It’s been a while since the last release from Grimes. It was “Art Angels” in 2015, and it seems a lot has changed since then. As always with her music and lyrics Grimes explores and develops with time, keeps on changing, challenging herself as well as her audience with the risk of losing some of them, but that doesn’t seem to bother her, cause she’s a super hero.
She’s one of the only artists in the music industry this days who are very successful, with an undeniable number of followers and fans, to make statements on subjects such as Feminism, global warming and climate exchange, veganism, politics, etc… and she shouts it out loud, using the very aesthetics of the subjects she wants to speak about, to reveal something in them, creating a conversation around them.
On her latest releases “We appreciate power” and “Pretty Dark” Grimes takes it one step further with the conceptual path that we’ve seen hints of on “Art Angels” and adopts the video games/internet/ Ai aesthetics and language to make a point.
In the video of “ We Appreciate Power” Grimes and Hanna are dressed like feminine video games characters wearing tight vinyl playsuits that emphasize their femininity, standing in a pose that emphasize that even more, in a static position, circling in a 360 degrees around themselves, holding a worm or cold weapon throughout the video.
The video opens with a strong beat and a scream followed by heavy guitars distortion that almost imitate the sound of ramping motorcycle to the image of Grimes on a smaller screen seating in a closed room filled with wires, holding a puppet on her lap acting like an unwired puppet or a robot.
The singing starts with the phrase “we appreciate power” and the following question “ What will it take to make you capitulate?” answered with the repeated phrase “We appreciate power”. As mentioned beforehand, the screen is divided into a smaller screen in the middle of the lager one that acts as a moving background to the main screen in the middle, creating an interesting contrast between the static poses of Grimes and Hanna, their circling movement around themselves, and the movement of the images on the bigger, mostly hidden screen that also shows images like three globes that are also circling around themselves. This gives an immediate, strong feeling of multiple, somewhat chaotic realities which are living side by side at the same time: The individual, the screen itself (virtual) and the globes, working together but separate at the same time.
The way I interpreted the forth world is in the translation subtitles that goes along the video and in a way unites all the worlds under language and the written word, contenting five languages: Russian, English, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese. I can imagine that this are the languages that are spoken by most of Grimes fans, but I don’t think it’s the only consideration that came to mind in choosing the languages translated… There’s a political statement here as in saying who has the power we appreciate. At the very end of the video the surprising subtitle shows on the screen: “Thank you to the Ai overlords for translating out lyrics. Please forgive any inaccuracies. The computer may have taken an artistic liberties in this translations”.
The music is the fifth or first world that is also a universal language that unites all realities. And the music is an electric, cyber/industrial goth pop/rock, somewhat harsh in the sense that its cutting, cold and repeating itself, but Grimes’s singing is sweet then ever, girlish, influenced by asian music, that gives just another layer of contrast between femininity and masculinity and kind of reminds me the old albums soft singing.
On one point of the song which is the first, soft pick point, the beat slows down a little and Grimes soft voice singing: “If you long to never die, baby plug in, upload your mind. Cmon you’re not even alive, if you’re not backed up on a drive”. The section repeats it self to a point where Grimes shown as if shooting Hanna, but then reversed and Hanna is back on her fit and the guitars are back. Towards the end, the music elevates and Grimes states: “Neanderthal to human being. Evolution, kill the gene. Biology is superficial. Intelligence is artificial. Submit. Submit. Submit.”
Which I did. When I first saw this video I desperately wanted to unlike it, to be nostalgic to the old dreamy, wavy, un-conceptual Grimes I used to think of as the next Kate Bush, but I submitted to this song and to her, appreciating her will to look forward, exploring who she could be as total new phenomena, rather then looking back at the ones who are already the best selves. She stays true to herself, and I think that’s what leads to her not popping up with a new album or a single every year. She takes her time to real think and feel where she’s going next. I’m not sure about it, but I sensed that on the release of “Art Angels” she lost plenty of fans that were with her from the very beginning, due to her being “too pop”, but she also gained lots of new ones and managed to bring sub- culture into the mainstream without selling it away. I can see how this song can be played in an indie pop party and in an industrial goth party at the time. AKA multiple realities…
So why did I open with the depressing headline of feeling old? 1st. Cause I’m a bit depressed person, get used to it;) And 2nd. because I’ve also watched the “Pretty Dark” video which is maybe the most contemporary video on right now. It’s videoed by Grimes from what seems like her phone and is uploaded as an insta/snapchat/whatever story, filled with ever-changing filters, in what seems like her private home, having multiple references to video games I have absolutely no idea about. Also here, the screen is divided into two: one vertical in which we see Grimes singing in her room, and the bigger back screen which serves as a background and shows changing images of colorful roses floats in waters, animated images of creatures and illustrations Grimes draw herself. Also there are glimpse from the “We appreciate power video” of her sitting wired, but this time you only see the wires and she’s hidden behind the screen that projects herself in this video. On other images in the background we see her dark waters with the ears and wings of fairy, sprawling around with other friends. The song is a slow beat soft love song with a dark twist.
In this song Grimes mostly sings about what would happen if someone hurt the one she loves, or how it own her like it owns the world. The way I see it, from the way it’s been filmed, it’s a love song to her own dark self, or/and a love song to a computer/virtual self, or is it just song on how she’d wish to be computerized in order to overcome a broken heart?
I don’t know… I must admit I can’t seem to crack this all the way if even a little, and maybe that’s what I like about it.
With both of the songs I found myself hypnotized to the screen, rewinding and repeat.
It’s been a while now since I’ve been listening to this kind of music, as I wondered to the realms of Rock N’ Roll and The Blues, and this is a sharp turn for me, but I guess I’ll submit just a little more.