A very popular video on TikTok right now is a laughably dark mash-up of sorts; a supercut of infomercial-style clips depicting the dangers of bookshelves, and the potential for them to fall on toddlers hanging on them, is given a dramatic overhaul with the addition of the song ‘Sofia’ by bedroom pop sensation Clairo.
See the video for yourself, posted by TikTok user @wetwetsock.
It’s quite literally a video of doll-children clamoring on dresser drawers and shelves, causing them to topple over, while Clairo sing-pleads, “I think we can do it if we tried, if only to say, you’re mine.” Applying the glitter and sparkle filters to the video, which may or may not have already been from the 90s or some time frame with yellowed visuals, ties it all together as an ‘aesthetic’ video despite the morbid context at play.
The comments range from ‘WHY’ to ‘wow I think I found my new aesthetic!’ to ‘Flatchildren core,’ as now everything can be a vibe, an aesthetic, a “core.” Amused, frightened and incredulous are commenters at the video.
So… what does it all mean?
The toddler-smashing dresser video is a child of absurdist humor and meme culture; it pulls from the stern original content, a dated informercial warning of the dangers of furniture (which is already kind of ridiculous as-is, what with the dressers crashing down onto the obviously fake dolls in a dramatized way) and warps it even more, making the dressers fall in slow motion while Clairo sings a queer love song and the dolls, about to meet their fate, are adorned with digital sparkles. ‘Sofia’ being slowed-down to match the tumbling furniture makes it an immaculate production.
Further, the video tracks with the third-wave Clairoism we are currently living in; it’s hardly the only viral Clairo-related content circulating TikTok today.
For reference, Claire Cottrill’s (her full name) first wave came off a YouTube view explosion thanks to ‘Pretty Girl’ and her other bedroom pop, Photo Booth-tinged demos and singles when she was still a teenager. Wave two came last fall with the critical success of ‘Immunity,’ her debut album, a Rostam-produced barrage of emotional coming-of-age narratives and queer storytelling with a far more cohesive sonic vision and tightly crafted songwriting.
Now that she’s grown up and come into her sound, we’ve arrived at wave three, Miss Cottrill’s TikTok reign. The first time I can recall seeing her music used in the Gen Z short-form video app was in the context of straight-presenting young men using a Clairo track as a punchline for what they listen to. The type of video that’s like, “Okay, here’s a visual stimulus and you’ll expect the video to play out based on the heuristics you employ due to the stimulus, but we’ll actually do something completely different!”
But, to that end, there was an endearing quality to those videos, which may still be making their rounds on the app. Sure, they were capitalizing on the viewer’s conceptions of straight-presenting young men, but the boys in these videos always seemed to truly enjoy her music. When thinking back to my high school days, when I would cover my iPod Nano whenever I was listening to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream or Lady Gaga’s The Fame in fear of outing myself to nearby peers, these videos offer a refreshing view of teenage masculinity.
On a grander scale, it’s clear that TikTok, and the Gen Z’ers, are down for Clairo. She has a stan-like following on her social media apps already, but as TikTok continues to operate as a marketing machine for the music industry, what’s popular on TikTok is often what’s popular in pop culture, and it’s certainly reflective of Gen Z’s taste, the youngest and most digitally inclined kind of taste there is. The hashtag #clairo has 160.2 million views on TikTok across tagged videos, whether they’re fancams of her, aesthetic videos (like the furniture-baby one but more so romanticizing a cityscape or a cult classic movie about love or beauty) or riffs on the “how I look vs. what I listen to” style of video.
Clairo is now on the app, too, under the extremely zeitgeist-y handle of @portraitofaladyonraya. She even posted a TikTok in response to the video of mention:
“I just saw my song being used on a video where there’s big babies… being… like… crushed by… bookshelves?” she says, equal parts amusement, fascination and disgust. “Um, I’m going to have to ask you to stop that.”
The video, with over 1.3 million views, is her most-viewed video to date, though she’s only posted six so far.