Charli XCX – brat (2024)

Charli XCX has long been a pop music innovator, blurring genre lines and pushing the boundaries of what mainstream music can be. Her latest offering, simply titled “brat,” is no exception. Following the critically acclaimed “how i’m feeling now,” an album born from the isolation of the pandemic, “brat” explodes with unbridled energy and a defiant spirit. This review delves into the album’s sonic palette, lyrical themes, and its place within Charli XCX’s ever-evolving artistic journey.

From the opening strains of “party favor,” it’s clear that “brat” is a party record. Hyperpop synths pulsate with an infectious energy, Sophie’s influence still echoing in the production. Charli’s vocals are playful and bratty (as the title suggests), spitting out rapid-fire lyrics about late nights, partying, and living life on her own terms. Tracks like “Vroom Vroom” and “Good Ones” continue this theme, crafting sonic landscapes that are both exhilarating and unsettling, a signature Charli XCX move.

However, “brat” isn’t just about mindless fun. There’s a darker undercurrent to some of the lyrics, hinting at anxieties and disillusionment with the music industry. On “I might say something stupid,” Charli raps over a melancholic piano melody, expressing feelings of insecurity and questioning her place in the pop landscape. “Everytime I go out / Feel like I’m on the scout / Trying to find a way out” she sings, a stark contrast to the braggadocio of other tracks. This vulnerability adds a layer of depth to the album, showcasing the complexities of being a pop artist in a world obsessed with image and fame.

The album’s production is a masterclass in hyperpop. Sleigh Bells-inspired distorted guitars intertwine with bubblegum synths and glitchy electronics, creating a sonic assault that’s both chaotic and strangely beautiful. A. G. Cook, Charli’s longtime collaborator, continues to push the boundaries of what pop music can sound like, constantly surprising the listener with unexpected sonic twists and turns.

One of the album’s highlights is the use of guest vocalists. The brash energy of Rina Sawayama on “Beg for You” is a perfect match for Charli’s own, while Dorian Electra’s ethereal vocals add a haunting beauty to “B2B.” These collaborations showcase Charli’s ability to curate a soundscape that’s both cohesive and diverse, keeping the listener engaged throughout.

Despite its strengths, “brat” isn’t without flaws. Some tracks, particularly in the latter half of the album, can feel repetitive, relying on the same hyperpop formula without offering much in the way of lyrical or melodic variation. This can lead to a sense of fatigue for listeners who crave more sonic diversity within the album’s short runtime.

Furthermore, the album’s confrontational lyrics might alienate some listeners. Charli’s self-assured pronouncements about her status as a pop icon (“Call me pop excellence, a cultural event”) can come across as arrogant, particularly to those unfamiliar with her playful and often ironic persona.

Ultimately, “brat” is a triumphant return for Charli XCX. It’s a bold and uncompromising statement that reaffirms her position as a pop music pioneer. The album is a sonic rollercoaster, filled with infectious energy, unexpected twists, and moments of emotional vulnerability. While it might not be her most accessible work, it’s a rewarding listen for those willing to embrace its chaotic beauty.

“brat” is a testament to Charli XCX’s relentless pursuit of artistic innovation. It pushes the boundaries of pop music, offering a thrilling sonic experience that’s both familiar and surprising. This isn’t just an album; it’s a declaration of creative independence, a bratty middle finger to the pop establishment. Whether you love it or hate it, “brat” is an album that demands your attention, and that’s a feat that few artists can achieve.

 

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