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Immunity: A Review of Clairo’s Successive Debut Album

By Clara Ding

In her first studio album, Immunity, Clairo opens up about her mental health, JRA, sexuality, identity, and transformative adolescence, but focuses on celebrating these individual challenges or seeing them in a positive light. The album was released on August 2, 2019, contains 11 songs, and runs for 40 minutes and 39 seconds. Immunity, the name of this album, has two meanings. It stems from her juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease (arthritis) that Clairo was diagnosed with at the age of 17, and, as she states in an interview, being immune to things that weaken or depress you and overcoming negative moments and turning them into positive ones. Throughout the album, Clairo uses musical techniques like autotune and children’s choir as metaphors in her songs to depict her complicated experiences throughout her adolescence (like mental health and sexuality) and transitioning into adulthood. She also uses vulnerability and sensitivity (the strengths and most prominent characteristics of Immunity) within her album to tell her story of having to overcome her personal difficulties and obstacles to become who she is today.

Pretty Girl 

Since a young age, Clairo has been involved and immersed in music. She first started writing, singing and recording music during her early teenage years when she was about 13 or 14. With the release of ‘Pretty Girl’ on YouTube in 2017, when she had just turned 19, Clairo quickly gained attention and popularity, with the music video reaching millions of views within a few months. The song is about a relationship Clario had, in which she felt she had to be the perfect ideal partner. She believed that how she did her makeup, how she did her hair, the clothes she wore and even the way she spoke had to reflect her partner’s preferences. During the process of constantly changing herself for someone else, she lost herself along the way. Clairo made the ‘Pretty Girl music video when she had just woken up - she claims her hair was greasy, her skin was bad and she hadn’t taken off her makeup from the day before. She says she made this video for herself - to remind herself that she doesn’t need to have perfect skin, makeup, clothes and hair to be who she is. Instead of obsessing over her appearance and feeling pressured to live up to certain standards and expectations, she should embrace her imperfections and insecurities.

‘Pretty Girl’ became well-known, due to the YouTube algorithm, as well as her grasp and understanding of branding and trends in the internet zeitgeist. But because of her overnight success, the internet quickly became sceptical and doubtful of her, accusing her of being an ‘industry plant’ due to her dad's occupation as an American marketer. Clairo and many of her fans credit the algorithm and her “sheer luck”. As a major Clairo fan and supporter, I found many of these claims to be quite far-fetched and illogical (and often driven by sexism), especially considering she had been releasing music for years before ‘Pretty Girl’ was released. I fully credit Clairo’s hard work and talent, but I dislike how she continues to falsely brand herself as a self-made, DIY artist, blowing up out of nowhere. She also fails to acknowledge the benefit of having a wealthy father, who is a Chief Marketing Officer and has experience working for major companies such as Coca-Cola, Converse, and Starbucks, in addition to working for several years in the record industry. Despite facing many claims and allegations, ‘Pretty Girl’ deservedly continues to grow in views each day, today, the song has over 100 million views.

Credit: ‘Pretty Girl’ music video

Immunity tells the story of a teenage girl and her positive and negative experiences and memories. It shows the awkward transition from teenhood to adulthood and difficulty with making decisions, especially those related to your career and future. Immunity proved Clairo’s growth as an artist. She advances from bedroom pop, lo-fi-based songs, and music videos recorded on her laptop’s webcam to more mature, indie pop inspired by vintage synthesisers and crystalline sounds. 


The opening track, ‘Alewife’, is about when Clairo’s friend Alexa assisted her in navigating a period when she was in 8th grade and struggled with her mental health. The name of this song derives from Alewife train station, close to Carlisle, Massachusetts, where she grew up. There was a night when she was struggling with mental health issues and self-worth. Since Clairo had vaguely told her she was feeling this way, Alexa began making calls, and sending texts, ensuring she was not alone and had someone to talk to during her complicated experience. Through this thank-you song and love song, Clairo extends her appreciation to Alexa for having such a significant presence in her life and being a genuine friend, something she felt like she never had in her life and never experienced until Alexa. Clairo claims that this song wasn’t written or meant to be an emotional one or about how badly she was struggling at that moment, but instead more about Alexa and a reminder that there are lots of people like Alexa out there who want to uplift you, boost your confidence and help you escape unhealthy mental states. I don't have a lot to say about this song: it touches me deeply. I appreciate how her gentle vocals blend with the melancholic piano melody.

Sofia and Bags

The representation of Clairo's sexuality and her coming out is another prominent element in Immunity. She illustrates this concept in her two most well-known songs, ‘Sofia’ and ‘Bags’. In 2018, via social media, Clairo came out to her fans as bisexual through one of her songs B.O.M.D (boy of my dreams), saying that the title of the song is also interchangeable with G.O.M.D (girl of my dreams). In an interview, Clairo talks about how she feels more comfortable leaning into self-discovery, a topic she thoroughly explored in Immunity by writing about her personal experiences, especially those she rarely mentions or discusses that she feels driven to share and talk about ‘out loud’ to embrace herself and her identity instead of pushing it away. One of these special and personal experiences is Clairo’s coming out and discussing her sexuality, which is reflected through the songs ‘Bags’ and ‘Sofia’. ‘Sofia’ is a song about Clairo’s first-ever crush on a girl she saw in the media - director Sofia Coppola and actress Sofia Vergara, hence the name of the song. Through a pulsating and electro-pop beat, she celebrates and appreciates her sexuality. ‘Bags’ is about one of Clairo’s more personal first experiences with a girl. With her metaphorical lyricism, Clairo compares confessing your feelings to someone with wine stains - once you spill it, you can’t get it out, and once you admit your feelings, you can’t take it back. At its core, ‘Bags’ is a song about complexity, emotional depth, vulnerability and unresolved or confusing feelings and emotions. Its introspective mood allows us to observe our own experiences, relationships and emotional baggage, enabling the listeners to relate and resonate with the song's authenticity, universal themes and heartfelt lyrics. 

Despite having and mentioning very similar themes and topics, the mood or atmosphere of each track differed. Listening to ‘Sofia’ felt celebrational, contentful, prideful and intimate. Its simplicity, many different textures and volumes and self-harmonising contributed to the positive, cheerful mood of the song. The simplicity of the song and the constant use of the same musical techniques caused it to sound a little basic and one-dimensional. On the other hand, ‘Bags’ is a more emotional song but lacks spirit and liveliness. But despite having a simple, indie beat along with plain vocals and instrumentals it wins me, and other fans over with its relativeness and deep lyrics full of metaphors, striking interest and emotion in us.

I Wouldn’t Ask You

‘I Wouldn’t Ask You’ is the final track in Immunity, and arguably, one of Clairo’s deepest and most emotional songs. It tells the story of her being hospitalised due to her JRA, a time in her life when she felt weak, hesitant, insecure and vulnerable while being cared for by her boyfriend at the time. The song starts with a gentle piano, with twinkling notes and simple chords. Her vocals are characterised by their soft and tranquil quality. Both in its musical composition and lyrical content, it conveys her uncertainty and hesitation. Throughout the first half of the song, she expresses how her JRA affects her relationships by varying intensities of intimacy, reliance, and seclusion. Clairo discusses longingness and uncertainty in her relationship, she longs to communicate with and open up to her partner but has a fear of rejection and misunderstanding. She explains that having your partner as your caretaker is rewarding but also extremely challenging due to struggles with reliance and having an intimate relationship. In the second half, the mood of the song changes in terms of its musical elements and lyrics. A drum beat is introduced, accompanied by louder harmonies and instrumentals. Her voice also becomes more pronounced and she sounds more confident, sure and happy. The sudden change in arrangement, tone and manner can be interpreted as one of her hidden metaphors, the second half of the song, and the end of Immunity represent her fighting back and approaching negative moments of her life with resilience and mental strength, the central idea of Immunity

Overall, Immunity is an amazing debut album full of memorable, intimate and complex songs, wholehearted lyrics and rich with themes and metaphors exploring identity, self-exploration, the complexities of love, relationships and emotional sensitivity and vulnerability. It is not a perfect album as struggles to satisfy the demands of interesting vocals and instrumentals, most of the tracks tend to sound bland, continuous and lackadaisical. Nonetheless, it is still an exceptional album with deep, meaningful lyrics and hidden metaphors. Immunity is not only an album but a story, a film and a letter to Clairo’s younger self. 

With Clairo’s new album coming out very soon, we should remember where she came from and see her development as an artist. I can’t say I know what to expect, but I am awaiting Clairo’s new style embracing weirdness, playing the flute for donkeys under rainbows and incorporating jazzy clarinet melodies. 



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This is so beautiful and I can tell you care so much about Clairo's work. Made my day!



Wow this is amazing



Well done, Clara on this beautifully written review of the best album of the first year of COVID (2020).

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