I think it’s fair to say that Claire Boucher
, aka Grimes
, was destined to be a divisive artist. In what is sadly still a largely male-driven conversation about music (and music criticism), any woman that manages to grab the floor for however long is going to raise some eyebrows. That Boucher did it as quickly and prominently as she did likely just expedited the backlash. Though she technically only started getting wider recognition in 2012 with her 4AD
, it feels like conflicting opinions about Grimes and how “good” or “real” she is have existed for far longer, whether they’re derisive or defensive. Here’s hoping that Art Angels
, her latest and greatest musical achievement, shuts most of those conflicting voices up. It’s a kinetic, kaleidoscopic rush of a record that renders any and all classifications of genre, identity, and authenticity irrelevant, and it finds Boucher speaking louder and more clearly for herself than ever.
If its predecessor was a “post-Internet” album in that it demonstrated how the web impacted its creator’s exposure to and selection of her influences, Art Angels
earns the tag in how it deals with the fall-out of Boucher’s exposure to the world at large, and all of the clickbaiting headlines and comment threads that unfortunately follow. It finds her detailing the kind of fickle, obsessive attention that has persistently dogged her for the past four years while kowtowing to none of it. The stunning sort-of opener “California” nails the insecurity of being liked for the wrong reasons (“You only like me when you think I’m looking sad”) while surging single “Flesh Without Blood” seethes against being hated for any reason at all (“You never liked me anyway”).
In addition to being feistier lyrically, Boucher is even more fluid musically. Those aforementioned highlights alone shift from country balladry to ‘90s guitar pop. Elsewhere, Janelle MonÃ¡e
lends a hand against unwanted gawkers in the dancefloor destroying “Venus Fly,” while the fantastically furious “Kill v. Maim” finds Boucher flipping genders, embodying Al Pacino
in The Godfather, Part II
only to flip his gender back to female to win the fight (“Cause I’m only a man.”) The fact that it sounds like Kathleen Hanna
fronting a K-pop band only makes the revenge fantasy feel even more righteous.
A full-length “I don’t f*cking care if you like it” if ever there was one, Art Angels
rises above the cynical cries of selling out and condescending concerns about identity crises to prove that a true auteur doesn’t need to pick who she wants to be when she’s more than capable of being anything for anybody. More importantly, it proves that Grimes can do so while still being herself. “I’ll never be your dream girl,” she sighs on the club-ready closer “Butterfly.” Not sure which hater she’s talking about with that assertion, but it’s inarguably their loss.