It's a 'Brat' summer and we're living in Charli XCX's world

Go inside the green slime universe inhabited by pop's resident cool girl.

Charli XCX posed with her new album, Brat, a few weeks after the Met Gala. (@charli_xcx via Instagram/Dia Dipasupil via Getty Images)

It's only days into the official start of summer, but this season is for the Brats. In honor of Charli XCX's sixth studio album, green slime, clubbing and self-awareness are in.

The pop star’s June 7 release is also her highest charting yet, debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Charli is not the most talked-about artist of the moment, nor the one breaking out above the others, but she’s cemented her reputation as the one everyone loves to watch. Brat is the highest-rated album of 2024 on review aggregator Metacritic.

From its minimalist green album cover to the singer's winding career that preceded it, Brat is different. In a sea of pop girls having a moment, Charli manages to define a moment without defining it.

Charli has been making music since the MySpace days of 2008. She first made waves on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013 with “I Love It,” a boisterous collaboration with Icona Pop that reached No. 7. The year after, she entered the top 10 with solo hit “Boom Clap” at No. 8 and Iggy Azalea collaboration “Fancy” that dominated at No. 1 for several weeks and was 2016’s song of the summer.

Musician Charli XCX and rapper Iggy Azalea perform onstage at the 2014 mtvU Woodie Awards and Festival in 2014 in Austin, Texas.
Charli XCX performed with Iggy Azalea at the height of her viral fame in 2014. (Bob Levey/Getty Images for MTV)

Charli didn’t have another Hot 100 hit for nearly a decade, charting with “Speed Drive” from the Barbie movie soundtrack. She stayed busy during that time though, releasing alt-pop and hyperpop projects. She also penned songs for other artists — “Señorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello and “Same Old Love” by Selena Gomez, to name a few.

With Brat, Charli acknowledges that she’s not aiming for mainstream success anymore. As Vox’s Rebecca Jennings wrote in her album review, it’s about jealousy: How people are jealous of her as a cultural influence, and how she’s jealous of other people. Many artists have been accused of copying her style — Katy Perry and Camila Cabello most recently.

“She’s a perfect conduit for [recent trends] and she makes really good, really fun music you can dance to while participating in them,” Jennings wrote. “She is a native of coolness but, unlike so many cool people, can articulate what it feels like.”

Pitchfork’s positive review of Brat notes that both Charli and her critics have long been obsessed with the idea of breaking out to become a Main Pop Girl.

“Then something shifted, and it hardly seemed to matter. She had something they didn’t. She was cool,” Meaghan Garvey wrote.

Charli XCX attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the
Charli XCX attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

From creating ultra-popular pop-up events in New York City to packing celebrity references into her lyrics, Charli’s album rollout has seen viral success for weeks.

“I’m your favorite reference, baby,” Charli sings in “360,” proceeding to reference multiple artists and influencers. For the song’s music video, she gathers it girls like model Gabbriette and Julia Fox, who she also name-drops in the song. Addison Rae, one of the most popular TikTokers, appears on the remix for her lead single “Von Dutch,” and Lorde joined the remix of “Girl, So Confusing” to discuss her complicated relationship with Charli. She pays tribute to her late collaborator SOPHIE in “So I” and seemingly pays homage to a certain New York influencer scene in “Mean Girls.”

Charli is engaged to George Daniel, the drummer for the 1975. Taylor Swift recently released an album that references her on-again-off-again romance with the band’s frontman, Matty Healy. Fans think Charli’s new song “Sympathy is a Knife” is about Swift — and Charli had to urge crowds to “please stop” stop chanting “Taylor Swift is dead” at her concerts.

“I want to provoke people," Charli told Vogue Singapore in April. "I’m not doing things to be nice.”

Being a brat is, by definition, behaving badly. On her newest album, Charli refuses to submit to the race to become the next biggest pop star, but repeatedly and confidently recognizes her own influence on culture. At the same time, she acknowledges her sadness and insecurity with her own life choices, from failing to be compatible with people in her circles (in “Sympathy is a Knife”) to wondering if it would hurt her career if she had a baby (in “I Think About It All the Time”). Society rarely allows women to be openly proud and sad. It’s a revolution.

Slate’s Scaachi Koul declared the 2024 season “Big Brat Summer.”

“The themes colliding this summer — our f***-it indulgences, the feeling of being over, a crushing sense of nihilism that has no cure other than, perhaps, dancing in a smoke-filled basement — are perfectly encapsulated by Charli XCX’s new album Brat,” she wrote.

Charli herself told the BBC Sounds Sidetracked podcast about her vision for Brat Summer.

“It can be, like, so trashy — like a pack of cigs, a Bic lighter and a strappy white top with no bra. That’s like, kind of all you need,” she said.

TikTok creators have shared their personal takes on what a Brat Summer looks like for them: Accessorizing your dog, sleeping in your makeup and ordering green drinks. Whatever your take on Brat Summer, it’s Charli’s world now and we’re just living in it.