Clairo’s Immunity Shines Through

Written by Gianna Cicchetti

Graphic by Emily Lantzy

         Over the past few years, Claire Cottrill — also known as Clairo — has established a presence at the forefront of bringing “indie” music and style back to the mainstream. Songs like “Pretty Girl” and “Flaming Hot Cheetos” have acquired tens of millions of streams online and in return, many have gravitated towards Clairo to watch her transform from a girl who recorded songs and music videos in her bedroom to an artist that currently has the support slot at venues as big as Madison Square Garden. After releasing an EP, 2018’s diary 001, and a handful of one-off singles, Clairo is back again with her first full length album entitled Immunity. With personal songs from front to back, this body of work shows a step forward in her maturity and her growth as an artist who has finally found her sound. 

         The opening track, “Alewife,” is one where Clairo shows her gratitude for a friend who called her and helped her deter herself from committing suicide when she was younger. A heavy topic to start a record with, yes, but with its gentle piano, acoustic guitar, and soft drums, it’s a track that evokes the listeners to truly feel something and to step into Clairo’s shoes. Her soft vocals tell how without this friend, she would have been successful in what she was trying to do; she considers this friend a ‘sister’ for standing by her side and saving her life that day in eighth grade.

            “Impossible” starts out with a looped drum and organlike keys create a kind of dark vibe that draws you in. In the track, Clairo is talking to a former partner to try to get the closure she desires. The pain from the relationship is driving her to settle things and move on from them, but at the same time, she is trying to resist temptations to fall back in love with them. During the bridge, she repeatedly sings ‘I know that it’s time to forget how I’m feeling, don’t want to give in / But I know, know that it’s right to listen to my breathing and start believing myself,’ as a reminder that she doesn’t belong to this person and that she can officially let go as she wants to.

            Third on the album, “Closer To You,” brings a bit of a sonic change from the Clairo we are used to. The guitars and drums appear to be absent as a dark and moody trap beat backs the song. Clairo uses autotune for stylistic purposes as she sings about someone who is toxic, yet attractive to her. Though this person leaves a chill in her bones and messes with her head, she says that the things they do only makes her want to get closer to them. The person’s behavior is never bad enough for her to leave. It was initially a little shocking to hear the autotune, but it helps to make the song stand out in a positive way.

         Track four, “North,” is one where Clairo realizes that she knows she can’t have a person, but knows that seeing them vulnerable makes her want them even more. She says she should ‘go up north’ to escape the situation because she misses this person’s touch and doesn’t want to live with the reminder of letting them go. The beat that backs the track slightly contradicts the feelings of nervousness in Clairo’s vocals and lyrics, which attracted me to this song even more. At one point, Clairo describes missing the subject of the song and the beat completely drops out to highlight the words she is saying, which I thought was very well done.

          The first single off of Immunity, “Bags,” will always be my favorite track. The song shifts from the lo-fi sounds of much of Clairo’s discography, with a more noticeable acoustic guitar loop and glittery piano throughout. The song has a clear story to tell: Clairo is in a very one-sided relationship, but she says that she is content with it only because it is better than seeing the other person leave her for someone else. ‘Tell you how I felt, sugar-coated melting in your mouth / Pardon my emotions, I should probably keep it all to myself / Know you’d make fun of me’ is a perfect summation of how Clairo feels restricted and unable to give herself fully in the relationship knowing she is getting absolutely nothing in return. The music behind the story is infectious enough to get you to want to revisit the song many more times; the easy-to-listen-to production on the track combined with its relatability make it the perfect single. It's the one in which I feel Clairo’s songwriting ability and talent are best encapsulated.

          “Softly” tells of Clairo growing very close to a girl very soon after meeting her. Like several other tracks on the record, she expresses disapproval of her own actions, saying that she knows she shouldn’t be doing what she does, but she wants to so badly. She doesn’t care what anyone says because of the way this girl makes her feel. The ‘I don’t care what they say’ in the background of the song is sung by a children’s choir, an element on the album Clairo has mentioned in several interviews to be a symbol of herself feeling emotions fully. A standout from my first listen, the plucky guitars and slightly thumping beat make the song even more enjoyable.

         Seventh on the album is “Sofia,” a song about Clairo’s crush on a girl that she hopes will turn into something bigger. She is afraid to reach out and make this relationship happen, especially because of the lingering societal stigma around same-sex relationships, but she knows she wants it. The repetition of ‘I think we could do it if we tried’ shows her optimism, especially paired with the brightness of guitars and electronic beats that drive the song. Another single that was put out before the August 2nd release date, “Sofia” is one of the more upbeat tracks on Immunity and is great at serving its purpose as a song to describe Clairo’s exploration of her own sexuality.

          Next is “White Flag,” in which Clairo surrenders to the thought of having bad feelings towards an ex and instead hopes for a peaceful and cordial relationship between them. The track starts with a very minimal beat, but becomes more complex as the song reaches its peak and winds back down at the end. It feels like a very quick song, but Clairo gets her point across effectively nonetheless.

          “Feel Something” is one of the songs on the album where Clairo is at her most passionate vocally. This ballad describes her trying to get over an ex yet longing for the relationship to be how it once was. She doesn’t want to be alone anymore and becomes nostalgic about how it all began for the two of them. Pairing a beat similar to that of “White Flag” and the lyrics full of longing and heartbreak, the song is one of the sadder tracks on the album that hurts, especially if you have been in a similar position.

          “Sinking” is another emotional, R&B inspired track that discusses Clairo’s struggle with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She feels almost suffocated from thinking about things that she either can’t do or hasn’t done due to her illness, almost as if she was physically sinking to the floor. The lyrics address someone and tell them that she is doing the best she can and there is only so much that this person can do to help her. A very personal track that is clearly from a struggling mind, the track exposes listeners to a different side of Clairo, not just what we see in her love-inspired songs.

         The final track on Immunity is “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” which is a song about when Clairo was hospitalized for her arthritis and was cared for by her boyfriend at the time. In the first part of this seven minute closer, quiet and sad pianos back Clairo’s vocals as she describes feeling closed off from her boyfriend who feels helpless in trying to assist and comfort her in a difficult time. Clairo repeats ‘I wouldn’t ask you to take care of me’ while being backed by the children’s choir that was used earlier on the album. Since children feel their emotions to the most extreme degree, Clairo was clever in using the children’s choir to push her passion to the forefront, even giving me goosebumps in the process. The song transitions into an R&B beat about halfway through, changing the mood remarkably as she gains the ability to become vulnerable and intimate with her partner again. She becomes more hopeful in saying that the two of them will be alright together despite what comes in their way, since he is everything to her as she is singing this. Ending the album by saying ‘We could be so strong’ is perfect in tying the entire theme of Immunity together: Clairo has learned and grown through many of her experiences, making her immune to these obstacles as she faces them, and this song is no different. 

          Debut albums are a culmination of self-discovery, learning curves, and ideas uninfluenced by any kind of outside expectations. Clairo proves on Immunity that though she is young, she is learning just like all of us. The experiences she’s had turned into some honest, complex, and remarkable indie-pop songs that were much needed in a seemingly barren summer for music.