Grimes: Blurring the Lines Between Alternative and Pop
Elizabeth Gregory | Monday, February 24, 2020
If the 2010s were a time of blurring lines between alternative and pop music, Grimes was the goddess. Rising from underground Montreal fame to massive music stardom, with her release of “Visions” in 2012 and the highly acclaimed “Art Angels” in 2015, Grimes’s music is hard to define. She actively endorses and praises pop icons like Mariah Carey and Taylor Swift, but refuses to align with any type of elitist musical ideology. Her music reflects this with its intimate blending of pop and alternative traditions. Grimes’s influences are expansive, including the likes of Arthur Russell, Oasis, Enya, Nine Inch Nails, K-pop and Michael Jackson. Her catalog has always reflected this, and “Miss Anthropocene” is no exception.
When Grimes began publicly speaking about “Miss Anthropocene,” she sold it as a concept album about an evil goddess of climate change. However, this idea only loosely unites the “negative, aggressive, and isolating” experience of listening and creating it. The pun of the title, “misanthrope,” however, effectively pin points the cynical, nihilistic energy of the album.
“So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth” begins the collection with a six-minute descent into a dark, apocalyptic world, sharply contrasting with the upbeat synths of “Art Angels.” Grimes has said this song was, in part, a reflection on the ego death of pregnancy. This very personal sensibility of song making weaves the album together — popping up in the oddly chirpy final love song “IDORU” and in the nihilistic reflections about the effects of the opioid crisis on “Delete Forever.” The clash between the elevated concept of the album, hashed out with raging production, and these personal moments is engaging and mystifying. It fails, unfortunately, to present a boldly unitive statement on the “thesis” that Grimes lays out in “New Gods” about a villainous overarching persona.
Grimes has catapulted herself into the public eye due of her relationship with Elon Musk, including the announcement of a child, and because of her impressive demonstrations of ability in the last 10 years. This album dwells in darkness, expunges some personal demons, and reflects Grimes’s shifting public image. Nevertheless, it does, even more than previous albums, feel exceedingly self indulgent. This falls short on “Miss Anthropocene” due to its underwhelming creative experiment.
Nonetheless, there are high moments. Grimes’s vocal work reaches its peak, the intense gothic vibes on “Darkseid” hit different, and as singles, many of the songs, like “Violence,” function impressively. The album is a bizarre mashing of Grimes’s talents and risks. Ultimately the attempt at ethereal nu metal is undercut by the ballad, near pop moments. This is especially evident on the concluding song “IDORU,” which begins with birds chirping and ends in uncharacteristically feminine professions of love. The song is bop-able — notably less so when you imagine Musk’s face — but its presence on “Miss Anthropocene” feels undeserved and unnecessarily expansive.
Yet, I will still swear by this album. Like “My Name is Dark” promises, “Imminent annihilation sounds so dope” on this long awaited return of Grimes’s quirky brand of artistry.
Album: Miss Anthropocene
Favorite Tracks: “Delete Forever,” “Violence,” “My Name is Dark”
If you like: Enya, Oasis, Nine Inch Nails, Arthur Russell
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5