Courtesy of 4AD

February 25, 2020

TEST SPIN | Grimes — ‘Miss Anthropocene’

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What will music sound like when artificial intelligence takes over the world? Miss Anthropocene, framed as a concept album for an imaginary “death god” personifying the climate crisis, gives us a good idea. On her newest album, Claire Boucher, who goes by the stage-name Grimes, sings somber and often trance-like songs about death, the climate crisis, drug addiction and the A.I. revolution, all accompanied by her characteristic mixture of fantasy and demonic imagery.

At 31, Grimes has risen to pop-culture super-stardom, thanks to her talents as a singer, graphic artist, engineer and video director. Her relationship with tech billionaire Elon Musk has hardly lowered her profile, especially after her Instagram posts in the last month, where she sports a clear baby bump. However, in lieu of revealing details about her much-scrutinized personal life, Grimes opts to focus on a self-created fantasy world on her latest full length release.

The Canadian singer stays true to her experimental dream pop, electronic and hip hop influences throughout Miss Anthropocene. The ten-track album comes over four years after her last LP, Art Angels, was released in 2015. While both tackle real-world problems with an overlay of electronic beats, Miss Anthropocene sounds more distinctly other-worldy and hypnotic in comparison to Art Angels’ more raw soundscape.

In contrast to her single “We Appreciate Power,” released in 2018, Miss Anthropocene is noticeably more timid, despite a consistent theme of death throughout its tracks. “We Appreciate Power” has a heavier beat and harsher-sounding lyrics, which hardly compare to “Violence” or “So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth,” both of which are far more trance-like. Insead, the album much more closely resembles “Nihilistic Blues” by Bring Me the Horizon, a chart-topping single released in 2019 which Grimes featured on.

Like her earlier work, Grimes was influenced by a variety of sources. “4ÆM”, which will be featured in the video game 2077, is the cyberpunk interpretation of the Bollywood movie Bajirao Mastani. In addition, the title of the album itself comes from the ‘Anthropocene Era’, the name given to the current geological era defined by human impact.

Many of the songs on Miss Anthropocene draw inspiration from difficult topics. Most notably, “Delete Forever” addresses the opioid epidemic, beginning with the lines “Lying so awake, things I can’t escape/Lately, I just turn ’em into demons/Flew into the sun, fucking heroin.” Written on the night that Lil Peep overdosed, the song displays the raw emotions of Grimes’ reaction to the death of yet another superstar artist by drugs. In addition, “Darkseid” featuring 潘PAN addresses the suicide of 潘PAN’s friend. Sung partially in Chinese, the song exemplifies Grimes’ production talents, as it manages to convey grief in an entirely different language.

Despite the album’s many positives, it is lacking in one important area. While the album’s sound and the concept behind it are both interesting, they fail to merge together into a cohesive vision. The finished product sounds less like a concept album and more like ten singles mashed together onto a mixtape. Although all of the songs relate to the theme of death, they lack the cohesive storyline which characterizes great concept albums. Despite this, the songs consistently hit a high mark, distinguishing Grimes not as simply a name in the headlines, but a boundary shifting artist capable of greatness in her own right.


Carolyn Hale is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].