On the 7th June 2024, Charli XCX’s highly anticipated sixth studio album Brat finally dropped from the Boiler Room into our ears, heralding the beginning of hot girl summer for all Angels. While her last full length release, Crash (2022) aimed for commercial success, Brat revisits her roots in electronic dance music. Reminiscent of her earlier works, Brat is full of dance interpolations, crafty autotune and ear-rattling synths, highlighting Charli’s signature style. 

Despite the album’s aggressively green vibrance, Brat is one of her most vulnerable records yet. Beneath the miniskirts, cigarettes, and sexual fantasies lies an anxious woman battling her insecurities, complex relationships and declining celebrity status. Lyrically, Brat was not what I initially expected, given that the singles (‘Von dutch’, ‘B2B’, ‘Club classics’, and ‘360’) exuded sexy confidence and glamour, showcasing Charli’s self-assured persona. Yet, the other tracks that emerge are anything but. Instead, the album feels like a trip to the nightclub, complete both with moments of sweaty seductive dancing and emotional rants in bathroom cubicles. 

One of the widely explored themes in the album is jealousy. Both ‘Sympathy is a knife’ and ‘Girl, so confusing’ delve into Charli’s complicated, competitive, relationships with other women and how she feels obscured by the insecurities that arise from comparing herself to them. In ‘Sympathy is a knife’, she laments, “I couldn’t even be her if I tried” and, referring to the mystery girl, begs “I don’t wanna see her backstage at my boyfriend’s show / fingers crossed behind my back, hope they break up quick”. Charli describes being crushed by overwhelming paranoia, leading to intrusive thoughts such as wanting to “buy a gun” and “shoot myself”. It’s a constant battle between giving into her self-destructive thoughts and begrudgingly accepting sympathy from others – a feeling she seems to loathe above all. This raw honesty is relatable, especially for those of us like Charli who project a brave, party-girl persona to conceal their fears of being perceived as vulnerable. 

‘Girl, so confusing’ has gained traction due to its relation to fellow singer Lorde. Charli sings about being constantly compared to a girl with “the same hair” who’s “all about writing poems”; trying to unpack a friendship with someone she both admires and envies. This initial theory was not unreasonable and was later confirmed when Lorde put her own two cents in for the remix, where she expresses similar worries about how she is perceived. For many years, the two singers have been pitted against each other (with many even confusing the pair due to their similarities), particularly during the peak of Lorde’s success with her single ‘Royals’. Despite these rumours, ‘Girl, so confusing’ certainly isn’t a diss track. Rather, it provides insight into how women are often placed in competition with each other while acknowledging that they are allowed to be messy and flawed. It is refreshing for women, especially artists, to freely explore such controversial topics. This admission of insecurity is further echoed in ‘So I’, a heartfelt ballad about late singer SOPHIE and the regrets Charli has about their friendship.  

We see similarly introspective tracks sprinkled throughout the rest of the record. ‘I might say something stupid’, sandwiched between two upbeat dance beats, gives us another glimpse into her feelings of inferiority around her celebrity status. She sings that “I don’t feel like nothing special” and that “I’m famous but not quite”, tapping into her anxiety that she may not be as important as she once was. Along with ‘I think about it all the time’ which delves into her worries about whether she will be able to experience motherhood, these two tracks provide her honest thoughts on her life’s purpose. With raw vocals – almost as if she’s whispering into our ears – we feel directly let into her deepest apprehensions. However, the stripped-back instrumental makes it feel more like a diary entry rather than a song made for casual listening.

The songs that I’ve enjoyed the most, however, are the quintessential club tracks. With her singles among my favourites, it’s no surprise that I’ve enjoyed similar sounds in ‘Talk talk’, ‘Everything is romantic’, ‘Rewind’, and my top track, ‘365’. The album structure is meticulously crafted, beginning with ‘360’, which makes me feel like the perfect it-girl whenever I’m strutting around town. The immediate switch into ‘Club classics’ with a booming bass drum and the iconic “I wanna dance to me / I wanna dance to A.G / I wanna dance with George” lines make for the perfect party song. The repeated lines make it catchy, and the instrumental feels dynamic enough that I don’t get bored of listening to it. 

‘Everything is romantic’, on the other hand, begins (rather unconventionally) with an orchestra. The slightly glitchy synths with a reggaeton-esque beat make it easy to dance to while detailing the romantic nature of Italy. ‘Talk talk’ is reminiscent of her more upbeat songs such as ‘New Shapes’ from Crash, whereas ‘Rewind’ leans more towards her hyperpop days. 

‘365’, the last track, starts with a pitched-up instrumental of the opener, ‘360’. It cascades into pure club chaos filled with fizzy, crunchy beats and arpeggiated synths, and sassy vocals. I could certainly see myself at the club, drunk and reciting “who the fuck are you? / I’m a brat when I’m bumpin’ that”, circling back to that sexy party girl persona. I’ll certainly be “bumpin’ it” all summer long.

After she has spent Brat spilling her darkest thoughts, Charli XCX signs off with the iconic ‘365’ to remind us that she will always be the irresistible pop queen we know and love.