I’ve been listening to Grimes for pretty much all of the 2010s, and it is safe to say she is easily one of my favorite artists from this music era. Grimes has created her own brand of electro-pop that blends multiple genres and forms of art together constantly. There are some songs you will by “Miss Anthropocene” that have a folk-rock feel, alt-rock feel, metal and screamo feel, house music feel, etc, all boiling down to a basis of triple synth-pop. Grimes’ vocal ranges and fluctuations are just as strange as her instrumentals. Her voice sounds nasally and high pitched and pretty similar to Britney Spears, and often she will scream and shriek in ways that sound like a combination of black metal and screamo music. It is very strange and cool; I can’t really think of anyone else who has a similar overall sound. Grimes’ visual art through her music videos is just as awesome and weird as her music; every video has a different theme, with elaborate outfits and sets and editing to create vivid and trippy stories. Everything about Grimes is strange and counter-culture, from her music to her visuals to her style to her outspoken opinions. There really is no one like Grimes.
Grimes grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has always had an interest in weird art and music. She has always loved Japanese pop music as well as anime and manga, and these art forms are very present in everything she creates. When she was 18, she moved to Montreal to study neuroscience at McGill University. While she was in Montreal, she taught herself how to mix and produce music, and started putting her weird brand of synth-pop on MySpace. The reason she is called Grimes is that that is the tag she used to describe her music on MySpace without knowing it was actually a British rap genre. She and friends she met in Montreal started using an old abandoned factory to throw their own concerts and called this building the Lab Synthèse. The group that formed the Lab Synthèse also started Arbutus Records, which Grimes immediately signed to. She released her first two EPs with Arbutus, called Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, 2009 and 2010. The success of these projects led her to pursue music full time, dropping out of college to start touring everywhere she could.
The success she garnered from Halfaxa and subsequent touring got her the opportunity to sign with Roc Nation, and write her debut album, Visions. She has stated that the pressure from the record label to make this album faster than she wanted to forced her to lock herself in her Montreal apartment making it for three weeks straight, hardly sleeping or eating. All of the struggle she put into the creation of this album was well worth it because it propelled her into stardom and was recognized by many publications as one of the best albums of 2012. In fact, NME has added it to their list of the 500 best albums of all time. This album spawned two major hits for Grimes, “Genesis” and “Oblivion.” Grimes is a really excellent songwriter, and both of these songs are beautiful and intense and emotional. “Genesis” has a dreamy and ethereal synth-pop instrumental, and Grimes’ voice and very breathy and high and sweet. This sound is a juxtaposition with the lyrics of the song, for on this song Grimes is talking about being in love for the first time in a manic way. The first line of the song is “My heart, I never feel I never see I never know. Oh, heart and then it falls and then I fall and then I know.” It seems like love is just as torturous as it is enjoyable to Grimes. “Oblivion” is considered one of her best songs to this point. Grimes has been open about the meaning of this song; it is about how she was molested as a young girl and was unable to trust men for a very long time. You can hear the pain in this song. Sonically, “Oblivion” is sort of punk or new wavy, with Grimes singing in her typical falsetto, and with weird low voiced chanting towards the end of the track. It has a frantic piano riff as well. Grimes sings on the chorus “I see you in the dark” over and over again, and you can really sense how hurt and scared she is from her traumatic experience.
Grimes next project she released was Art Angels in 2015. Art Angels once again was a major success for Grimes, with NME and Stereogum calling it the album of the year. This is also personally my favorite project from Grimes; so many songs from this album are among my favorites to this day. This album had three major hits: “Flesh Without Blood, ” “Kill V. Maim, ” and “Realiti.” Once again, Grimes’ lyrical prowess and ability to bend genres are on full display. “Flesh Without Blood” is almost an alt-rock song, with a fast and anxious guitar riff as the main instrument instead of a synthesizer or keyboard. Grimes sings about a friend she doesn’t get along with it see eye to eye with anymore, singing “I saw the light in you going out as I closed our window. You never liked me anyway.” “Kill V. Maim” has a much less serious tone. Sonically, it is like a mixture of new age synth pop and darkwave music and features Grimes shrieking and screaming like some sort of monster for the whole song. Lyrically, this song is about Michael Corleone from The Godfather movies if he were a vampire. I know that sounds confusing, but trust me if you have not heard it, you have to. “Realiti” is a lot more of a typical sounding synth pop/dance song than Grimes usually makes, but her beautiful and strange vocals and pop sensibility still make it great. In this song, Grimes is trying to explain how and why she thinks and acts the way she does, singing on the chorus: “Oh baby every morning there are mountains to climb, taking all my time. Oh, when I get up this is what I see, welcome to reality.” As I said, there are many other songs I love on this album as well, such as “Venus Fly, ” featuring Janelle Monae, “Artangels, ” and “Butterfly.” If you have not heard this album for some reason, please listen to the whole thing. It is great, trust me.
In the last year or so, while making her next album, Grimes has been featured on a few really good songs, specifically “nihilist blues” by Bring Me the Horizon and “Play Destroy” by Poppy. “nihilist blues” is a departure from the screamo-punk BMTH usually makes, as it is sort of a darkwave techno track. Grimes contributes excellent vocals, her falsetto being a dope contrast to the feel of the track. “Play Destroy” was one of my favorite songs of 2018 and is unlike anything else you will hear. The song is part soft alt-rock, and part metal, with these parts interchanging in a way that is almost as if two completely different songs were just stitched together. Grimes’ and Poppy’s shrieks and screams sound just as good together as their nasally and breathy falsetto; this song is a total trip, and I highly recommend it. At the end of 2018, Grimes released “We Appreciate Power, ” which she has said is the first single from her new record coming out later this year. This song goes in a totally different direction for Grimes, as it is pretty much a nu-metal track. It reminds me of something by TaTu or Evanescence. This song is about a takeover of the world by Artificial Intelligence units set in the future, with Grimes trying to get the masses to join the robots. On the chorus, she sings: “What will it take to make you capitulate? We appreciate power!” really love this musical direction and concept for Grimes, and can’t wait to hear what the whole album brings to the table.
Grimes’ visual art through her music videos is just as important and complex as her songs. She has many very cool and elaborate music videos, all adding to the stories that the songs tell. “Kill V. Maim,” “Oblivion,” and “Flesh Without Blood” are all songs with notable music videos. “Kill V. Maim” is set in various creepy places, like an abandoned subway, a dungeon, and some sort of bloody vampire rave party. In each scene, Grimes is dressed like a vampire surrounded by weird dancers with various forms of clown and demon makeup. It really adds to the weird vampire vibe in the lyrics. The music video for “Oblivion” is just as intense as the song is. The video features her in various male-centric settings, like a football game, a dirt bike race, and men’s locker room. In each place, as the men act rambunctious. Grimes is dancing her cute and awkward way with a lot of confidence. In this video, Grimes is taking back her life, not letting the memory of her molester scare her anymore. In “Fresh Without Blood,” Grimes has various crazy costumes, like a creepy looking angel, a mobster in a club, a gamer in a basement, and a weird fairy British Victorian outfit. I believe this video is representing various “characters” she takes on throughout the track list of Art Angels. Grimes has many other songs with great videos as well, such as “Venus Fly,” “Genesis,” and “Realiti.” I don’t want to bore you guys by going on about them forever, so please just trust me and check them out.
Grimes is easily one of my favorite artists to come out of the 2000s. From her genre-bending sound to her thought-provoking lyrics to her elaborate videos, everything Grimes does is off the cusp, innovative, and phenomenal. I can’t wait to hear her album coming out later this year. If you want to listen to her music, click the Spotify link below!