Grimes - “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth (Visualizer)”
Artificial intelligence is on the verge of replacing human singers. And global warming is destroying the planet a little bit more every day… In such a joyless context, is there actually any point in composing anymore? This is the big question asked by Grimes on her new – and last? – album. Miss Anthropecene saw the light of day on February 21st, after months of endless wild teasers. Anticipated like the messiah, this new opus has the intention of triggering a new musical era. A conclusive record loved by the press – before they even heard it – it also marks the end of the contract between Claire Boucher – her real name – and the record label 4AD. So, what do we take from this “hybrid” work, mixing ancestral mythology and a reflection on the world of tomorrow?
1. Serial teasers and an excessive wait
Miss Anthropocene combines misanthropy and anthropecene. It’s therefore necessary to mark the oral connection. Grimes mixes an aversion for humankind with a notion that’s controversial among scientists: anthropecene denotes the era during which humans left an indelible mark on the planet earth, notably with the appearance of plastic and the development of chemistry in the 19th century. In Grimes’ imagination, Miss Anthropocene would be the goddess of salvation responding to a world in the throes of climate change. The Canadian is also “really obsessed with ancient polytheism”, as she told Lana Del Rey in December 2019: “I love how the ancient Greeks or the ancient Egyptians lived in this weird anime world where there were just tons of gods that could be anything”. Anything: and there’s the rub. The idea of modelling an entire album on the apocalyptic adventures of a plastic goddess is far from stupid. But she’s still got to assume her ambitions.
"My album’s about a modern demonology or a modern pantheon where every song is about a different way to suffer or a different way to die."
Between pop star dreams and futuristic experiments, could Grimes be lost for good? After having forged such a specific universe around her new album, it’s difficult, ultimately, to know what to expect. This isn’t Claire Boucher’s first stylistic foray. After emerging on the Montreal scene in 2010 as the new do-it-yourself icon with Halfaxa, she quickly became one of the most interesting figures of her generation, alongside Björk and FKA twigs. But then in 2015, Art Angels, a record that was more pop and more accessible, disappointed her fans. Even the singer herself felt this album, which had become “a stain on her life”, was “shit”. Which is certainly one way to put up a smokescreen for the future.
Grimes - 4ÆM (Performance Video)
2. The return to dreampop
But in spite of her promises for renewal, it’s clear that Miss Anthropocene is a resolutely pop album. Both stellar and soigné, certain compositions, sublimated by ethereal voices, remain striking. So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth (Art Mix), which opens the record, stops time in a dreamlike epic lasting six minutes. Incredibly dense, the song stands out for its high-pitched chanting.
The first half of the record retains the same force as its opening track. Hot on the heels of Darkseid, Violence and 4AEM, which the public already knew. All give pride of place to the dreampop accents of Art Angels, which the singer had once so fiercely rejected. Guests from this previous opus are also back on Miss Anthropocene, including Pan Wei-Ju, a poet based in Taipei, who sings in Cantonese on Darkseid. Violence, produced by i_o, remains one of the most catchy songs on the record. With its repetitive words, it describes an abusive relationship that leaves us unsure if it’s about a toxic couple, or the relationship between humans and Earth.
Grimes & i_o - Violence (Official Video)
3. Eclectic pop
From My name is dark (Art Mix) to You’ll miss me forever when I’m not around, Grimes plunges into pop compositions with increasingly classic structures, and a decreasing dynamism. Delete Forever is something of a UFO with its ballad punctuated by a simple acoustic guitar, making clear reference to the emo pop-rock albums of the early 2000s.
The soul that gave her energy to the singles already released therefore seems to disappears in favour of more intimate music on Miss Anthropocene. "My album’s about a modern demonology or a modern pantheon where every song is about a different way to suffer or a different way to die." But perhaps the album is sufficient in itself and deserves to be listened to without any explanatory text.