If you couldn’t tell by the persistent glow of lime green on your timelines, this is Charli XCX’s year. Something shifted the minute she released Brat, her sixth album and a tribute to being a party girl in your thirties, dealing with all the anxieties that come with that age bracket.

Brat has dominated the cultural conversation for the last month, becoming the type of all-consuming pop culture moment that fans of the future-forward pop princess have been dying for. From the album cover’s bold green to the sassy swagger of the “Von Dutch” and “360” lyrics, the album was everywhere before people even heard the full thing. Each choice she has made has felt authentic to the album’s aesthetic and sound; every step of her rollout feels more meticulous than just throwing a bunch of ideas at a wall to see what sticks and makes a hit.

It was a bonus that the album — and the deluxe counterpart that came out two days later — were some of Charli’s boldest and most brilliant songs yet. Not since her Vroom Vroom EP has she leaned so hard into her rave roots. It turns out, that’s what everyone wanted to hear this summer.

Brat Summer has been a long time coming. Appropriately, it arrives a decade after Charli’s mainstream breakthrough on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” Outside of the hits she’s been featured on — and/or written— alongside people like Camila Cabello and Selena Gomez, this type of Internet-dominating, chart-breaking pop success has largely evaded the star’s solo releases. She has always been critically acclaimed with a steady, sold-out touring schedule. But while her past albums have remained some of pop’s most exciting releases year in and year out, that hasn’t always translated to A-list pop stature the way she has long deserved. She’s veered from ahead-of-their-time projects that dig from underground scenes (Vroom Vroom EP, Pop 2) and more naked attempts at a mainstream moment (Sucker, Crash). Part of that disconnect can often be chalked up to how uncompromisingly weird and trend-creating Charli has insisted on being, never leaning too hard into the surefire sounds and schticks that her peers have embraced over the years. She has been far ahead of the pop curve for a long time, especially as an early advocate for Sophie, A. G. Cook and the PC Music scene that has been copied relentlessly in the past decade.

All of that has come across in Brat’s flawless rollout, which kicked off with the bombastic “Von Dutch” and a buzzy Boiler Room set. From the jump, Charli wasn’t aligning herself with other pop stars as much as she was integrating pop culture It Girls into her image. Julia Fox and Addison Rae were big guests at Boiler Room and central to the rest of the cycle; Rae’s scream on the “Von Dutch” remix has gone viral while “360” most cited line is “I’m so Julia,” in reference to Fox.

Of course, Charli meant it when she said she is everywhere: There’s no shortage of influencer podcasts or viral TikTok series that she hasn’t made an appearance on, whether to explicitly promote the album or to just make her presence known. Pop-up events in NYC and London were also key in making this moment feel particularly larger-than-life; her surprise set at Lot Radio drew a massive crowd as it previewed some of the coming music. In the week since Brat’s release, Charli has been further amplifying the partying purpose of the album with more DJ sets, including one at Glastonbury later this month.

Trending

The way she’s deployed her pop alliances has been more strategic than ever. A remix of “360” featured club pop godmother Robyn, while indie sleaze’s newest DJ/singer prince, the Dare, produced “Guess” off Brat and it’s the same but there’s three more songs so it’s not, the brilliantly titled deluxe version of the album. But nothing compares to the Lorde remix of “Girl, so confusing.” For the last few weeks, the internet has been picking apart the lyrics of Charli’s song about a tricky relationship with a fellow female pop star and almost unanimously concluded that it was about Lorde. Lorde hopped on the track and offered an honest, soul-baring verse that squashes any hint of animosity between them. In the days since the song’s announcement on Thursday, hours before it was released, it has proven to be the biggest moment of the whole rollout and could end up being the breakout hit of the summer.

The excitement around the Lorde collaboration is a reminder that the true key to Brat’s cultural takeover is a cult fanbase, one that she has been steadily growing for over a decade now. None of this needed a runaway Number One song to feel noteworthy. The Brat agenda was already understood by millions of listeners who have seen her vision since True Romance. And for an artist who has built a career on being authentically and unflinchingly herself as both a musician and a public figure, no era in her career has felt more purely Charli XCX than this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *