On ‘Immunity,’ Clairo takes pop in a fresh direction
Despite her rising stardom, Claire Cottrill has struggled to separate herself from the do-it-yourself bedroom pop label critics gave her in the summer of 2017. That year found Cottrill, now known as Clairo, stuck at home in Carlisle, making a video of herself sitting in bed singing and dancing along to her song “Pretty Girl.”
The video became an instant hit and has since amassed more than 37 million views. Minimal, twinkly synths push the track forward, but it’s Cottrill’s lyrics that make the song so appealing. An eloquent exploration of teenage emotions, it conveys conflicting thoughts on love, heartbreak, and self-worth.
For the past two years, the singer has been shaking bedroom pop off her back. Now with her debut album, “Immunity,” Clairo has found her sound, one more elaborate and fitting for the lyrical prowess that made “Pretty Girl” such a hit.
The album hits a gorgeous peak with the fifth song, “Bags.” It features an acoustic guitar, an upbeat percussion line, and strikingly sad lyrics. “Can you see me using everything to hold back?/ I guess this could be worse/ Walking out the door with your bags,” Clairo sings. The production follows her narrative, rising and falling with an energy that is perfectly in sync with her hushed singing.
This is the work of producer Rostam Batmanglij, who is primarily known for his work with Vampire Weekend (on “Impossible,” listeners will hear an organ sequence that echoes the strings in Vampire Weekend’s 2008 hit “M79”). Clairo’s songs once depended so much on her use of words, and with this album the production has risen to that same level, demanding the listener’s attention. Fans will hear trap-inspired autotuned anthems like “Closer to You” beside poignant piano ballads like the Massachusetts-inspired “Alewife,” or even a children’s choir, featured heavily in the album’s final song, “I Wouldn’t Ask You.”
Clairo is only 20 years old, and she has a lot to say about what she’s seen so far. That can’t all be constrained to bedroom pop. With the help of Batmanglij, it can take contemporary pop in new directions.