club, club, club.” 

The two biggest singles of the pack were even more XCX. The hyperpop ‘360’ compared its creator to Julia Fox (“I’m everywhere / I’m so Julia”) while reminding the world she doesn’t “fucking care what you think”. ‘Von Dutch’ – which the star has described as the album’s only diss track – kicked this era off in supreme form, revving synths taking XCX gliding to higher ground. 

If you’re expecting the rest of ‘Brat’’s tracklist to follow a similar pattern, you’d be wrong. Instead, XCX uses the rest of the record to balance more club-ready bangers with some of her most introspective and vulnerable work yet. This is an album that walks a tightrope between hedonistic escapism and facing up to the cold realities that can plague you, particularly as you leave your twenties and societal pressure to grow up and settle down mounts. 

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Exploring those themes doesn’t mean XCX leaves the dancefloor behind in those moments, though. ‘Rewind’ is set to sharp, pulsating beats as the star reflects on the insecurities and “doubts that keep running through my mind”, creating an electronic gem for dancing away the anxieties to. The concerns Charli shares here are sometimes universal (“I’m always thinking about my weight”) and sometimes specific to pop stars – like Billboard chart placings – but her desire to “rewind” to a “simpler time” is consistently relatable. 

‘So I’ is a heartfelt dedication to SOPHIE – a close friend of XCX’s – in which she pays tribute to the late star. “You had a power like a lightning strike,” she sings over sparse, shining synths, later detailing the encouragement and inspiration she got from the producer. ‘I Think About It All The Time’ brings the beats back as XCX dances with the idea of motherhood and the ticking of the biological clock. “I think about it all the time / That I might run out of time,” she admits. “But I finally met my baby / And a baby might be mine.” It’s candid – not least when she recalls having a conversation about stopping her birth control – and completely refreshing. 

Ahead of ‘Brat’’s release, the singer addressed speculation that the record would be packed with diss tracks. Instead of lashing out at others, though, this album is a thoughtful exploration of relationships – both with others and herself. When ‘Girl, so confusing’ tackles a messy connection with a peer, it does so by trying to find common ground in the complex web of girlhood and how society has raised us to see other women as competition. It’s an approach that’s far from the album’s title, in fact, but a big part of why this album shines so strongly – it’s real, raw and considerately done. 

REVIEW OVERVIEW
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charli-xcx-brat-review-her-most-introspective-work-yetReleased 7 June 2024

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