Grimes is an enigma. The 31-year-old singer has spent her career evading expectations and making music that is impossible to replicate. She became an underground legend in terms of electronic production. At the same time, she became a magnetic force in left-of-center pop music. Then she started dating Elon Musk. Yes, Elon Musk the strangely self-aware tech billionaire, and CEO of Tesla. The internet became transfixed by this couple simply because it made no sense. Then, Grimes announced her pregnancy. Once again, the internet blew up. All the while, Grimes was working on her fifth studio album and slowly releasing singles from it. As of the time of this article, Grimes has not yet had her child but she has released “Miss Anthropocene,” an album as varied and intriguing as its creator.
As with all of Grimes’ past releases, the production on “Miss Anthropocene” is beautifully layered. It is at once opulent and jarring in its uniqueness. The electronic production expertly highlights her pop sensibilities, while still stretching into more experimental runs. The song “4ÆM” wonderfully displays both of these ideas. The song samples vocals from a song in the 2015 Bollywood movie “Bajirao Mastani.” “4ÆM” is an absolute earworm, due largely to this sample. It is unlike any pop or pop-adjacent song in recent memory.
Grimes originally advertised “Miss Anthropocene” as a concept album about climate change. Without being told, it is impossible to know that any of the album has to do with climate change, and even if you do know it doesn’t really matter. Any aspect of any song that can be related to climate change seems like a stretch, and it is better to listen to the album without looking for any kind of storyline. What really makes “Miss Anthropocene” impressive is the musical scope Grimes manages to pull off without creating a disjointed album. The songs range from techno-pop to nu-metal to the absolutely sublime “Delete Forever.” For an artist known for her genre-breaking electronic work, Grimes can make an incredibly beautiful song that centers around acoustic guitar and banjo. The fairly raw instrumentals ground the singer’s delicate lisp. Grimes has never made a song that sounds and reads as emotionally raw as “Delete Forever,” and yet it somehow does not sound out of place in her discography. Such is the mystery that is Grimes.
Other songs follow a more typical Grimes-style approach. There are high energy songs that might soundtrack clubs and parties in an alternate universe. “My Name is Dark (Art Mix)” and “Violence” showcase Grimes’ ability to make danceable songs. They sound and feel fun because they sound and feel like Grimes is having fun. By this point in her career, Grimes knows what kind of music she wants to make, and, in general, the people know to let her make whatever she wants to make. One unexpected song is “Darkseid” which features the Taiwanese rapper 潘PAN. The skittering verses somehow work on the downtempo song.
Once again, Grimes proves that she is in a field of her own in the music business. No one else of her level of fame or critical recognition can release a boundary-breaking pop album featuring Janelle Monae and follow it up with an album that manages to be as eclectic and cohesive as “Miss Anthropocene.” Grimes has found a way to adopt a myriad of styles and sounds in a way that still sounds uniquely her own. It's not gimmicky or forced, it feels natural and at times euphoric. It feels idiotic to attempt to criticize her for having a child with Elon Musk or making a nu-metal song or not living up to the hype of a climate change-themed album. Grimes is a creator of art, and she creates things so earnestly and with so much precision that she becomes untouchable. Her work transcends her persona, and that is a huge persona to rise above.