Party Girls Unite: Charli XCX’s Brat Is Full of ‘Club Classics’

Get your ass up and get to the club, because Charli XCX just dropped BRAT, a rave-inducing, nostalgic, and surprisingly deep album. It’s the 31-year-old pop star’s sixth record, and perhaps her most introspective yet. She talks about the perils of fame, the challenges of being a girl, and her frequent collaborator and late friend, SOPHIE. “You had a power like a lightning strike / When I’m on stage, sometimes I lie / Say that I like singing these songs you left behind,” she says.

But even in its deepest parts, the classic A.G. Cook and Charli XCX production stays. Loaded with sounds that recall Charli’s “Vroom Vroom” era, she bounces around with thumping basses and dirty synths. On the softer moments, her dream-like pop fantasy comes through as well, recalling songs like “Official” and “White Mercedes” from her self-titled project. She even remixes her own song, “360” to close out the album, screaming, I’m confident, get out of my way to all of her enemies. Also, as an additional treat, the queen of the club dropped a deluxe version titled Brat and it’s the same but there’s three more songs so it’s not just last night.

In a career-defining record, Charli XCX delivers her biggest argument for cataclysmic levels of fame. Below, two editors break down BRAT, its highs and lows, and reveal if either one of them could club with Charli XCX.

First Impressions

Samuel Maude: My first listen was in my very gay gym in Hell’s Kitchen. I was just sitting there, and I was thinking that every single person in this gym is listening to BRAT, one, and two, why do I suddenly want to leave the gym, go straight to a club at 8 A.M., take off my shirt, and just dance for the whole day?

Erica Gonzales: It has that effect. I was listening as I got up, rise and grind! Let’s get right to it! Walking to get my coffee this morning, it really put pep in my step.

Sam: It’s honestly a little different from what I expected. I expected it to just be club, club, club, and I don’t think it’s that the whole way through. I’m really happily surprised. It’s the signature Charli XCX sound with fun, meaningful lyrics. She’s not really giving a flying fuck here. She is just making the music she wants to. I think that’s what makes it so good.

Erica: There’s something really uninhibited about the way it sounds, all the different directions it goes, and the fact that she does go, yes, full club music, but in her own kind of gritty, chaotic way. I also really liked how, looking back at the singles thematically, it’s very like, “I’m an It girl. I am the reference. It’s okay to say that you’re jealous of me.” There was a lot of that energy in the album.

But, at the same time, there are also a lot of moments of vulnerability and insecurity even, especially in the first couple of tracks. Part of it was humorous, but also part of it was very telling. She talked about being embarrassed and having doubts. In “Rewind,” she’s thinking about her weight and her face shape. It’s very self-aware, which was such an interesting element to add amidst all this hot-girl club music.


Sam: I’ve talked to a few artists about how I think what Taylor Swift does so successfully is that she makes the unrelatable relatable. She makes her experiences as a billion dollar pop star somehow trickle down towards the normies. I mean, I wrote an entire piece on her song, “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart.”

What Charli does here is she realizes that her life is in fact so unrelatable and leans in. Like her talking about how she is now anxious to call the paparazzi, I just think it’s a really interesting look into celebrity that we don’t often see.

“So I”

Sam: This is a really vulnerable record, especially the song about SOPHIE, “So I.”

Erica: That’s as personal as it could get. When I attended a BRAT listening with Charli, she played that song, and said it was dedicated to SOPHIE, but she also said they weren’t really best friends. She pushed her away, not because she disliked her, but because she thought SOPHIE wouldn’t like her. SOPHIE was so welcoming and tried to let her into her life and into her open arms. Charli was just insecure about it. “So I” is about her being like, “Well, I wish I did take you up on that and decide to spend more time with you and not push you away.” It’s not just a song about grief, but also regret, of wishing that you did open up more to somebody.

Sam: The song slows the album down, too. It’s not just club classic after club classic. The thing I love about Charli’s self-titled record is that you have songs like “Shake It” mixed with songs like “Official” that felt very different, but somehow they work together. That’s Charli at her best. In this album, she wove in these dream-pop ballads, and it works.

“Mean girls” and “Girl, so confusing”

Erica: The way she paints characters is really interesting.

Sam: I knew exactly the girl she was talking about in “Mean girls.” I just was like holy shit. She’s unafraid to go there.

Erica: Her mind. She also said something along the lines of feeling competitive against other girls, not that she’s not feminist, but there are times when you are in competition with other women, and you might feel badly about them. That was an interesting theme that she portrayed. I like thinking of “Mean girls” in conversation with “Girl, so confusing.” It is so confusing being a girl. Life is so hard and frustrating for girls that you sometimes can’t blame them if they are mean.

It was also interesting hearing that after the whole girl-obsessed moment we had last year. I wrote down: Summer 2023 is about being a girl. Summer 2024 is about being a bitch.

Sam: Love it.

Erica: I think that’s kind of the vibe. Sometimes you are [a bitch]. You just have to be. Life is too hard to not be sometimes.

Sam: It’s okay to be an asshole when it’s deserved.


Sam: Charli is the queen of nostalgia. In “1999” with Troye Sivan, they look back and are like, “I miss this time.” Then she has “Rewind” on BRAT, and in general, this whole era has been very nostalgic to the early aughts. She is so good at looking back but thinking forward. And it’s kind of wild.

Charli, has “1999” early on in the track list and then it ends with “2099” looking to the future. Here, she starts with “360” and ends with “365.” Even across projects, she has “Track 10” from Pop 2 and “Blame It On Your Love” from Charli. Click” from Charli and “c2.0” from How I’m Feeling Now. She’s so good at looking at earlier music and making it something new, embracing nostalgia and running with it.

Erica: Also I think we often forget how long she’s been in this business. It’s been over ten years since True Romance came out, and Sucker is 10 years old. She can look back to a moment where she was still working and she was shaping the culture at that time. It is such a feat for an artist to have that kind of consistency and be like, “Let me look back at this time, and also, I was still there.” And then to look to the future and give the message that, “I will be there too.”

Sam: It also takes this wild confidence to remix your own song and put it on the same album. To be like, “Here’s another version of it. You’re going to love it.” She’s really in this lane of her own of straddling this pop and club sphere that no other artist is doing, at least on her level.

Erica: I think that was something she was trying to reference in “360” and “Von dutch.” I’ve been in here and been out here doing this for so long, and I am very grateful at this point.

Clubbing with Charli

Sam: I have to ask you, Erica, do you think you could hang with Charli XCX?

Erica: I don’t think I could. I would absolutely love to, but I don’t think I’m cool enough for her, to be quite honest. I could try my very best. But you know what? I feel like she has really interesting niche interests that we could probably bond on. She did an interview with Las Culturistas and she was talking about Orna Guralnik, that one couple’s therapist who has a Showtime show, and Charli was freaking out. I feel like we could maybe have a really cool conversation about a weirdly shared hobby or interest that we have. I feel like you could probably party with Charli though.

Sam: Oh my God, is that my reputation? I feel like a year ago, I would not have been able to, but in this past year, I’ve gone through this kind of crazy life transformation, non-derogatory. My whole last year in therapy has been literally about embracing chaos, because I’ve been so structured my whole life. It’s gotten me into trouble with some friends where they create chaos or do something that’s honestly not even bad, but I’m like, “You’re ruining the order in my life.” So, my therapist and I have been very intentional.

And you know what, I think I could now. I’ve become more confident, and that’s one hundred percent it. Maybe this is the delusional gay man in me, but I am speaking my truth. Charli, if you’re reading, let’s go out. I can go until 6 A.M., 8 A.M. if I need to.

Erica: Tying it back to her, often we read confidence as mean, especially for women. Here, she’s so confident to the point where it might come off as mean, but it’s like whatever, she couldn’t care. We should be mean at times. It’s the summer of being a bitch.

Sam: The summer of being a bitch. The summer of liberation. The summer of the silly pop song. The vibes of this summer are immaculate.

“Talk Talk”

Sam: So, I cried during it. I am not a crier with music. I cry in movies, theater, and TV shows very quickly, but not music. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried to a song on my first listen until now. I am highly embarrassed because it’s an upbeat, fun song on this album, but I feel like my life has been so consumed recently by the message of this song. It’s been so on my mind. The lyrics, “I’ve been lookin’ at you / Puttin’ holes in your head / We’ve been talking for months / But never in the same room / And now I wanna approach ya / But we’ve been keeping this a secret / And you’re surrounded by friends /And I’m just wondering what they know.” Woof. I just was really overcome. It’s hitting on a very specific nerve in a way that Charli has never done for me. I truly was gagged. I felt a tear come down my face and I went, “Oh, no.”

Erica: So cinematic.

Sam: It literally was like I was in a movie. I was like, “I’m fucking Carrie Bradshaw.”

Erica: Big is moving to Paris.

Sam: I wish Big was moving to Paris.

Romance and Love

Sam: She mentions her fiancé, a lot, by name. George. Risky. I always think of “pete davidson” by Ariana Grande when any celebrity does this. I know marriage is supposed to be forever, but you’re talking to a child of divorced parents. I’m so happy she’s so in love, and that she reflects upon that, but I just get nervous for her.

Erica: I never pictured her as like a, “Oh, settle down and be a wife,” kind of girl, but I think if anyone could make being a wife cool, I think it’s her. Redefining what that means. That wedding? I can’t wait.

Sam: Oh, get me an invite. I need an invite. The club girl gets engaged. It’s kind of incredible, and she will still probably be a club girl, and that’s great. I wish we could all find love at the club.

Erica: Say your vows and go to the club.

Final Thoughts

Sam: I think most people in the music industry and in the entertainment world know who Charli XCX is. But, the New York Times had a piece about artists who are almost on this pop superstardom but aren’t quite there, like Carly Rae Jepsen, which is criminal. But, Charli has been a good example of this a lot of times. I hope this album, and I think because it is so good and is getting critically reviewed very positively, could be the big album for her. I’m hesitant to say that it will be, but this is Charli at her best. Every song makes sense. Everything is very clean, in the sense that everything is clearly done with a purpose. This is possibly a career defining album for her.

Erica: I agree. And also the fact that it is possible that you don’t only break through once to create a career. You need to have longevity. We should welcome the idea that you can break through multiple times. It seems like she’s doing that 10 years later, after she did it the first time. Congratulations to Charli, and to us for having this in our lives.

Sam: I’d like to thank A.G. Cook as well.

Erica: Correct, correct. All the girls in the “360” video. Julia Fox.

Sam: Yes, we’d like to thank them. I’d love to thank Lorde for posting on her Story, too. I also have a questions for Lorde currently. If she wants to give me a call, call me anytime.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


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