Despite this, the 22-year-old musician -- better known by the name of Clairo -- has consistently had to prove herself to the world, whether it be showing that she's more than just a viral hit (2017's "Pretty Girl") or brushing off claims that she's an industry plant. But as she's grown beyond her bedroom pop beginnings, she's risen above the noise by creating intricately detailed, meaningful music, and made it seem effortless. Her latest album, Sling, is a true testament to this.
In 2019, fresh off the release of her debut album Immunity, Claire Cottrill--known professionally as Clairo--had gone from recording music in her dorm room to playing stadiums as one of the biggest names in indie pop in less than two years. It was a whirlwind ascent, one that saw Cottrill opening for Khalid and Tame Impala, collaborating with ex-Vampire Weekend producer Rostam Batmanglij, and becoming a queer indie pop touchstone for the burgeoning Tik Tok generation. Most of all, though, it left her exhausted.
Retreat, redemption, and reinvention.
Claire Cottrill's life to date has in many ways been a depiction of the Gen Z plight: she's open about her sexuality, frustrated with the objectification of women (in music and universally), and exceptionally forthright about her emotions. 2019's Immunity successfully transformed Claire, who performs as Clairo, from an overnight YouTube sensation into a bonafide indie-pop star. Tracks like 'Bags' and 'Sofia' - both of which chronicle crushes she's had on other women - became anthems for other gay or bisexual women, sparking fan comments such as "Every day is hard, but this makes it a little easier.
"Pardon my emotions," Clairo apologized on her 2019 debut Immunity, suppressing a pounding desire to shut off the TV and just kiss already, worried that her friend would be terribly inconvenienced by the news of her crush. The 22-year-old artist's world was one of discretion and uncertainty, small utterances and their shadow meanings, shy nudges toward people you want so badly to touch. (As she once told Rookie, "Getting close to someone is a really sensitive thing.") But on "Blouse," the hushed lead single of Clairo's second album, Sling, the little thrills of adolescence are gone.
If those sharing Clairo's understated viral hit "Pretty Girl" in 2017 could time travel to our heat-warped present, it's entirely possible they wouldn't recognize Claire Cottrill at all. They'd certainly be surprised by Sling, the 22-year-old's vibrant and unexpected second record. A masterclass in rendering your early output obsolete and a lesson in taking yourself seriously when others won't, Sling is Clairo fully realized, a record that finally abandons the bedroom for the hills.
While in theory a big rebrand, it felt quite fitting when Taylor Swift went all folksy on us during the covid-scarred summer of 2020. Gone were the big hooks, in their place were reams of wordy, thoughtful lyrics and muted organic instrumentation. One didn't need to search too hard to find Jack Antonoff's name popping up all over the credits, and this year he provides a similar service on Clairo's similar rebrand.
In her digital cover feature of Rolling Stone, Clairo talks about songs as if they are like little ghosts. She's thinking of the friendly, Phoebe Bridgers album-artwork kind: shaded in white chalk, black slits where the eyes would be, softly illuminated by a rainbow, dog (Joanie, maybe) in the background. The song that follows her around - that plays on the radio as she's driving on the freeway, that pumps out of airport speakers at 3.a.m., sweetly interrupting a train of thought at any given point in time - is 'Let's Dance' by David Bowie.