Friday, June 7th, 2024

Clairo – Sexy to Someone

Sexy to someone, [6]-y to us…

Clairo - Sexy to Someone

Katherine St. Asaph: A version of the shut-in femcel dispatch of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” or Mitski’s “Nobody,” via the chill/listless resignation of Colleen Green’s I Want to Grow Up, Some People” specifically. I imagine the song will resonate with a lot of people, but for me it does nothing. This isn’t a topic you can psychoanalyze without being a colossal jackass; your sexy is not my sexy, and your relationship to feeling “able to pull it off” is not mine, nor fixed forever. But “Sexy to Someone,” as a song, is ostensibly about being wanted but never fully inhabits the idea of wanting. The music expresses low drama and low stakes, and the lyrics are full of hedging and disavowal — sexiness as something one “can’t live without” yet also “just a little thing,” “sometimes,” “nothing more.” It’s as if sexy were a nice little mood-booster like a cool spring day or a sweet platonic text from a friend, but you know, if it doesn’t happen, whatever. That concept is utterly alien to how I experience it. Sexy, to me, is about urgency, about being caught in sudden freefall by a grappling hook of desire and fascination such that the most important thing in that moment is the person pulling you in, and about flinging your own hook down other cliffs to be seized. There are playful variations, lived-in variations, but none that are indifferent. I don’t even think this is an especially unusual stance, but it’s not particularly aligned with the current milieu — c.f., “Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny” — which is perhaps why newer songs about the topic feel so un-visceral. (I linked three songs; the timeline isn’t perfectly chronological and the genres aren’t totally the same, but notice how each crescendos less than the last.) But the culture isn’t ready for that conversation.

Hannah Jocelyn: I’ve been mostly indifferent to Clairo up to this point, but I’m not going to mince words: this is an amazing fucking song about the lack of amazing fucking. In my life I often feel loved but not really desired; maybe because I’m an autistic trans woman, maybe I’m just weird and it has nothing to do with my gender identity. This sounds like every time I’ve dressed up nicely to go to a concert and secretly gotten frustrated nobody notices me — yeah yeah, self-love and all that, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be desired by someone else. What pushes this over has nothing to do with the conceit: I love how she repeats “Sexy to someone is all I really want/sometimes sexy to someone is all I really want”, with the emphasis on seeexxyyyy and then the emphasis on sooommmeeoone. If the whole song was just different phrasings of that one line (“sexy to someone iiiiiisssss all I really want, sexy to someone is aalllllll I really want”) it would be a [10], but the lovely woodwinds and piano nearly get it there anyway.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: In which Clairo nails the precise emotional intersection of “I’m depressed and can’t leave the house” and “I’m hot and want everyone to validate me.” Her tone is confessional and intimate; her soundscape is playful and cheeky. “Sexy to someone is all I really want,” her inner monologue deadpans. Mission accomplished. 

Ian Mathers: The vocals are kind of undistinguished, especially at first. Once she locks into the “want to get out of the house” bits towards the end and starts singing more forcefully it works better. Luckily the production is more intriguing, especially those sharp little bursts of sound interrupting every so often. Unfortunately those taper off even as the singing gets stronger, as if we wouldn’t want to risk the whole thing being interesting at once.

Alfred Soto: Singing in this breathy manner lends this credible yearning for self-respect a coyness it doesn’t need nor can support, but that’s the point too. Self-deprecating because she has no choice, Clairo performs not-being-there with feeling. The filigrees rule: the bass splats, the bits of what sound like distorted woodwinds and piano.

Taylor Alatorre: I can relate. Not to the song, mind you – carping about some failed Hollywood auditions when you’re a commercially successful rock musician, in the 2020s, will tend to preclude that. But yes, I can relate.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The lyrics are great, the music not so much. It certainly doesn’t have the charm of the Rostam productions she’s had in the past; the woozy synths and reverberating piano are a smidge too too tidy to capture the semi-listlessness that this wants to embody.

Jonathan Bradley: It would be missing the point to wish for more from a song this small in intention and idle in its thoughts: the most exciting thing that happens is a coy melody line that appears in the mix like a needle has just been dropped on a gramophone record. Comfortable like a couch with too many cushions and sun-dappled, it lolls in a space that could be lazy or could be anhedonic. “I need a reason to get out of the house,” Clairo muses, but even if she’s at a loose end, her tune is too easygoing to crust over into malaise.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Sexy”: really hard word to fit into a pop song that wants to take itself seriously! This is, of course, part of the point of “Sexy to Someone” — it is easy to convince oneself that the desire to be desired is a frivolous one, and here Clairo turns that questioning of a deep want into grist for the pop mill. It’s thoughtful and fitfully funny and really not very good at all as a song. It recalls a lineage of too-clever chamber poppers, conjuring a burbling mellotron and a loping bassline to convey not much beyond a stately whimsy. It’s restrained to a fault; there’s no closure or rupture, just a gradual fade into nothing much at all. 

Nortey Dowuona: Clairo is yearning and hungry. She needs a dollar to get some water after she’s found somebody worth of her. 

Reader average: [7] (1 vote)

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One Response to “Clairo – Sexy to Someone”

  1. feel like i simultaneously feel both katherine and hannah’s reviews here — this song both perfectly encapsulates the vibe it’s going for and also kinda misses badly. both the faux-indifference of “well, it would be nice”, of about wanting to be desired but not wanting to be desperate for it resonate and work for me, but at the same time — where’s the urgency? where’s the rush? where’s the stress? where’s the stakes?

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