The internet has declared it’s going to be a Brat summer

By Nicolas Nhalungo

Published Jun 17, 2024 at 09:29 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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Back in the ancient days when content was truly king, close to the release of a new album, artists would do their round of talk shows, editorial coverage and promotional campaigns. These days, the main pop girls have been relegated to the comfort of their multi-million dollar homes to put out a tweet or post on their Instagram page. It seems no one wants to work these days—not Charli XCX though. On 7 June 2024, Charli XCX released her anticipated sixth studio album, Brat, and the rollout has been nothing short of iconic. She’s taking it.

The album art features a vibrant lime-green background with the stylised ‘brat’ in plain black font. The album cover’s design, which was initially met with disappointment by fans, has now become a source for greenscreen edits and parodies. Fans and companies, especially in countries like Brazil (and we know they stan hard), participated in creating and sharing Brat memes.

@slootpop

My bag of brat saved my life🥹 @Charli XCX #fyp

♬ 365 - Charli xcx

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A post shared by Cartoon Network Brasil (@cartoonnetworkbrasil)

@iluvajdotcom

wish i could hop thru the screen & b in an ipod commercial. #talktalk #charlixcx #brat #2000s #nostalgia #ipodshuffle #y2k #ipodcommercial @Charli XCX

♬ Talk talk - Charli xcx
@cathalist

this is gonna flop so bad😔😔 #brat #charlixcx #charlixcxbrat #365 #360 #bratalbum #fyp #viral #blowthisup #aftereffects #aftereffectsedits #blender #apple #iphone #iphone5c #2013

♬ original sound - 📓

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A post shared by memes of charli (@memesofcharli_)

The title of the album and its design is subversive and playful, while its tracks are messy and chaotic which resonates with the instability felt by younger generations, particularly Gen Z. Brat’s reception thus far suggests that it could very well be a generation-defying album. But why did it take three months for the memes to start rolling out? Perhaps it was a strategy employed by Charli’s team or perhaps it was a natural progression as a result of her organic promotional rollout, which heavily increased as the release date drew closer. It’s interesting how the most disruptive thing an artist can do these days is a traditional promotional rollout.

User-generated content (UGC) is one element of music marketing that artists and labels still do not have control over, at least not completely. As fans have devised new ways to explore their parasocial relationship with artists, social media has definitively changed the way we experience music. This transformation underscores how social media and fan creativity can redefine music promotion and push an artist to the mainstream.

The Angels, however, are not the first fandom to achieve this feat (although theirs is more significant). Last December, we were invited to Nicki Minaj’s Gag City and what ensued was an unprecedented level of AI imagery straight from the school of cuntology. If you were unaware that her album, Pink Friday 2 was coming, the memes provided by creators and brands would have surely informed you.

The power of memeifcation of music, although intended for comical relief can also be used as a cultural and economic tool. We’ve seen megastars like Beyoncé embracing it on their social media accounts, while smaller artists like Tinashe have learned how to capitalise on it in more tangible ways. The meteoric release and reception of Brat across social media channels tells us that there is a market for it and reflects fans’ desire to express a sense of community. This shared sense of belonging goes beyond the chronically online and manifests in the real world.

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A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce)

@tinashe

Like come onnn #greenscreenvideo

♬ Nasty - Tinashe

Today’s fans are more than willing to put in the work that their faves refuse to do and this speaks to fans seeking more meaningful and engaging methods to show their dedication beyond consumption. Instead, they are working together, co-creating, and influencing the stories surrounding important cultural figures. Stans want to be active participants in pop culture moments associated with their favourite stars, particularly if they are not within the mainstream. Although Charli XCX has been putting out hits for years, she has been on the periphery of the main pop girl title and her latest project has brought her closer to the top.

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A post shared by memes of charli (@memesofcharli_)

@katespade

Green, the official color of brat summer 💚 #katespadeny #bratsummer

♬ 360 on a hello kitty boombox - stephen

When there is a lack of visual imagery, fans feel obliged to create their own, and these days, they primarily achieve that through the use of AI. While this is not the case for Charli, many fandoms now find themselves in this predicament as artists have grown more reclusive, putting out music without music videos or any promotional content. Young individuals appear to be highly critical of AI, and this reflects a genuine fear of its misuse. However, many are quick to turn a blind eye for the sake of their favourite artist. The success of Brat memes also demonstrates that although AI tools can be useful creative instruments, users still have more conventional means of exploring their creativity.

The ubiquitous nature of Brat (which feels correct) reflects not only a shift in music promotion but also in its consumption. In an era of scarcity, Charli XCX and her team have really been feeding us and the other girls should be taking notes…

@popsamcam

Pls no more bundles, special editions, live voice notes…pls! #charlixcx #chartbattle #taylorswift #ttpd

♬ original sound - Sam Murphy

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