In 2017, 21-year-old Claire Cottrill, better known as Clairo, uploaded a lo-fi music video for her bedroom pop song “Pretty Girl,” in which she dons headphones, switches outfits and lip-syncs in her room on her computer’s camera. That video now has over 39 million views, making it the first of several viral hits for Cottrill, such as “4EVER” and “Flamin Hot Cheetos.”
Clairo’s debut album, “Immunity,” successfully proves that her talents do, in fact, extend beyond her bedroom. The record was co-produced by former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij and Cottrill herself. “Immunity” is a restrained, charming love story to lonely teenagerdom, as well as an exploration of Clairo’s sexuality. Cottrill’s dreamy, faded vocals pair well with the fuzzy backgrounds and distorted guitar samples. Her angst and heartache are painfully relatable, and the accessibility of her subject matter draws a youthful and passionate fan base.
A personal vision that she brought to life with minimal help, “Immunity” is at once familiar and unique. With tones of R&B and ’80s/’90s pop threaded throughout, Cottrill adds her own flavor with her pensive lyrics and husky tone. She even features children’s choirs in more than one track, most notably in “I Wouldn’t Ask You.” Although they’re honest and elegant, her lyrics can be difficult to decipher above the fuzz of the music. Her hushed tones make the listener feel like her words are intimate and personal, but you may miss some of her genius due to their inaudibility. There is a sense of unreachability in her words; she paradoxically comes across as both personal and withholding.
Born in Carlisle, MA, the singer-songwriter attended Syracuse University before deciding to solely focus on pursuing her music career. She signed with the record label The Fader, as well as Chance the Rapper’s manager, Pat Corcoran. She promised a 12-track deal, and she delivered just that.
Cottrill has been accused of being an “industry plant” because of her family connections and alleged bankroll. Critics say that Geoff Cottrill, a former Converse chief marketing officer, is responsible for Clairo’s success. They accuse the artist of cultivating a disingenuous, DIY persona that is nothing more than a marketing ploy. I’d like to give her more credit than that: She is clearly a talented songwriter and vocalist, and there isn’t that much evidence that her success has anything to do with her father’s industry ties. In this day and age, fame is a lottery. Cottrill has won.
Featuring 11 songs with a variety of moods, “Immunity” is the perfect backdrop for both a picnic and a rainy day. “Sofia,” the most upbeat and vibrant track on the album, is a bouncy beat courtesy of Danielle Haim. A clear declaration of Cottrill’s bisexuality, “Sofia” features lyrics like “Sofia know that you and I/shouldn’t feel like a crime.” You can’t help but bop your head along to her breezy harmonies and root for Cottrill. Simultaneously buoyant and chill, “Softly” is a hazy, romantic number where she declares: “And I don’t care what they say.”
Cottrill further explores her sexuality on “Bags,” which has already racked up over 3.7 million Spotify streams. She pairs allusions to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” (“Pour your glass of wine/Mitchell told me I should be just fine”) with vulnerable truths (“Know you’d make fun of me.”) “Bags” is chock full of brilliant references that require close listening as well as heartfelt fears of rejection. Delicate and raw, tracks like “Impossible” and “White Flag” contrast the more bouncy tunes with tangible unease and more dissonant harmonies.
Minimal makeup, pink hair, a nose ring and various tattoos complete Cottrill’s angsty teen uniform—it’s authentic. She presents herself as a normal teenage girl who is shocked by her viral stardom but grateful for the audience it provides for her, allowing her to share more of herself. Cottrill has tapped into a market that is hungry for a relatable female icon. The world is watching and listening as she navigates her adolescence and sexuality.
“Immunity” is filled with teenage heartbreak, remorse and lust. Each song is noteworthy and different, but all possess the same ethereal quality. From its soft, poetic beginning, the album builds in emotional and sonic intensity. Cottrill has created one of those rare albums that you listen to from beginning to end—no skips. Her words are self-aware and vulnerable, making it easy to lose yourself amidst the dreamy haze.