My gripe with Grimes

A few months ago my Twitter feed went crazy. Everyone was talking about Grimes. Now at the time I had no idea who or what that was, I just knew that I had to check it out. The first I saw and heard of Grimes aka Claire Boucher was a video to ‘Vanessa’, taken from Darkbloom; a collaborative album with fellow Canadian musician d’Eon. A fairly ethereal track strung over black and white moving images of women playing with make-up and dancing backwards, filmed by Grimes herself. The first thought that popped into my head, and remained, throughout the 5:48 minute clip was ‘how pretentious’.

As someone who prides herself on an eclectic music taste and open mind, I gave Grimes the benefit of the doubt. It’s not her fault, I thought, average artists blow up all the time and it’s difficult to live up to the hype. When this hype continued, I figured I had best give her another shot.

This time I listened intently to ‘Oblivion’, a track from her latest album release Visions, now inescapable to avid listeners of BBC 6 Music and the like. It had potential. It was ‘boppy’, a fun beat that the hipster kids could bounce around to without messing up their hair. But I still didn’t understand. Even when word spread at The Great Escape Festival of her jam-packed set at Brighton’s Digital and the appearance of two male backing dancers, I didn’t understand. She’s not the first musician to infuse live music and dance routines, even if you did think it was ‘totes amazing’.

By all means there’s a lot worse out there and there are many artists I also lump in this same category (The XX). It all seems like a lot of effort with little reward. A bit too much style over substance, which in some circumstances can be pulled off well but I find Miss Boucher lacking. She appears to me as a slightly disturbed Cyndi Lauper for the digital age, just a lot less ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ and a lot more ‘Girls Just Want To Look Like Me’.

Maybe one day it’ll click, maybe it won’t. Perhaps one evening you’ll find me front row and centre at a local Grimes gig, perhaps (and more likely) you won’t. I haven’t written her off completely, but as it stands, right here, right now, I don’t get Grimes. And I don’t feel I am missing out because of this.

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  1. randomo

     /  November 7, 2012


    Grimes’ music is definitely highly-stylised. I do think though that music videos [especially in this digital age, as you put it, where many people access music via Youtube streams, rather than from traditional avenues] are a fitting medium for her music, so I feel that the hyper-stylised factor is excusable, if not rather smart and sensible from an artistic-promotional point of view.

    Whether or not her music measures up to that visual element— or if it Grimes’ whole steez is, as you find it, a case of style over substance— is a matter for debate. Personally her music isn’t especially my cup of tea, but I can definitely see the appeal, and I know people who love it. I do think it has a touch of the Zeitgeist about it [albeit a fairly limited one in demographic scope], super-freaky videos and all.

    I would suggest though, given the kind of music you’ve written about elsewhere on the blog, that maybe electronic/dance music isn’t really your thing? Do correct me if I’m wrong! Anyway, I’m done rambling— cool blog, keep it up!

    • Hello there, great comment!

      First of all, to address your second point, I too can wholeheartedly see why people find the Grimes ideology so appealing, even though I don’t. She has, and I guess all credit to her for doing so, managed to somehow surround herself with intrigue. I’d imagine that’s more down to her visual element, as you’d suggest.

      Secondly, I understand where you’re coming from about seeing her as highly-stylised. The thing for me though is that when I watch these videos or hear her tracks it just looks/sounds incredibly forced. You can be abstract and still preserve a sense of authenticity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for great music videos! For example, take iamamiwhoami, they make fantastic electronic music and stylised videos (interestingly they pubished the videos online in track order and then released a full-length film on DVD with their album), they’re essentially an audiovisual outfit. I buy into their work, which on some basic levels you could parallel to Grimes, because it feels and seems honest. But, of course, this is all just a personal perspective and interpretation. Each to their own, right?

      As it goes I am a fan of electronic/dance music but, as you may have seen, my blog is in its infancy. Don’t worry though, I fully intend to cover more in the near future.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your views, it’s always welcome!


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