Record of the Year – EM GUIDE

Charli XCX “Brat”

In this feverish pre-election time, if you cycle down Shoreditch High Street, Snoop Dogg looms large from the LED advert that adorns the billboard to your left. I’m passing at speed, cycle-propelled, so some of the details of Calvin Broadus’ latest commercial pitch remain hazy. I hope that the latest cigar brand slash natural wine slash Bluetooth boombox the great man has clearly fallen in love with is/are doing well. I think we all do.

Snoop’s done well for sure. But today, what is it for a star to ‘make it’? What makes an LP, a long-player, feel like it was worth your time? Trust me, much as this question sounds tiresomely theoretical, if you like music, this one will come to haunt you.

“Bad tattoos on leather-tanned skin / Jesus Christ on a plastic sign / Fall in love again and again/winding roads doing manual drive” (Everything is romantic)

As the decades pass we keep recalibrating the concept of ‘the star’. Wander round a foreign city, spot a market, you might find an old copy of the Picture Post or Time, beautiful people, bulbed up in black and white, leaving or arriving. It must have been amazing when this was all there was. If you can train your eye on pop stardom today, with any power, wit or acuity, you should immediately be awarded an academic degree. It’s HARD.


Sieh dir diesen Beitrag auf Instagram an


Ein Beitrag geteilt von Charli (@charli_xcx)

Elsewhere in our starry galaxy, Taylor Swift makes the BBC news for a singalong in Scotland. Sabrina Carpenter’s adorably goofy vaudeville proves a gathering delight. Over and over, people confidently declare that country music is about to become dominant (again). And yet, and yet, here comes “BRAT”. In which Charli XCX appears to have made an album that is so potently post-modern (yet heaving under hummable, punch-the-air-able tunes) that maybe this concern for mainstream pop success has been a giant waste of time?

Bangerz. Aren’t we pop fans, basically after those, at all times? In a world where pop stars increasingly seem to want safety, aristocracy or status, here comes BRAT. Charli XCX’s latest feels like the distillation of everything she’s done, doubled down, purer still. A few impressions though god knows, you don’t need Kaput’s team to tell you whether to pay attention; but in short order:

  • Poetry is sexy (again)
  • Make it sound like you home-recorded (particularly if you absolutely didn’t)
  • Immediacy, always.
  • Make them want it, but move on before they understand it.

“Pompei in the distance, fall in love again and again…”

The PC music concept feels finally, fully realised here. Contained and hyper-defined pop songs, sparky, dry and immediate, digital to a (de)fault. What’s that? It’s a SAW wave, in an alleyway rave.  And it’s hard to imagine anyone else in pop’s upper league making “I think about it all the time” – a ruminative and intimate exploration of the feels when a pal is having their first kid and a sense of time passing. The music is somehow super now but also echoes Max Tundra’s early Warp records excursions into naif-but-so-knowing glitchy statements. There are a few string drenched moments, that arrive like a super high contrast medium, but mostly it’s dry as a bone, yet lush as you like. 

For a star who has already achieved so much, BRAT feels like an insanely confident, artful move. Don’t marry a royal, write a surprise, keep it fluid, have the confidence to radically simplify. This one is an LP, but also a film soundtrack, and an unmistakably British story (wherever they recorded it). It’ll make you miss being 18, trapped on holiday with a notebook and a B-F/G-F who’s just let you down. Pencils at the ready mes cheres.

Self-referential, self-propelling, “meta” in the best sense (before it meant social media reputation laundering), BRAT is thus far 2024’s smartest pop delight. You’ll start a substack and girl-krush on the undeniable marketing smarts. It’ll make you want to buy a drum machine, kiss the air in Lidl, or worst of all, join a band. 


This article is brought to you as part of the EM GUIDE project – an initiative dedicated to empowering independent music magazines and strengthen the underground music scene in Europe. Read more about the project at

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Kaput is a proud member of the  EM GUIDE network.

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