A comparison of Clairo and Elio

Wednesday, May 29, 2019 - 5:36pm

Brooks Sproul

Brooks Sproul Buy this photo
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Clairo, Clairo, Clairo.

You know what that sounds like?

Elio, Elio, Elio (from the final scene of “Call Me By Your Name”).

Yes, this might be dramatic, but allow me to force this comparison for just one moment, because listening to Clairo’s new single “Bags” (in anticipation of her debut album Immunity, due Aug. 2) launched me immediately into the heart-wrenching headspace of the following quote from Andre Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name” (CMBYN):

“If he knew. If he only knew that I was giving him every chance to put two and two together and come up with a bigger number than infinity.”

Clairo’s new single “Bags” embodies this push and pull of summertime feelings, caught in a space between opposite magnetic forces where holding back affection sucks, but speaking out about it sucks equally as much, if not more.

Clairo’s dainty voice, the summertime release, and her staple ability to be hazy (but not in the way that makes you think of overcast skies), launched me right into the green and yellow hues of “CMBYN.” With her fragile vocals, the scratchiness from switching between guitar strings and an overall sense of lingering, she cultivates the subsistence of entanglement. She creates this first-person point of view that feels so similar to Elio with lyrics: “I can’t read you, but if you want, the pleasure’s all mine. Can you see me using everything to hold back?”

Also strikingly similar to Elio is the tangibility of her personal development in being open about her sexuality, writing about one of the first girls she knew she was attracted to. In an interview with VICE, Clairo discusses coming out a year ago and the authenticity that comes with “Bags” in it being the first single she has released that allowed her to make music that feels personal.  

The single starts with a brief, ill-defined, ping-pong static that is quickly replaced with a consistent drum pattern, pushing the listener through the whole song in a pleasantly subdued manner. She not only captures the art of holding back, but wanting to savor, asking questions of how to enjoy something completely while still displaying restraint. The repetition of the lines “Walking out the door with your bags,” and “Know you’d make fun of me” perfectly echoes the thoughts that run through your mind on a soap box, when you’re so damn attracted to someone but just can’t say anything.

To bring this stretched-out analogy to full fruition, Clairo follows suit behind the likes of Tyler, the Creator and Kevin Abstract in referencing “CMBYN” with the lyrics: “All these little games, you can call me by the name I gave you yesterday.”

Clario has hit the final form of Soundcloud bedroom pop. She’s shed her first- and second-stage attacks of the homemade sound with amped-up production (enlisting the help of co-producer Rostam Batmanglij), yet the signature daintiness of her voice, the soft aesthetic of her creative direction and, perhaps, her baby face, keep the listener inside the ethos of bedroom pop. This evolution is phenomenal to witness, because she holds onto what created the magnetic pull toward her in the first place, but then launches into a more mature sound, opening up about her sexuality and bottled-up emotions.

The most important comparison I can make between Clairo and Elio comes from the line after which the song is titled: “Walking out the door with your bags.” For both Clairo and Elio, a lover leaves and never comes back. But, it’s in those pangs of emotion you feel when wrapped up in entanglement that are absolutely critical to your development and understanding of your sexuality — and that’s why the story of unfulfilled love is being told in the first place.