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One of those journal entries struck a nerve: Pretty Girl” went viral in 2017; as I write this, the original YouTube video sits just north of 37 million views. Its lyrics nod to the #MeToo movement, but its overall message is much broader.

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CLAIROThis past August, Clairo issued her first full-length album, ‘Immunity’. Immunity has sounds that fit perfectly into both a bumbling cafe atmosphere and in any coming-of-age indie film. In typical indie-pop fashion, the album does a fine job of leaving you with a peculiar feeling of nostalgia for a love you possibly never had.

Pretty Girl,” which she initially recorded for an indie-rock compilation benefiting the Transgender Law Center , was organic and took off without any marketing muscle or shortcuts, Clairo insisted. I put it on YouTube, and then the algorithm just ate it up,” she said, which led to interest from major labels, including Columbia, RCA and Capitol.

Almost as quickly as fans began worshiping her as mom!” and queen!” in comment sections, Ms. Cottrill inspired a digital counter-movement that questioned whether some shadowy Svengali had engineered her success — conversations not unlike the skepticism and conspiracy-mongering that accompanied the rise of Lana Del Rey and Lorde Focusing largely on her father, Geoff Cottrill , a marketing executive who has worked for Coca-Cola and Converse, message boards , student newspapers and YouTube lit up with takes that undermined Clairo’s agency and questioned the legitimacy of her seamless self-presentation and viral video.

Claire’s tenderness and admiration for kids — evident in her concern for fans, and choice to speak through them on Immunity — goes back to a personal ritual that helped her survive her childhood. “When I was going through all that shit, and I’d start hating on myself, my mom would sit me down and say ‘Claire, you would never say what you’re saying to yourself right now, if you were talking to the nine-year-old version of yourself. Nine-year-old Claire would cry and be really upset, and you’d have made a child cry.’ That practice was one of the most important things I’d ever learned. It shifted everything.” Reflecting on a child’s unassailable deservingness of love, helped remind her of her own. “You have to realize you’re just a person. I think everyone has a little kid in them. Everyone is just a little kid in a big person’s body,” she says, laughing.

Another viral sensation, folk-pop singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers expressed her frustration to the New York Times when people ascribe her song “Alaska” as “that song Pharrell made for you,” and how she feels underestimated as a woman in an industry where her success is often attributed to men.

Clairo: Yeah! This musician named Sophie Meyers started the group. She’s great. There are about 20 members from all over the world. It’s a Twitter group. All the people involved are really sweet and want to learn more about production, and Sophie is more than willing to offer that advice, and same here. If anyone has questions about my journey or my experience, I’m more than happy to give them advice. Sometimes, I’ll even go in there and I’ll be like, I don’t know why this is happening to me and just vent about my experience, and the women in that group are more than willing to give me that emotional support that I’m not getting elsewhere.

I do believe that after Pretty Girl” hit, Clairo likely had an easier time getting meetings with labels and management companies because her dad was well-connected and knew exactly who she should be talking to. But to believe that Geoff Cottrill was the mastermind behind Pretty Girl” and that a dad-aged ad executive who also used to work for Starbucks’ Hear Music campaign knew exactly how to engineer a fool-proof viral video (Just sing into this webcam when your hair’s real greasy. Everyone will love it.”) is to give the Olds, and maybe even the advertising industry, more credit than they deserve. The controversy surrounding Clairo’s ad executive father and his industry connections would have likely raised more eyebrows had she been a Gen X-er … but also it is impossible to imagine Clairo’s success in a Gen X world, so vital is the internet to her appeal. And I deeply believe that the appeal is genuine because there are parts of it that even I am too washed to understand.

Immunity is a smoothly-produced pop record about queer relationships—there’s no discounting the value of these stories in the lives of queer people and the population at large. Her sultry confidence and steadfastness, even in the face of anxieties and insecurities, is empowering. Immunity has just enough unforgettable glimmers to justify Clairo’s buzz. The question is whether listeners who weren’t already head over heels for her previously released music will hop on board too.

The penultimate track, Every Woman,” serves as Vagabon’s de facto closing bell. Its lyrics nod to the #MeToo movement, but its overall message is much broader. We’re not afraid of the war we brought on,” Tamko sings in the final verse, And we’re steady while holding you all.” Representing a new generation of women and people of color, Tamko democratizes art in her own way, and moments like these tie her music back to the instapoetry movement, flitting between topics of love, feminism, and cultural identity with relative ease.

The three song combo of Bags,” Softly” and Sofia” is where Immunity really hits its stride. Bags,” the album’s lead single, is the record’s clear standout with Clairo’s velvety vocals recorded and mixed to perfection. It’s hard to think of a more satisfyingly crisp vocal track from the past year than the one Clairo delivers here. Softly” and Sofia” are some of her most instantaneous and stomach butterfly-inducing songs with the former accented by a children’s choir (further underscoring the earnestness and innocence of young love) and the latter offering a surprise Strokes-y intro and videogame-like synths.

It’s an ethos that reminds one of early hip-hop or ‘90s riot grrrl. Her poppier stuff is what caught people’s ears, though. When Pretty Girl” exploded, the major labels came running. She got offers from RCA, Capitol and Columbia, but went with something far subtler: FADER Label and a 12-song deal. Jon Cohen, co-founder of publication The FADER and its label, was a family friend. It’s unfortunate that accusations of nepotism have dogged Cottrill’s origin story online, because so much of her background chimes with tales of resourcefulness, of figuring things out by trial and error.

People were paying attention now, for both good and ill. Labels including RCA, Columbia, and Capitol soon came calling. Faced with instant (and life-altering) success, Cottrill did what most teenagers would do: talked to her parents. That’s how, as detailed in a 2018 profile by The New York Times, Cottrill met Jon Cohen, the co-founder of The Fader and friend of her father, Geoff. Soon, she signed with Cohen’s Fader Label.

With her white earbuds and tongue-in-cheek performance, you can see what people were drawn to. It’s just so real. But nobody could’ve predicted that the video would reach 37 million views (and climbing); Least of all Clairo. She uploaded ‘Pretty Girl’ to YouTube, and went to dinner, with no idea what would happen next.

BK: I think they are! With the help of music, they definitely are. Music is a form of expression and for myself, I see music as a way to get rid of feelings that bug me a lot. It’s very therapeutic. I think the more people speak out about it, the more people will start to listen and take us seriously.

In April, Clairo told Out magazine that she’s not sure how to define her sexuality but that she knows it’s not straight.” And indeed there’s such range to the love songs on Immunity” that her romantic preoccupation never seems like a limitation; she sings about old-fashioned desires and about learning to understand new ones — and about what it means to experience both in the same body.

When Clairo – Atlanta-born Claire Cottrill – first broke out, with the YouTube viewing figure smashing bedroom pop single ‘Pretty Girl’ at the tail end of 2017, heckles were raised by the revelation that this apparent underground indie hit was produced by the daughter of a former Proctor & Gamble exec. The phrase industry plant” was bandied about, somewhat cruelly (and arguably misogynistically). Me, I didn’t give a shit. I was in love with the way she left in the four-click count-in, with the fuzzy felt Casiotone synth sounds, with the gentle sweep and flow of the melody.

Ms. Cottrill, who grew up in a small Massachusetts town, sowed her interests both online and in local scenes, frequenting house shows in Boston and Philadelphia. Her early songs were guitar-based, inspired by lo-fi singer-songwriters like Frankie Cosmos and Calvin Johnson. But as D.I.Y. musicians like PC Music began flirting with pop sounds and signifiers — and streaming further eroded musical borders — Ms. Cottrill turned to beat-making on her laptop.

I didn’t expect any of my videos to blow up like ‘Pretty Girl’ did,” Cottrill said in an interview shortly after it did just that. In the coming months, she’d be profiled by Pitchfork and The Fader, ink a 12-song deal with the latter publication’s record label, and sign on with Chance the Rapper‘s manager. To the large majority of her fans, Clairo’s rise was the quintessential anyone-can-do-it success story of the viral era. But a vocal minority took to blogs and Reddit threads to wonder, after digging into her family history, whether it was in fact a more old-fashioned and familiar story than anyone else was letting on.

Bea’s latest EP, the aptly-titled Space Cadet (released October 14), finds the artist leaning heavily into the frustration of being misunderstood and the awkward uncertainty of inching closer towards adulthood. Over an emotive soundbed of fuzzy indie-rock (Sun More Often,” I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus”), melancholic grunge (Are You Sure”), and breezy pop-rock (Space Cadet,” She Plays Bass”), Bea reassures listeners that it’s okay not to fit in.

There’s no doubt Clairo’s feelings are intense and pure-hearted. Unless you approach this record with the acceptance that she’s about to unload romantic angst to the nth degree, you likely won’t be buying what she’s selling. Clairo’s army of listeners are likely more interested in the candid emotional sentiment behind these songs than her lyrical adroitness, and to her credit, it does captures the do-or-die philosophy of young love to a T.

Back in 2017, before she was called on to play Coachella, or Boston Calling, or join Khalid’s arena tour, 18-year-old Claire Cottrill (not yet known as Clairo) was spending her days the way any aspiring artist might: recording song ideas into a voicemail app, messing around with a flea market drum machine and producing her own songs and videos in her Carlisle, Massachusetts, bedroom. She loved it, but wasn’t focused on going viral.



Clairo is this kind of character. Claire Cottrill, a Massachusetts native on the brink of 21, has spent the past two years building up from a viral YouTube presence to a full-scale music-industry onslaught — a transformation completed by her debut album Immunity, out tomorrow. Ever since her 2017 breakout hit Pretty Girl,” a GarageBand bedroom-pop track with a homespun webcam video to match, she’s been a world-straddler. Whereas some artists distill their inspirations into sleek new forms, Clairo blurs them to the point of mirage.

The group’s playing is tight and sharp throughout, but Lenker is what makes Big Thief more than just a bar band. Her lyrics are spare and dark, with a poetic sensibility inspired by Anne Sexton and Raymond Carver. Her singing voice is as distinctive as her writing, with a tremulous warble that’s loaded with emotional resonance. Ranging from guttural yowling to barely contained explosiveness, Lenker’s voice is the perfect vehicle for Big Thief’s dark, pretty songs about personal and political wreckage.

Today she has more than 75 million views on YouTube and has been compared to artists like Billie Eilish, Lorde and Robyn. She released an EP last year and her full-length debut album, Immunity,” on Aug. 2.

Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift debuts at #2 with 54,000 units and 11,000 in sales. It’s her ninth top 10 album as a solo artist and third in 2019 alone following the live album Homecoming and her 2016 opus Lemonade, which surged back up the charts after being released to non-Tidal streaming services. She’s the second artist to land multiple albums in the top 10 this year following Future, who did it with The WIZRD and his Save Me EP. The rest of the top 10 comprises albums from Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, J. Cole’s Dreamville crew, Chris Brown, Lizzo, Khalid, Post Malone, and — entering at #10 with 23,000 units and 12,000 sales — Nas’ The Lost Tapes 2. It’s his 13th top 10 album.

We’ve certainly seen no shortage of such artists in recent years, with pop culture accelerating into hyperspeed and disparate tributaries merging with increasing frequency. Many of the names racking up insane streaming numbers right now represent new archetypes. Billie Eilish seamlessly blends Lorde and Lana and Tyler and SoundCloud rap into goth hypebeast trap-pop. Post Malone turns sing-song pop-rap into a soupy new kind of meat-and-potatoes classic rock. Rosalía stylishly converges flamenco with reggaeton and Latin trap and cutting-edge R&B. Lizzo is an unstoppable rapping, singing, twerking, flute-playing whirlwind. Even when the influences are obvious, you feel like you’re hearing some new chapter in pop music — an impression that solidifies as more and more listeners rally around the artist in question and legions of imitators begin to arise.

In the video, Cottrill has an undeniable everygirl charisma: She grins, does goofy dances, croons to a plastic toy. All the while, she keeps her earbuds in as though she doesn’t want the other people in her house to hear what she’s doing. Pretty Girl” is an ode to teenage boredom, to having nothing better to do with your afternoon than make up a song and star in your own DIY music video. (After all, nearly every laptop comes equipped with one of those green dots, as though it’s just waiting for you to realize your own star potential.) The whole thing has a strange, palpable digital-era intimacy that makes the viewer feel in on a secret. Which is not exactly true anymore—Pretty Girl” has now been viewed more than 17 million times.

Clairo: I didn’t really know what to expect, but what I’ve noticed so far is that women have been dominating this year’s festival. All the performances from the women have been mind-blowing. Rosalía; Christine and the Queens was amazing; I loved Kacey Musgraves ; I loved Billie Eilish ; I loved Maggie Rogers Everyone killed it, and it’s inspiring to be on a lineup with them and being able to talk to them. Offering support to other women on the lineup is the No. 1 thing I want to do at any festival I play. I want to make sure that every other female musician is getting positive energy from me if they want it.

Juice B Crypts biggest drawback is that, with so much going on, some of these songs get lost in the album’s frenetic whiplash pacing. A Loop So Nice…” is a fleeting piece of crystalline glitch-pop that suffers from its placement alongside its superior companion piece, They Played It Twice,” which features a vocal part from Xenia Rubinos that attains almost religious levels of ecstasy. Last Supper on Shasta, Pt. 1” gets some mileage from Merrill Garbus’s typically wild vocals, but Pt. 2” buries her singing under a mountain of noise.

Immunity has been widely embraced by the music press and fans alike as a Best of 2019” album. Cottrill landed safely in a place she feels comfortable in, proving to herself and others that she was more than just Pretty Girl.” Hanging out with her, you get the sense she still seeks validation from the other kids in the school corridors. But those 15-year-olds grow up, and they become adults, and Cottrill has received oodles of respect from them. Maybe she was just an old soul all along.

There are stretches of the bass-driven opening track, Ambulance,” that suggest the soundtrack to a podcast about Theranos before shifting into a screechy, cyberpunkish second movement. Guitarist-keyboardist Ian Williams and drummer John Stanier eventually blend those two sonic ideas together as the song builds to its climax. The track’s distinct parts represent a microcosm of the album’s ethos: Every song features a plethora of ideas that, when it works, the band manages to weave together into a unified whole, with no gesture wasted.

The album’s best points arrive whenever Clairo leans into her feel for addictive melodies, as on Closer to You,” which features Immunity’s best hook. Beginning over deep carrying synths and a skeleton of clipped hi-hat beats, she moves from ice cold verses to a chorus rendered dreamy by her layered vocals. At once evoking Kanye West’s 2008 minimalist rap masterpiece 808s & Heartbreaks and Mandy Moore, Closer to You” shows Clairo reaching into her deep bag of influences while keeping her grasp of carefully examined intimacies. And yet, even with these clear landings of her creative vision, there are still moments when her intriguing curiosity betrays her. The transitions between songs can feel unnatural, as when the minimalist realm of Closer to You” bumps against the pop-rock-esque mood of North.” And at times her delicate voice loses out against slightly distorted instrumentation. The sparing instances of Auto-Tune can feel like vocal crutches rather than enhancements.

Coming off the release of her debut album, Immunity,” in August, the 21-year-old indie artist has garnered abundant success. She sold out her first show on her first tour, even adding another date in Chicago the day after.

Back to this week’s chart: Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy” spends its seventh nonconsecutive week at #2. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s Señorita” climbs back to #3, and Khalid’s Talk” to #4. Lizzo’s Truth Hurts” hits a new #5 peak, while Sheeran and Bieber’s I Don’t Care” falls to #6. Holding steady at #7, #8, and #9 are Post Malone and Young Thug’s Goodbyes,” Jonas Brothers’ Sucker,” and another Post Malone song, Sunflower” with Swae Lee. And rounding out the top 10 is another Mendes track, If I Can’t Have You” — the first time Mendes has landed concurrent top 10 hits. Other artists to do it this year include Drake, Ariana Grande, Halsey, Travis Scott, and — as we see this week — Post Malone.

Wilco gets a lot of credit for being weirder than they actually are. Incorporating elements of genres ranging from krautrock to electronica, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born —two of the most indelible rock album of the aughts—suggested the band would continue to evolve beyond their alt-country origins. Since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky , though, they’ve pretty much been returning to the same well over and over again, blending together light electronic elements and straightforward rock structures, with guitar pyrotechnics thrown in to show off Nels Cline’s undeniable chops.

Whereas electric guitar theatrics built up to some joyful releases on both Tamko’s 2014 EP Persian Garden and Infinite Worlds, Vagabon finds the singer retreating to the comfort of her computer’s Logic program to fashion a world almost entirely around her honeyed vocals. Although you won’t find many ‘90s-infused indie jams like Minneapolis” or The Embers” here, Tamko’s voice never sounds strained in ways it once did either.

If, as Cottrill told me early in our chat, songs are a time capsule of a moment,” then the songs of Immunity seem to capture a performer in the act of proving their bona fides and stepping towards the edge of even greater things. While it’s not Clairo’s job to rebut the haters and doubters, it’s hard to see how anyone could listen to the record and still come away questioning. Still, I wondered how Cottrill’s relationship with social media had changed between 2017 and now.


Clairo broke out in late 2017 with the heartwarmingly DIY viral video Pretty Girl ,” and her lo-fi productions and raspy whisper have since captured the attention of elder tastemakers and Gen Z superfans alike. The 20-year-old singer-songwriter has the sharp mind of a woman and the warm soul of a folk hero. She’s a humble but powerful presence, taking each chance to speak her mind, nurture her voice, support her peers, and stay open along the way.

Pretty Girl,” which she initially recorded for an indie-rock compilation benefiting the Transgender Law Center , was organic and took off without any marketing muscle or shortcuts, Clairo insisted. I put it on YouTube, and then the algorithm just ate it up,” she said, which led to interest from major labels, including Columbia, RCA and Capitol.

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