Halftime Leisure

Charli XCX is embarking on a riotous escapade into the world of club culture and hyperpop

April 15, 2024

Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Despite only being three singles and a remix in, there’s no denying that Charli XCX’s Brat will be the album of the summer. To some, the songs may just sound like a lot of noise. But to the well-attuned ear that is hip to the resurgence of hyperpop, they are masterpieces; an undeniable ode to club culture and the liberation it can provide. 

Charli released her first single, “Von dutch,” at the end of February. Arguably the best of the bunch, the track opens with Charli’s voice stating “It’s okay to just admit that you’re jealous of me.” From this line on, one is correct in thinking that the lyrics will exude pure self-confidence: the first verse continues, “Yeah, I heard you talk about me, that’s the word on the street / You’re obsessin’, just confess it, put your hands up / It’s obvious, I’m your number one.” She’s right: after listening to the song on repeat, telling everyone to stream it, and putting it on my Instagram story a concerning amount of times, I am “obsessin’” over her. The listener gets to simultaneously insert themselves into the lyrics as both the “you” that Charli is speaking to and the “me” that everyone is jealous of and obsessed with. With a tempo of 130 bpm, the track’s frantic, chaotic energy explodes with the first line of the chorus: “Von dutch cult classic.” It’s hard not to get up, strut down the street, and want to inject the song into your veins—the exact effect Charli is trying to achieve. When I heard the song played on the dance floor for the first time, it was life-changing. 

As if the original wasn’t bursting with enough frantic and chaotic energy, Charli dropped a surprise remix with —if you haven’t heard, you would’ve never guessed— the one and only Addison Rae. The queen of 2020 Tik Tok now collaborating with Charli XCX felt out of the blue, but the unexpected nature of this pairing only furthers Charli’s intentional characterization of this album; it is going to be unexpected, iconic, and above all, something we are not prepared for. The remix tones down the chaos of the OG track in the first half, letting Charli’s and Addison’s rarely highlighted muted and melodic tones take center stage. But the unbothered confidence remains the same in the lyrics: “Every time my track drops, you’re jealous / I’m just living that life” sings Charli, followed by Addison’s: “While you’re sittin’ in your dad’s basement / Bet you’re disappointed that I’m shinin’ / I’m just living that life.” Reflecting that she is “living that life,” Addison calls out her haters in the line “had a lot to say about my debut,” referencing the backlash she received after she dropped her debut track “Obsessed” in 2021. But as well as biting back with her words, Addison expresses a chaotic angst that coexists with her abundant self-confidence in perhaps the most iconic way: by screaming for about 6 seconds. The scream has since become a viral soundbite: to paraphrase a comment on a video of Charli and Addison lip-syncing to their remix, it itched a part of my brain I didn’t know needed itching. 

However, Charli hasn’t let us rest and recover. She released two new singles on April 3rd: “Club classics” and “B2b.” As their titles suggest, the tracks push her sound more deeply into the club scene. Fittingly, Charli first previewed these singles at her New York Boiler Room set two weeks before their official release date. As a result, it is hard to listen to them without picturing Charli in a white tank top, eyeliner bold, in the midst of a smoky red haze in a crowded room of people going crazy for her (see: Julia Fox popping off to ‘I Love It’). The lyrics exude a reverence and love for club culture—Charli sings about just wanting to “hear those club classics.” In a nod to her musical inspirations, she lists artists who produced revolutionary club music in the track; “I wanna dance to A.G. / I wanna dance with George / I wanna dance to SOPHIE.” Charli has since revealed she will dedicate a track on the album to the trailblazing SOPHIE, a close friend of Charli’s who passed away in January of 2021. The lines “put your hands up and dance” repeat in the chorus of the track before giving way to a frantically pulsating bass with snippets of phrases sung in the background—even through your headphones, you’ll feel the beat in your bones.

Taking a more emotional turn, “B2b” (back to back) is reminiscent of Charli’s last album Crash (2022) with its more sentimental lyricism, but still firmly roots itself in the club scene with its beat and title. She sings about not wanting to go “right back to us,” and how her ex-lover should just “run right back to her.” There is a bitterness to the track, and a sense of frustration and vulnerability that somewhat grounds the extreme confidence of “Von dutch.” Charli demonstrates that she can elicit a range of emotions within the genre of hyperpop club music—one that some consider to be impassive and repetitive—an undeniably impressive feat. When the beat finally drops at 1 minute 50 seconds in, it’s neither extreme or loud—it is instead a fantastically lethargic flop that comes after her singing the word “back” on a loop. Maybe she is giving in and going back to her lover, or maybe it just sounds good. Either way, “B2b” is an incredible track that will certainly grow on you with each new listen. 

Each of these singles take traditional aspects of pop—lyrics that exude self-confidence, throbbing bass, endearing autotune, a high BPM—and dial them up through the roof. I don’t know why or how I came to like this sort of music (probably thanks to my sister, whose side hustle is being a DJ; shoutout Lila A.K.A. DJ Doza), but Charli is forging a path for herself to be bigger in the club scene than she ever has been before. If the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, I think that Brat really is going to give zero fucks, be sheer fun, and redefine the artist that Charli XCX is. As she said in an interview to NME, “I feel good about the music. Every artist says this about their new record but I really do feel like this is my best music [yet].”

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