BRAT has already become Charli's most commercially successful albumAbby Gillardi / Flickr /

Post-exams is party girl season: week-long hangovers, hair of the dog and MASH three times in one week (or maybe that’s just me). Having attended two Charli xcx-themed club nights since her latest album, BRAT, was released on 7th June, I can confirm the album was made to soundtrack feral night club antics. But, beyond showcasing the Cambridge-born musician’s natural talent for rave bangers, the album offers a striking vulnerability that makes it more than just a collection of club classics.

“This album is Charli at her most creatively liberated”

BRAT is Charli’s sixth studio album, following CRASH. Never beating the “pick me” allegations, I’ll admit I was one of many fans disappointed by CRASH’s more mainstream appeal. The glory of Charli’s discography has been her willingness to experiment. Yet her fifth album, despite containing great songs, could have been written by anyone. BRAT is different.

The album was marketed as a club record, with tracks teased and sampled at a Boiler Room DJ set in New York entitled “PARTYGIRL”. The promo was deeply unserious, revealing low-resolution, Microsoft Paint-inspired cover art thought by fans to be a placeholder. An even more unserious cover adorns the deluxe edition, entitled Brat and it’s the same but there’s three more songs so it’s not.

“Even a casual listener can feel her grief”

Tweeting that xcx6 is “the album I’ve always wanted to make,” Charli both epitomises and pays homage to her unique sound on this record. She takes creative risks, demonstrated best in ‘Everything is romantic’. The track opens with a dramatic string ensemble, swelling and drifting before electronic percussion cracks the classical tones to introduce a thumping bass. As it approaches its peak, laser-like synths intensify in speed and volume before the backing abruptly fizzles out, leaving Charli a cappella. Now slowing, she repeats “fall in love again and again” for 1 minute and 15 seconds. But the outro skilfully evades boredom as Charli plays with layered vocals, autotune and a series of synths. The result is a track no other artist could have made.

Similar creativity is found in ‘Mean girls’. Part of me is convinced the song was written about Sidge girlies – not that we’re a mean bunch but it’s hard to deny that “In the sheer white dress… Worships Lana Del Rey in her AirPods… stuck to skinny cigarettes” evokes a familiar image. As the song builds to its second chorus – a fast-paced, synth-heavy chant – the club sound breaks away, ushering in a jazz piano solo. Charli made a name for herself pushing the boundaries of pop music to incorporate the sounds of hyperpop, industrial techno and (according to my dad) the local construction site. This album is Charli at her most creatively liberated and the success of this approach is unparalleled.

“Party girls get sad too and Charli doesn’t shy away from this”

Charli undeniably succeeds in encapsulating the PARTYGIRL spirit in songs like ‘365’. But party girls get sad too and Charli doesn’t shy away from this. ‘So I’ is a heartfelt memoriam of the late SOPHIE, a producer and close friend who inspired much of her musical style. Even a casual listener can feel her grief in the stripped-back production and brutally honest lyrics. Yet fans of SOPHIE connect with the song on a deeper level as the refrain “I can cry, so I cry” responds to SOPHIE’s song ‘It’s Okay to Cry’. In ‘I might say something stupid’ and ‘Rewind’, Charli reveals her own insecurities about her looks, chart success and place in the music industry.


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This intimacy isn’t always successful. ‘I think about it all the time’ explores the conflict between Charli’s aspirations for motherhood and career as a musician. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, the poorly written, arrhythmic lyrics like “She's a radiant mother and he's a beautiful father” honestly made me question if it was a joke. Yet A. G. Cook’s obvious and masterful hand as a producer renders the song a musical success. Saying you listen to Charli xcx for the lyrics is like claiming you go to MASH for the smoking area; we know it’s bad but you put up with it for the quality of everything else. And her lyrics can be beautiful, with ‘Apple’ arguably being one of Charli’s most well-written and poetic songs to date.

Taylor Swift recently sparked controversy for releasing yet another edition of her latest album, just in time to knock Charli off the top of the charts. While Charli’s lyrics won’t earn her membership to THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT, her expertise as a producer and dedication to her sound earn her a spot in nightclubs Taylor could only dream of entering. The emotional tracks, despite their flaws, give the album a powerful depth and variety. BRAT is an album for the club but everyone cries on the dancefloor sometimes.