By Devon Chodzin ’19
Much like Skylar Spence fans, fans of Grimes have been through a lot in the past few years.
After the wild success of 2012’s Visions, Grimes’ growing fan base has been clamoring for more. After all, her most devoted fans know that she’s capable of releasing a ton of material in a short amount of time. Between 2010-2012, Grimes released three studio albums and a collaborative EP, containing hits such as “Vanessa,” “Genesis,” and “Oblivion.” Claire Boucher, the heroine behind Grimes, kept hinting at a new album for 2014, even releasing “Go” with Canadian-American pop artist Blood Diamonds.
But then she scrapped it.
Finally, over a year later, Grimes fans can listen in disbelief to Art Angels, a 14-track masterwork that is unapologetically pop.
Art Angels toys with pop elements from the late 1990’s to the mid 2000’s and even brings in the thick bass of 2010’s pop. While the trend this past year has been to take from 70s and 80s pop, Boucher doesn’t care for that nearly as much. Grimes is happy and willing to use her esoteric artistry to produce a record in a style which has been unjustly devalued and repeatedly been subjected to age-old misogyny. She certainly nails it.
The beginning and ending tracks, “laughing and not being normal” and “Butterfly” respectively, are not quite as stereotypically pop as the meat and potatoes within the record. However, they have excellent value in their own right. Fan favorites off of this record include “Realiti (which has an unmastered version which Grimes released several months prior),” “Flesh Without Blood,” and “Life in the Vivid Dream.” The latter two tracks actually come together in a two-act production that be labeled a dream pop Marie Antoinette. That being said, Art Angels presents something for everyone.
Much of the sound encapsulates the once cast aside elements of 2000’s popular music. “SCREAM,” which features Taiwanese glitz rapper Aristophanes, blends pop and punk in the fashion only the 2000’s could. “Kill V. Maim” integrates the cheerleader aesthetic, once the pinnacle of cool and feminine, by chanting “be aggressive” with almost haunting sincerity. Others, like “Belly of the Beat” and “Pin” switch between Boucher’s clear voice and the Minogue- or Spears-style vocal manipulation which causes her to sound as if she’s sensually whispering to you via Nokia phone. In all honesty, “Pin” is probably my favorite track on the entire album; it’s systematic bass line, grounded rhythm, and severe lyrics blend Grimes’ weighty messages with the aural theme she wishes to endow upon our ears.
Claire Boucher also recruited the help of Aristophanes and Janelle Monae to add interest to the album. Both of these artists are women of color who Claire Boucher has intentionally included as a way to promote a more comprehensive feminist project. Grimes is particularly vocal about issues of gender, race, sexuality, and more, and her art reflects her awareness of inequality.
What sets Grimes’ pop apart from mainstream pop is that Grimes does not bless us with love songs. She’s much more interested in her personal liberation. Fame and exposure has led this distinctively feminine artist to experience intense misogyny in the indie community- a brand of misogyny to which we’re rarely exposed. Grimes’ blog and Twitter profile account are notorious for uncovering this pernicious system.
Pitchfork awarded the album with an 8.5/10 rating, emphatically endorsing Grimes’ feminist pop collection. Grimes’ most authentic project to date, Art Angels is consistently bringing forth praise for both “going there” lyrically and incorporating forgone musical schemes. In an era where the underground artists of 2010 are learning to accept their mainstream fame, Grimes holds fast to her principles and her unique artistry in a way that highlights the artist’s labor and solidifies her as both a pop and feminist icon.