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Charli xcx and Taylor Swift
Charli xcx and Taylor Swift
Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Vanity Fair + Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Culture > Entertainment

Um, What’s Going On Between Charli XCX & Taylor Swift RN?

Charli xcx (RIP to the capitalized XCX) has hit a sweet spot with her latest studio album, BRAT

The British artist is no stranger to the music industry. You’ve probably heard her smash hit 2012 collaboration with Icona Pop “I Love It” and spent the summer of 2014 listening to her on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” However, hyperpop connoisseurs like myself love her for tracks like “Unlock it (Lock It)” featuring trans icon Kim Petras and “Used to Know Me” from her underrated fifth album, Crash. Nonetheless, Charli has breached an apparent new level of recognition with BRAT.

There’s no denying the level of talent and artistry that Mrs. xcx possesses. “Sympathy Is A Knife” is admittedly one of my favorite top from the BRAT album, and it seems to be one of the internet’s top picks too. The song explores the notion of Charli comparing herself to another girl who “taps [her] insecurities.” She admits her self-doubts throughout the lyrics of the track, singing, “I couldn’t even be her if I tried / I’m opposite, I’m on the other side.”

Her vulnerability is refreshingly attractive, and chronically online stans are theorizing the song is about none other than Taylor Swift. Charli sings, “Don’t wanna see her backstage at my boyfriend’s show / Fingers crossed behind my back / I hope they break up quick.”

Now, why would this be a reference to Swift? Well, Charli is engaged to The 1975’s drummer, George Danieland The Tortured Poets Department is rumored to be about Swift’s situationship with Matty Healy, the lead singer of the band. Are you putting the pieces together now?

The Midnights singer and Charli had a history long before the former started her fling with Healy. Now, the release of BRAT has fans speculating that they’ve had “Bad Blood” for a while. If you’re confused, don’t worry, because I’m going to break down the crossover between Charli and Swift’s careers throughout the years, and why sympathy might actually be a knife.

In case you didn’t know, Charli opened up for Swift on her 2018 Reputation Tour, which is a huge part of their lore. While they’re both pop girlies, it’s kind of surprising that Charlie opened up for Swift considering the differences in their artistic styles. Charli’s known for her hyper-electro-pop sound, whereas Swift has that more commercial, radio-like vibe. Someone like Sabrina Carpenter was the perfect opening act for the leader of The Tortured Poets Department because their music is on a similar pathways in their career. 

Charli called this out in an August 2019 interview with Pitchfork when she said performing on the Reputation tour “kind of felt like I was getting up on stage and waving to 5-year-olds.” She said she was “grateful” to Swift for the opportunity, but notedsaid that the experience taught her that she doesn’t want to open for any moreanymore artists going forward in her career. In true Swiftie fashion, Swift’s fans disapproved of Charli’s comments, which led her to release a statement on X/Twitter clarifying her thoughts. 

She said she was “taken out of context” and  was “extremely grateful to Taylor for inviting me to open for her.” On the contrary, Charli explained that she was used to playing in “18+ club shows and so to be on stage in front of all ages was new to me and made me approach my performances with a whole new kind of energy.” If you’re unfamiliar with her as an artist, Charli grew up in the club scene and is definitely geared towards a demographic different than Swift’s. Despite this, she caught the wrath of Swifties, which somewhat tainted her image. 

Fast forward to 2023, rumors of Swift and Healy dating skyrocketed. On January 12, before speculation about their relationship began, Swift was s a surprise guest at a The 1975 show. Charli had been dating Daniel for a few months at this point, which is why fans think her lyric “Don’t wanna see her backstage at my boyfriend’s show” is about the “Karma” singer. 

But wait, there’s more. Charli released BRAT on June 7, 2024, and the album was projected to battle it out against Bon Jovi’s Forever for the No. 1 spot on the UK charts. Prior to their releases, TTPD held the No. 1 spot on the UK charts. However, Swift suddenly released new UK-only editions of TTPD in a speculated attempt to block Charli from reaching the top spot

To add more fuel to the fire, the new variants to Swift’s album were only available for purchase through 11:59 p.m. on June 13, the final day of tracking for the UK charts. BRAT debuted at No. 2 on the UK charts while TTPD maintained its No. 1 spot, to no surprise. 

This isn’t the first time Swift has been accused of attempting to stop another artist from overthrowing her on the charts. Not even one month prior, Billie Eilish released her new album HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 200 behind TTPD. Right before Eilish’s new album dropped, Swift released several new vinyl versions of her latest album. Coincidence? I think not.

Charli addressed the online discourse surrounding BRAT reaching No. 2 on the UK charts at her June 15 Los Angeles concert of her BRAT Arena Tour. In a video posted on TikTok by @joyseohyunjeon, Charli joked that when making the album she joked that “it was top two level good,” which many think was direct shade to the chart battle between herself and Swift. 


“what’s the next song? oh, it’s sympathy is a knife… interesting” #charlixcx #brat @Charli XCX

♬ original sound – joy

Nonetheless, she thanked her fans — aka Angels — for the widespread support she’s received on the album as compared to her past projects that haven’t received as much acclaim.

“I just feel like artistry shines through,” Charli said. “I already know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just really appreciative to the people who’ve been there from the jump and understood my vision.” 

At the end of her speech, Charli prepared to play the next song on her set, stating, “What’s the next song? Oh, it’s ‘Sympathy is a Knife,’ interesting!’” 

Whether the track is actually about Swift or not, it’s refreshing to hear artists address the unfairness that’s encompassed the music industry. Charli is breaking boundaries with BRAT, and even though she’s not in the No.1 spot on the UK charts, she’s No. 1 in my household.

McKinley Franklin is a writer and recent college graduate from East Carolina University. She was Her Campus' fall 2022 entertainment and culture intern and is a current national writer. McKinley specializes in entertainment coverage, though her favorite niche of the industry is reality television.