Alessia Cara rose to fame largely on the strength of “Here,” a self-penned single for unhappy partygoers wondering why they’d come at all; much like Lorde with “Royals,” the young Canadian singer recognized the strength of the potential audience of people averse to the loud, mechanical enthusiasms of contemporary pop music because she belonged to the same demographic. The anti-social sentiments on display in “Here” and elsewhere on Cara’s debut album, Know-It-All, proved resonant: “Here” went multi-platinum, Know-It-All went gold, and Cara ascended to take her place among the growing ranks of normcore music icons taking pride, earnestly and stealthily, in their distance from the cooler kids.
Following up on “Here” and its successor “Wild Things,” Cara’s new single, “Scars to Your Beautiful,” matches deft, understated lyrics to an energizing message directed at people who are not conventionally “popular” or “attractive.” The new video for “Scars” drives the message even further home. Directed by Cara, the video is composed of a montage of members of social outgroups — imperfectly attractive women, racial minorities, transgender people. Some are given space to speak: “What I love about people is when they’re just being themselves and not worrying about what they look like,” testifies one. The natural drawback for normcore music is a tendency toward monotony, but the strength of Cara’s voice and the visual variety of the ensemble she’s gathered go a long way toward counteracting any basic impulses. In keeping with its relentlessly reiterated message, it’s not a cool song — but it’s good enough.