Song of the Week: Clairo Questions the Expectations of Womanhood, With Some Help From Lorde, on “Reaper”

Remble, Chelsea Cutler and Hovvdy also dropped essential tracks this week

Clairo Reaper Song of the Week
Clairo, photo by Adrian Nieto

    Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, a highlight from Clairo’s sophomore album, Sling, has us swooning.

    When announcing her sophomore LP, Sling, last month, Clairo shared a note admitting the album was inspired by her dog, Joanie, who made her consider themes of care, motherhood, and responsibility. These subjects all appear on the excellent late album cut “Reaper,” which features Lorde on backing vocals.

    Clairo ponders life with and without a child throughout the song, employing a gently-strummed acoustic and ethereal harmonies to create a comforting environment. However, there’s a small sense of panic in Clairo as she narrates, reminding herself that she’ll “have to be a provider” and that she’s “born to be somebody, then somebody comes from me.” The final line of the chorus (and the song), is a vulnerable and somber statement: “I can’t fuck it up if it’s not there at all.”


    There is a great deal of tension between the apathy and disappointment she feels about the expectations of womanhood and the gentle, folk-patterned atmosphere she creates behind it — it’s almost as if Clairo is singing a lullaby to herself, rather than her future child. It’s a brilliantly layered and exceptional song from the young artist, and it’s one that encapsulates the beauty of Sling.

    Paolo Ragusa

    Honorable Mentions:

    Remble – “Ask Madden”

    Known for carefully enunciating his rhymes in a precise flow, San Pedro rapper Remble proves he’s more than a meme with his debut project, It’s Remble. On “Ask Madden,” the Stinc Team affiliate switches up his sound while effortlessly name-dropping NFL players. At the same time, Remble calmly explains why he won’t be caught off-guard with lyrics like, “Told bro to strap his cleats, we don’t do no lackin’/ Run up on your opposition, then just toe tag ’em/ The chrome .45 Smith will knock his dome off him.” With its reference to a popular video game, don’t be surprised to see “Ask Madden” go viral on TikTok. — Eddie Fu

    Chelsea Cutler – “Walking Away”

    One of the reigning princesses of the burgeoning bedroom pop movement, Chelsea Cutler continues to sing straight to the heart with her unforced strand of relatability. Listeners can tell when something is for show, but Cutler isn’t one to try and find the exact gen-Z buzzwords to pierce into the zeitgeist. Instead, with her grounded version of storytelling, she’s able to put words to experiences that so many young people know. Her latest, “Walking Away,” fits right into that same category — Cutler teased a snippet of the track on Instagram months ago, leaving fans begging for an official release at every turn.


    The song is lo-fi and features simple guitar, like many of her others, and chronicles the bittersweet experience of walking away from a relationship that’s just too tangled up. There’s a hopeful undercurrent to it, though, despite the melancholy woven throughout the lyrics, serving as a reminder that new beginnings can be immensely difficult but are so often necessary for the next chapter to begin. This track arrives ahead of Cutler’s next album and feels like the right way to bring us into that next chapter with her. — Mary Siroky

    Taphari – “Cost You”

    Ahead of Taphari’s debut album Blind Obedience (out July 23rd), “Cost You” is, in the rapper’s own words, “the storm before the calm.” On the track, the Brooklyn rapper oozes confidence and self-love, creating a hypnotic banger that is at once infinitely rhythmic and brimming with melodic lyricism (“Mind my business, mind myself/ Mind my money and mental health”). The bass-heavy trap beat builds around a tonal percussion loop which is just ever so slightly bitcrushed, resulting in a gritty, slightly metallic sound that drills deep into your brain and refuses to let loose. Glitchy hi-hat rolls panned left and right take the energy to the next level. — Curtis Sun

    Hana Vu – “Maker”

    At just 21 years old, Hana Vu has the type of voice that spills over with the lived experience and emotional depth of someone twice her age. On “Maker,” her latest single and debut on Ghostly International, the Los Angeles-based artist spools her lush voice around a charming banjo melody, delicate acoustic guitar plucks, and stacked vocal harmonies. It’s a simple yet sophisticated number that sounds like Anjimile mixed with Nickel Creek, and it’s already got us eager to see what Vu does next. — Nina Corcoran


    Mallory Merk – “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”

    Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” became an instant classic upon its release 18 years ago, and Mallory Merk has offered a modern update. The fashion model turned singer-songwriter’s interpretation honors the original’s jangly, garage-driven instrumentation, but her girlish wail on lines like “Now you don’t need money with a face like that, do ya honey?” add an entirely new dimension to Nic Cester and Cameron Muncey’s flirtatious lyrics. By the time Merk howls “I said, are you gonna be my girl?” on the final chorus, it’s the type of come-hither request that all but demands an answer. — Glenn Rowley

    Conan Gray – “People Watching”

    Conan Gray finds himself living vicariously through other people’s happiness on “People Watching,” his latest single following fellow 2021 releases “Overdrive” and “Astronomy.” And while the Gen Z pop star may be leveling up from his smash debut album Kid Krow, he certainly hasn’t moved on from the loneliness he harnessed so successfully on hits like “Heather” and “Wish You Were Sober.” “But I wanna feel all that love and emotion/ Be that attached to the person I’m holdin’/ Someday I’ll be falling without caution/ But for now, I’m only people watchin’,” he sings mournfully on the ballad’s piano-laden chorus. If the broken-hearted love song is any indication, Gray won’t be hitting a sophomore slump any time soon. — G.R.

    Hovvdy – “True Love”

    Austin duo Hovvdy first emerged as the 2010’s torchbearers of slowcore, channeling their melancholy into dreamy, unhurried indie rock. As their proficiency has grown over the years, their melodies have grown more dense, their “fi” has become less “lo,” and their average tempo has picked up the pace. On “True Love,” Hovvdy are at their most upbeat yet.


    Without losing sight of the band’s fuzzy, hushed roots, “True Love” is considerably grand. Its lyrics meditate on finding life’s tiny morsels of happiness and beauty, through the perspective of having endured much darker times: “Tired from sleeping/ Like my old song,” singer Charlie Martin recalls on the first verse, referencing his own more despondent past. “True Love” feels warm and approachable, like a close friend finally pulling you out of that persistent rut. — Abby Jones

    The Accidentals – “Go Getter”

    “Go Getter” marks the beginning of a new chapter for The Accidentals. The lead single of the indie folk trio’s upcoming album Vessel (October 1st) opens with plucky mandolin and strumming guitar before unfolding a lesson on failure, triumph and seizing the moment in transfixing bluegrass-style harmonies by Sav Buist and Katie Larson. But don’t worry, the Traverse City, Michigan-based band doesn’t take its message that “Life will teach you how to live/ You just have to live it for a while” all too seriously — the accompanying music video proves that sometimes being a go getter simply involves lots and lots of goats. Yes, goats. — G.R.

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