Maintaining a ‘cool girl’ aesthetic: Clairo conforms to cliche of ‘90s nostalgia

Malini Ramaiyer / Staff
Malini Ramaiyer/Staff
Malini Ramaiyer / Staff

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Tweens filled the venue, dressed in old ‘90s fashion — a sea of mom jeans, crop tops and matching hair clips. When Clairo came out on the stage, the “Full House” theme song blared through the speakers. Throughout the performance, so many phones were in the air that it seemed as though the audience was watching the whole concert through a Snapchat filter.

Performing at the Great American Music Hall on Thursday Aug. 16, Clairo fell prey to the overrated hipster culture of 2018 — a cliche decidedly nostalgic for the ‘90s. With her wispy voice and seemingly uninterested spirit, Clairo performed to a sold-out show, feeding her younger fan base exactly what it wanted, but not exceeding any expectations.

Throughout her performance, Clairo maintained a “cool girl” aesthetic, failing to bring out the wonderfully weird and purposefully awkward nature of her music videos. Sporting a large sweatshirt, high-waisted jeans and a loose ponytail, her energy level remained low as the set unfolded.

Clairo’s lackluster performance was unexpected, seeing as the opener, Garren Sean, primed the audience to anticipate a fun and energetic show with his outstanding set. Sean’s art was characterized both by his ability to drive the music with his voice and his humility throughout the performance. With his sweet and humble stage presence, Sean punctuated every song with a “thank you so much,” making it clear that he wanted to give an amazing performance for the audience.

This was something desperately missing from Clairo’s stage presence.

Sean’s desire to perform well was fulfilled, most notably when he played his popular single “There She Go.” Sean’s voice had an incredible capability of reaching higher notes, while staying within the reverberating beat — he brought the crowd to its feet and kept the audience members dancing until the end.

While this opening act brought something excitingly new to the crowd’s palette, Clairo failed to keep up the momentum, as nothing in her set defied expectations. The lyrics, along with the melodies, of various songs were repetitive. Instead of steering the performance herself, Clairo let the crowd drown her out. Everything felt as though she was trying too hard to be cool instead of bringing her heart to the stage.

Clairo escaped her bored attitude for a moment when performing her new song “Feel Something.” Clairo finally let her strong voice out, allowing the venue to absorb and echo the slow, soft melody of the song.

This song was powerful, in contrast to the wispiness of the songs she performed before. Clairo sang many known hits, allowing the crowd to chime in. Those hits lost their catchiness and memorability when performed live.

The music video for the song “Flaming Hot Cheetos” is an awesome collection of background dancers dressed as Hot Cheetos and an engaged Clairo standing tall in the front. For the live performance, that odd and unique character was missing. Clairo barely started singing the feathery riffs before she let the crowd’s screams overpower her own voice and stage presence.

While Clairo fell flat throughout the show, her band brought the energy and rhythm for her — the band members danced with more passion and energy, and clearly played with their hearts. The drums kept up a clapping, exciting beat throughout the performance, especially during the songs “Better” and “4EVER.” In a small venue such as the Great American Music Hall, the drums can define a show, as the floor in front of the stage pumps the beat into the crowd.

It’s undeniable that everyone in the crowd was singing along and excited about Clairo’s music. In fact, it seemed like Clairo was the only person not having a good time. In this, she lacked the complexity and creativity that make live shows memorable. Her redundancy and simplicity begged the question: What about this is new? What will I remember?

Musicians must challenge and provoke, but Clairo simply did not. She gave the audience exactly what they expected and wanted. She fit right into the cliche.

Contact Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected].