Unveiling the Bedroom Pop Phenomenon and the Clairo Controversy

By Erin Christie

The process of getting one’s “foot in the door” of the music industry is a process much more easily achieved than in the past, especially with the means to essentially create a recording studio in one’s own bedroom. The concept of “bedroom pop” has recently risen to prominence with the scene, defined as a music genre or aesthetic in which an artist is able to record at home rather than in a studio with a producer. Characterized by DIY techniques, a reverb-heavy, dreamy vibe, this genre has taken the industry by storm.

Despite how advanced technology has become, allowing for crisp sounds, “lo-fi” has begun to dominate as the era of Bandcamp and Soundcloud takes prevalence. “Lo-fi” is defined as music that is recorded at a slightly lower quality than the usual contemporary standards, creating for a much more understated, mellow feel than their industrialized, high- fidelity counterpart.  For some, the aesthetic is intentionally sought for and for others, as noted in an article by HYPEBEAST, “it’s mainly due to a lack of resources or knowledge to make the music sound high-fidelity.”

We’ve all seen the “Lo-fi hip hop radio beats to study/ relax to” 24/7 compilations set as the soundtrack for various aesthetically-pleasing anime sequences infiltrating YouTube like a leech that just won’t leave. But the truth is (for me at least), they aren’t terrible. They are, however, very widely used within the scene today. Despite attempts to stand out and make one’s mark on the industry, considering the fact that so many of these “bedroom pop” artists that utilize lo-fi to their advantage sound so similar, is such a thing even possible?

In any genre, being able to gain any sort of following or the notice of the industry is something not so easily achieved, despite methods being much more available today.

Steve Lacy (of The Internet, Odd Future) immediately comes to mind when thinking about self-made artists who later achieved a legacy based on their creative efforts. His humble beginnings have led him to producing Grammy-nominated tracks solely on his iPhone. In his TedxTeen talk, “The Bare Minimum,” he broke down this process, explaining his philosophy and the approach that he takes to his craft.  “I’m exploring the world of sound with this little device in my pocket and I realized that I didn’t necessarily need what I thought I did,” he recalled. It took as little as playing around with software, practicing, and gaining knowledge throughout this process before Lacy was moving down a path toward great things. In his repertoire, he has worked with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, GoldLink, J. Cole, and many more, all stemming from his ability to adapt and use what he had available to succeed.   

In the same regard, nowadays, it’s possible to become the next big thing, pajama-clad and without leaving the comfort of your own bedroom. Blossoming star, Claire Cottrill (better known as Clairo) would know that on a personal level.

Recently, though, it has come to light- namely with the release of a certain HYPENEWS video entitled, “Clairo’s ‘self-made’ indie bedroom pop a façade? -” that the bubblegum princess may have had some help in gaining the success that she has at such a quick rate.

Being self-made is a process that anyone possessing any kind of inspiration and will-power can pursue, yet in an attempt to make it while not attached to a label or without having any kind of connections in the industry, such can prove to be difficult (or, at least, to take a significant amount of time before any kind of progress is made or before anyone begins to take notice). In Clairo’s case, though, as she has described in many interviews, it was as if her career took off in the blink of an eye, leading to a viral video- the Photo-Booth shot video for “Pretty Girl,” being listed on festival bills alongside legends such as Tyler, the Creator (who took YEARS to gain the extensive following that he has), and interviews with VICE and other notable publications.

As a poster on Reddit commented, “I have no idea how Clairo- an indie artist whose music derives from Frankie Cosmos, (Sandy) Alex G, and Norah Jones (any lo- fi vaporwave/ 80s-90s beat)- has become more popular than her own influences.”

Her connections to the music industry have been discussed very little throughout a majority of her interviews, creating a false image that her rise to fame was achieved solely through hard work and chance- this is not the case.  How is it possible for an artist who has a whopping total of FOUR tracks on Spotify (deviating from her various covers on YouTube and past projects posted on Soundcloud and Bandcamp, as well as her various collaborations with other small artists such as Jakob Ogawa, Hans., and others) to elevate to this level of fame within the span of months?

Clairo has been branded as your standard teenage self-made artist, making her an inspiration to many attempting to follow down this path and make their own way into the spotlight. This branding, though, is almost entirely false. A point that is scarcely mentioned is the fact that Cottrill’s father happens to be a huge media-head, having a history working with and for not only Converse but also with Coca Cola, two majorly influential companies. With that said, it goes without saying that her father has had some part in her sky-rocketing to success so rapidly. Because of how high up in the industry he is, Cottrill has certainly taken advantage of his connections to the music industry (which, granted, anyone would do if in that position). Her father’s impact on her career is nowhere near discrediting but it does raise some concern in the fact that Clairo has claimed to be solely self-made when in reality, this just isn’t true.

Of course, Clairo truly does have a great collection of music,and she is talented. But, in saying that her rise to relevance was self-made, she creates a false precedent for other artists in her lane. It isn’t fair to other artists who are actually attempting to make it on their own in the industry to claim that her level of success and fame can be achieved so quickly without help when, in fact, such probably wouldn’t have happened as fast without the connections that she has. This is not a statement made to say that she does not deserve the fame and success that she has but, rather, that she should be upfront and clear about how that came about- it’s not as simple as posting a Photo-Booth music video and publishing songs on Soundcloud to get noticed by industry “bigwigs.” Instead, as so many real self- made artists understand today, the process is oftentimes gradual, even if you have a viral video or hit single.

Attempting to make it in the music industry today is a much different process from the way such was even a decade ago- bedrooms can easily be transformed into studios and iPhones can hold the most vital mixing software necessary. It is no longer a requirement for artists to pay for the best producer money can buy or to even be incredibly skilled in terms of producing on their own- all that’s necessary is a little bit of will-power, creativity, and the right amount of luck.  The bedroom pop scene is flourishing- who knows what’s to come next?

Other bedroom pop/lo-fi artists to check out: Chain Wallet, Vanaire, boy pablo, Cuco, Gus Dapperton, Travis Bretzer, girl in red, Okey Dokey, BOYO, Wun Two, Jakob Ogawa, Yellow Days, Still Woozy, eevee, Tomppabeats , and so many more.

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