It’s been awhile since Canadian-born indie-pop singer Claire Boucher—professionally known as Grimes—has released an album: three years, to be exact. Her previous album Visions spawned critically-acclaimed singles “Genesis” and “Oblivion,” which helped propel her into the spotlight and achieve recognition. Grimes is known for her conceptual, intricate music in which she fuses musical genres that run the gamut alongside her eccentric do-it-yourself compositions. In fact, Visions was entirely recorded and composed through the free music-recording software GarageBand.
And now, with her highly anticipated fourth album Art Angels, Grimes has reignited the buzz around not only her music, but her narrative as an artist.
The first track off of Art Angels titled “Laughing and Not Being Normal” immediately gives insight into Grimes’ own style. The nearly two-minute intro begins with riffs, glockenspiel-like sounds and a composition of strings. Halfway through the song, Grimes belts her well known high-pitched vocals. It ends abruptly to lead into the lively next track, “California.”
“Scream” is one of the most eccentric songs of the album. On this track, Grimes collaborates with Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, who sings the entire song in Mandarin. It is a poetic track, but is sexually explicit. While you may not understand what Aristophanes is saying, the noises she makes lets you know what she’s rapping about.
The fourth track “Flesh Without Blood” is the lead single of the album and is a Europop-sounding dance track. Lyrically, the song follows the theme of the public’s perception of Grimes and her rebuttal, singing, “And now I don’t, and now I don’t/And now I don’t care anymore.” She also takes jabs at people who claim she is “selling out” or “betraying” the roots of where she came from in order to become more marketable.
Another standout track, “Kill V. Maim,” is more conceptual and is sung through the scope of an altered, gender fluid version of Al Pacino. It’s backed by an infectious beat, hard synths and Grimes’ chirpy, chipmunk-esque vocals. In the pre-chorus, Grimes spells out “B-E-H-A-V-E” like a high school cheerleading team would with child-like enthusiasm. It is one of the liveliest and memorable songs of the album.
With Art Angels, Grimes travels to destinations Visions did not—there is a common theme of being free within the album. The song “Pin” encapsulates this with the chorus lyrics, “Falling off the edge with you, ahh-ooh-ooh-ooh/It was too good to be true.” Grimes has no regard but to be wild and have a great time, despite negative ramifications or knowing the moment won’t last. While the song is cynical, it takes a different approach to handling human attachment and detachment.
Another odd but refreshing song is “World Princess, Pt. II,” which encompasses a lively, booming beat. Something noteworthy about this album is that Grimes criticizes how male-dominated the music industry is and how she feels that she is viewed as incapable simply because of her sex. Many would believe that a man or a group of people shaped Grimes into the star she is, but Grimes rebuts this by saying, “It’s mine” over and over in the chorus. Grimes is quick to emphasize that she made herself on her own.
In “Venus Fly,” Grimes collaborates with American artist Janelle Monáe—known for her various Grammy nominations and appearance on Fun.’s hit “We Are Young.” “Venus Fly” is a thrusting, bluntly feminist track touching upon the objectification of women. Grimes and Monáe assert that women in the music industry should not have to be judged on their appearance.
All in all, Art Angels is a packed, 14-track album with a lot to say. It showcases Grimes’ musical progression as an artist, but more importantly, it demonstrates what she has to say and what she stands for: feminism, liberation, environmentalism and happiness. With this album, Grimes is no longer running to escape: she’s confronting her reality and she does a darn good job with it.