Grimes has long expressed an interest in the poppier side of music. With a belief that the mainstream glut of what we love is based solely around sensuous pleasure, she happened to have a significant leg-up in that department in the making of ‘Art Angels’.
She may well be best known for surviving on amphetamines in a blacked-out bedroom during the major part of recording her previous album, ‘Visions’, so she has a bit of experience with the insatiability, pseudo-addiction and pleasurable effects of pop music.
All you have to do is listen to Butterfly. It starts out with a melody that sounds quite makeshift, very rudimental, before getting to the chorus, at which point we begin to mount an incline in the noise level, with layers upon layers of ethereal vocals produced together masterfully to give you that trademark Grimes sound.
If this album does indeed translate well, and makes the crossover to the mainstream, it will be no reiteration of the usual pop idea. Grimes may well have buckled down to the seemingly ascribed rules and regulations of popular music, but within the bounds of confrontational lyrics, cutesy effects and multiple collaborations remains the weirdness that has made her such a cult star.
World Princess 2 makes use of a very basic line of music, not layered this time, but invested with enough conviction as to sound resonant and full. It’s such an alternation in style for Grimes, but it’s also so catchy that you can’t even grasp that point, it comes later on.
As well as all that, she’s outspoken and, in certain important, possibly political components of her musical world, she is unwilling to settle for an inequality. After all she has built her output almost single-handedly, creating an idea of the outcast in her music, artwork, look and general speak that you cannot see being thrown by the wayside any time soon.
And most importantly, she’s a feminist, a female artist who is instantly recognisable not for her body but for her music. On Venus Fly, collaborating with Janelle Monae, she sings “what about me?” and “why are you looking at me?” over and over until the point sinks in. Kill vs Maim sees her sounding dangerous, almost manic as her voice goes through many different shifts, without sounding anything less than instinctive.
What is probably most impressive about ‘Art Angels’ is how effortlessly Grimes has shifted her focus. Whereas other artists may have been inclined to imitate too carefully or closely, none of these songs sounds at all contrived. That’s probably due to the genuine fascination that she has for the music of Rihanna and Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton, but it is also undoubtedly due to her astute eye for detail, for pacing and for production.