It’s been a wild few years for Grimes. Her 2015 album Art Angels remains my favourite album of the 2010s, and after her tour in support of the record ended in 2016, she became famous for the wrong reasons. Her partnership with billionaire genius-slash-psychopath Elon Musk brought newfound scrutiny to Claire Boucher’s life, starting with their appearance at the 2018 Met Gala. A woman musican’s partner should never be the biggest reason for her fame, but that’s how American pop culture rolls, sadly, so no matter what new music Grimes puts out, it will always have Elon Musk’s name attached to it. If she’s happy, that’s great, and if she wants to name their new baby a confusing series of letters and numbers – as incredible a doubling-down on mutual weirdness as I have ever seen – do what you gotta do.
Interestingly, the critical acclaim was still there for Grimes when she released Miss Anthropocene. The initial response was slightly muted, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the album land on many year-end lists nine months later. But not in her native Canada. It sure feels like Canadian critics abandoned her completely, and a dead giveaway was how Miss Anthropocene didn’t even make the Polaris Music Prize long list. It sure didn’t help that her Canadian record company applied for a FACTOR grant – for a billionaire’s partner to do such a thing is abysmal optics – but here in Canada the reaction from the indie crowd to Grimes’s new album felt like nothing more than sour grapes.
Miss Anthropocene, with its loads and loads of baggage, not to mention sky-high expectations, is not the revelation that Visions and Art Angels were, and man is it ever murky sounding, but she knows her craft so well that it is loaded with brilliant moments. There are a few tracks I don’t need, but the highs are euphoric. “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth” sounds like she is literally plummeting to the planet’s core, “Delete Forever” is an acoustic guitar-driven confessional track that shows more vulnerability than we’ve come to expect from Grimes, and “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around” tackles depression with blunt force. My favourite song on this dark, enigmatic, endlessly fascinating album is “My Name is Dark”, a depressive banger that beautifully juxtaposes Grimes’s anime-like voice with hugely heavy synths and a forceful backbeat. It’s an intoxicating song for me, probably because of its flirtations with ‘80s goth, and is by far my most-played track from the album. I might be one of the last Canadian music writers that hasn’t given up on Grimes, but that’s because I have no expectations from her other than fun, wickedly catchy, wackadoo electropop tunes. People, especially music critics, always whine when an artist becomes huge or married, or just plain happy, fearing the artist will lose touch with reality. They have to realize that Grimes has lost touch with reality years ago. She ate spaghetti for a full year. She tried to live in a houseboat and float down the Mississippi. But she makes great music, because she is a genius. I just hope it doesn’t take another five years until her next album.