It’s no surprise that “PARTYGIRL” is the name Charli xcx adopted for the DJ nights she put on in support of BRAT. It’s kind of her brand anyway, but on her sixth studio album, the British pop star is reveling in the trashy, sugary glitz of the club. BRAT is a record that brings to life the pleasure of colorful, sticky dance floors and too-sweet alcopops lingering in the back of your mouth, fizzing with volatility, possibility, and strutting vanity (“I’ll always be the one,” she sneers deliciously on the A. G. Cook- and Cirkut-produced opening track “360”). Of course, Charli xcx—real name Charlotte Aitchison—has frequently taken pleasure in delivering both self-adoring bangers and poignant self-reflection. Take her 2022 pop-girl yet often personal concept album CRASH, which was preceded by the diaristic approach of her excellent lockdown album how i’m feeling now. But here, there’s something especially tantalizing in her directness over the intoxicating fumes of hedonism. Yes, she’s having a raucous time with her cool internet It-girl friends, but a night out also means the introspection that might come to you in the midst of a party, or the insurmountable dread of the morning after. On “So I,” for example, she misses her friend and fellow musician, the brilliant SOPHIE, and lyrically nods to the late artist’s 2017 track “It’s Okay to Cry.” Charli xcx has always been shaped and inspired by SOPHIE, and you can hear the influence of her pioneering sounds in many of the vocals and textures throughout BRAT. Elsewhere, she’s trying to figure out if she’s connecting with a new female friend through love or jealousy on the sharp, almost Uffie-esque “Girl, so confusing,” on which Aitchison boldly skewers the inanity of “girl’s girl” feminism. She worries she’s embarrassed herself at a party on “I might say something stupid,” wishes she wasn’t so concerned about image and fame on “Rewind,” and even wonders quite candidly about whether she wants kids on the sweet sparseness of “I think about it all the time.” In short, this is big, swaggering party music, but always with an undercurrent of honesty and heart. For too long, Charli xcx has been framed as some kind of fringe underground artist, in spite of being signed to a major label and delivering a consistent run of albums and singles in the years leading up to this record. In her BRAT era, whether she’s exuberant and self-obsessed or sad and introspective, Charli xcx reminds us that she’s in her own lane, thriving. Or, as she puts it on “Von dutch,” “Cult classic, but I still pop.”

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