A review of ‘brat’ but it’s just a breakdown of every cool girl mentioned so its not

Screw rat boy summer, Charli xcx says it’s time for brat girl summer (I know it’s winter, but this is Australia, so we can just pretend). brat, Charli’s sixth studio album, is a vulnerable, effortless, “cool girl”, work of art, jam packed with odes to insecurities and late-night, drug-fueled dance tracks, and all in less than 50 minutes. Charli explores a broad spectrum of emotions and feelings on brat, as she muses over whether to do a line or have a child. The album already has a Metacritic rating of 95, which is the highest rating of any album released so far this year and ranked as one of the website’s top 20 albums of all time.

The album explores some pretty poignant and overlooked topics, such as guilt in grief, career insecurity, suicidal thoughts, and the pressures of having to choose between success and motherhood. But what stands out most to me about brat is how much it focuses on Charli’s relationships with the women in her life, something that seems fitting for 2024, a year that has boldly announced itself as ‘a year for the girls’ (Chappell Roan and Sabrina Carpenter, hello?).

It would probably be a crime if I didn’t begin with Girl, so confusing, particularly the Lorde remix. The original track has Charli speaking to an unnamed female musician who has similar hair, and how miscommunications in the friendship have led to Charli feeling insecure and awkward. Fans speculated the song might be about Marina Diamandis or Lorde, but the remix aptly named the girl, so confusing version with Lorde, made it pretty clear. The new song shows Lorde explaining that her behaviour in recent years has been due to her own insecurities and the overwhelming pressure of being a girl in the music industry. It also manages to address themes of body image, miscommunication, toxicity in the industry, projecting insecurities, and women supporting women in under three and a half minutes, while also being an absolute banger. I think it is one of the most beautiful and sentimental reflections of girlhood that I’ve ever heard and has already earned its spot as my number one vote for 2024’s hottest 100 (the song also passes the Bechdel test, by the way).

360 is one of the albums singles and the first song off the album, and shows Charli boldly announcing her power in the music industry. She drives home this message by employing the help of “internet cool girls” to star in the music video, including Julia Fox, Chloë Sevigny, Rachel Sennott, Emma Chamberlain, Gabbriette, Alex Consani, Chloe Cherry, Isamaya Ffrench, Salem Mitchell, Hari Nef, and Richie Shazam. The video is reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ music video, except these women are all well known for being hot, iconic, and (at times) unhinged in the internet age, much like Charli herself.

One of the most impressive things about this album is how effortlessly Charli alternates between confident, cool pop princess who is better than everyone, to just a normal, insecure girl who hurts just as much as anyone else. You can see this clearly on So I, a song dedicated to Charli’s late friend and musical powerhouse, SOPHIE, who passed in 2021. Charli reflects on how she often pushed SOPHIE away because of her jealousy and how scared she was of not being cool enough for her. The regret that Charli feels about her actions is tangible in the song; it’s obvious that the two women had a strong friendship that Charli is still adapting to living without.

Though Charli hasn’t confirmed it, fans speculate that Sympathy is a knife, a song about jealousy over someone else’s career, may be about Taylor Swift. This would explain the line “don’t wanna see her backstage at my boyfriend’s show”, since both women have dated members of The 1975 (Taylor briefly dated lead singer Matty Healy last year, while Charli is currently engaged to the drummer, George). Charli also supported Taylor on her Reputation Tour in 2019, an experience which led to Charli deciding to no longer work as a support act. Though there is nothing particularly malicious in the lyrics, the song has mentions of jealousy and insecurity so extreme that it sparked suicidal thoughts. The themes of this song also appear on I might say something stupid, where Charli muses on how difficult it is to keep up the party girl persona and feeling like she has to pretend in order to keep up with other artists.

In a TikTok video, Charli said that there is only one diss track on Brat; Von Dutch. The song is an electroclash dance pop tune which once again reiterates what a musical force Charli is, which fans guess might be about Azaelia Banks or Rina Sawayama. Charli explained that in the music industry there is an idea that all female musicians and artists must get along or else risk being labeled “bad feminists”, while also being pitted against each other a lot more than men are. I respect that Charli decided to also include the not-so-positive relationships she has with women, as there is an unspoken expectation that women aren’t real feminists unless they are best friends with every woman they meet. 

In I think about it all the time, Charli reflects on how seeing her friend, Noonie Bao, seemed different after having her first child. The slower track shows Charli considering what might be more important and satisfying in her life; having a successful career or starting a family with her fiancé, which she speaks about so candidly; “So, we had a conversation on the way home, should I stop my birth control, because my career feels so small in the existential scheme of it all”.

Mean girls is supposedly about Dasha Nekrasova, an American actress and podcaster, and references Lana Del Rey as an artist that all the bad girls listen to. The song doesn’t really condemn mean girls, but it doesn’t necessarily praise them either. Instead, Charli describes what a mean girl might be and invites the listener to consider that there might be a mean girl in all of us.

Spring breakers, named after the 2012 film and which features a sample of Everytime by Britney Spears. Charli uses the song as a way to vent her frustrations about her fifth album, Crash, not being nominated at the Grammy’s in 2023, despite the album reaching No.1 in both the UK and Australia. Charli uses references to the movie to voice her intrusive thoughts about blowing up the Grammy’s as a form of revenge. By using the Everytime sample, Charli also draws parallels between herself and Britney, as they are both female artists who have been looked down on by the industry for their boastful lyrics and “crazy” personalities.

But the relationship in Charli’s life that is mentioned the most throughout this album is unsurprisingly, her relationship with herself, and how tumultuous it often is. B2b and Rewind are nostalgic, up-beat dedications to the rave music scene of Charli’s teenage years, while the latter also touches on the anxieties that come with being famous. Club classics and 365 are both songs about being iconic and hot and doing drugs; they’re the songs that play in the bathroom of the club after you’ve thrown up and are trying to hype yourself up to go out again. Apple, which has become one of the albums biggest songs, is about generational trauma, communicated through multiple apple metaphors and mentions of driving to the airport (because it wouldn’t be a Charli xcx album without a song about driving).

A theme that isn’t as prevalent on this album is romantic love, which is strange considering 67% of recorded music is about love. The only songs that seem to address the topics of love and sex are Talk talk, Everything is romantic, and Guess. Even then, some remarks are so vague that they could be interpreted in other ways.  

I think Brat is one of the most poetic, profound, most influential albums of the year, while also being an incredibly danceable, feral, bop-filled album, one quite literally designed to be played at the club. Both things can be true.

Number of brat and cool girl mentions on the album: 20

Number of George (her fiancé) mentions: 3

Number of driving mentions: 3

Jacinta Rossetto
Jacinta Rossetto

Jacinta Rossetto is a writer, artist and editor studying Creative Writing at QUT. Her passion project is a little something called Dawn Street Zine, a zine that she writes, designs, produces and scouts content for. Her favourite genres to write in are gothic and literary fiction.

Articles: 24

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