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Charli XCX’s “BRAT”: Glamour and Grit

For all its layers and ingenuity, 'BRAT' acts as yet another masterwork in Charli XCX's discography.
Charli XCX ‘BRAT’

“I’m your favorite reference, baby.”

Charli XCX needs no introduction—and she knows it. BRAT exudes a writhing energy, bursting with attitude backed by stomach-churning beats. From the album’s opening moments, Charli XCX stands tall and bathes in the spotlight she’s wrestled for, glimmering with a blinding confidence. At least that’s what bubbly, aggrandizing tracks like “360” and “Club classics” imply. Underneath the explosive opening of Charli XCX’s sixth studio album lies a nauseating unease. With each second that crawls across BRAT‘s 41 minutes, the legendary English pop star claws deeper into the grime of celebrity culture and fame. Most of all, she lays her own unfiltered and unabashed bleak thoughts bare for millions to see.

A Shimmering Illusion

The illusion of BRAT‘s carefree, prideful surface is quickly shattered by the album’s third track, “Sympathy is a knife.” Before this early turning point, Charli XCX unapologetically owns her status as an icon, singing, “I wanna dance to me, me, me, me, me” over an infectious beat. Within just a few moments of this self-celebration, the album shifts as Charli XCX sings of inadequacy, suicide and apprehension.

“I don’t feel like nothing special

I snag my tights out on the lawn chair

Guess I’m a mess and play the role”

From this point on, Charli XCX swings between emotions liberally, at times rekindling the flame of the album’s opening moments with booming club beats and sparks of confidence. Once again, she stands tall and bathes in the spotlight she’s wrestled for. But she doesn’t glimmer as bright as she did in the album’s opening. Instead, she wears her shimmer and shame in equal parts, displaying it for all to see. With each track the true nature of BRAT becomes inescapable: even in the triumphant fanfare of songs like “Rewind” and “B2b” there’s no hiding the underlying insecurity brewing within her.

Beneath It All

Most impressively, Charli XCX manages to make each moment of BRAT tantalizing. BRAT is riddled with more than just the inner workings of the artist’s psyche—it’s positively infected with unrelenting earworms. The metallic bounce and ethereal twinkling throughout BRAT is especially characteristic of the late SOPHIE: a co-producer, fellow icon and close friend of Charli XCX’s. “So I” acts as a moving tribute to the legendary SOPHIE, adding even more depth to an already nuanced album.

BRAT is so much more than meets the ear. For all its layers and ingenuity, BRAT acts as yet another masterwork in Charli XCX’s discography.

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