The curious case of Clairo

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The DIY bedroom pop artist Clairo (aka Claire Cotrill) has suddenly shot to fame, even securing a gig with Tyler The Creator and Brockhampton. But how? Given her evident connections in the music industry, can her DIY persona be justified? Asher Breur-Weil discusses.

If you haven’t heard of Claire Cottrill, more commonly known as Clairo, let me explain the story to you. She is a 19-year old indie artist from Boston who shot to the limelight in 2017 with a series of lo-fi bedroom pop songs, notably ‘Pretty Girl’, that went viral on YouTube.

Although the songs are good, there is nothing that marks them out from the countless other artists producing similar lo-fi indie pop – so why has she managed to accumulate millions of streams and views where others haven’t?

I imagined that it was because of the charm of it all. Watch ‘Pretty Girl’ if you haven’t, and tell me that you didn’t get swept up by the cuteness. I don’t mean to use such a patronising word, but it really is the best way to describe her. She seems real, earnest, full of character, and just cute. She makes you smile. This quality alone was what convinced me that she was fully meriting of the huge success that she has achieved.

Then murmurings began about it all being a sham, that she was an ‘industry plant’ with a powerful father who effectively engineered her success. These are allegations that one should be careful with – the internet is obviously full of junk-spewing left right and centre. Yet having done further research, there does seem to be fuel for the fire.

come to these #bye

A post shared by clair-o (@clairo2) on

Her father, Gary Cottrill, worked in the music industry for a number of years, and currently runs Rubber Tracks, Converse’s record label – Clairo is constantly featured wearing Converse shoes in her Instagram pictures. He also is close friends with the founder of The FADER magazine – Clairo’s first big feature piece was in The FADER. She has also recently secured a gig with Tyler, The Creator and Brockhampton, a feat that could only have been achieved through connections in the industry due to their respective statuses.

There is nothing implicitly wrong with getting a leg up for success, but to market yourself as a DIY, homemade and authentic pop singer, when clearly you are anything but that, is wrong. In all her interviews, features, social media posts etc., she has not once mentioned the fact that her dad is big within music. It’s a conscious ploy to deceive her listeners into thinking she’s self-made.

My whole perception of her changed after hearing this. Everything she stood for was basically undone – that ‘cuteness’ transformed into an unappealing fake-ness, the honesty became hollow.

In an industry that already struggles hugely with a lack of transparency, the whole affair seems so crude. The Reddit post that exposed her mentioned that Gary Cottrill has a reputation as a Donald Trump-esque figure, stopping at nothing to get rich. This couldn’t come through stronger here. In planting his daughter within the industry, not only does the music side of his business prosper, but he can then use her success to promote his other businesses, like the Converse that feature all over her social media. It’s free advertising to a significant audience.

💋

A post shared by clair-o (@clairo2) on

But then it’s also more complicated than that. Assuming Claire’s ambitions are to be a pop star, he is technically giving her the tools to achieve success, and if both can profit from that, then so be it. She also clearly is a talented musician who deserves what she has; you can have as much promotion as you want, but if your music isn’t good, you won’t take off.

It really has nothing to do with the art, or the morals of her father, only the deception. If this can happen, where else could we be played for fools? Where else can the media and industry construct artists as false brands that we fall for? It probably happens all over the place.

In an age where streaming services have already created a vacuum of transparency, stories like this make you worry for the reputation of music as a whole.

Featured Image: Facebook / Clairo


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