Album Review: Grimes – Art Angels
Rhosian Woolridge considers the newest longplayer from Grimes:
Pop Music, the great-great-grandchild of rock and roll, died earlier this year in her home, surrounded by family. Pop Music (Pop for short) was revered for being both glamour and rebel, and those who knew her well forgave her for always having been a little bit shallow. That was part of her charm. Pop was survived by a few life-long friends, plenty of has-beens and those who will never be. Rest in peace, Pop. You will be missed.
That was the beginning of a long and scathing obituary I considered writing. It was going to be about the state of pop music in 2015, and the disdain that I feel when people lump the greats like Madonna, The Beatles and Prince into the same genre as Demi Lovato, 1D and the Pussy Cat whatevers. The conclusion I had come to was that pop music was more or less dead. But, I’ve had a change of heart.
If Grimes’ new album Art Angels is any indication of the future for pop music, I take back every bad thing I ever said. There’s still hope. Art Angels is the Canadian-born artist’s fourth studio album, and perhaps her most surprising yet. It’s a record with weird synth and Kawaii vocals and an undeniable and unexpected pop sentimentality. Grimes’ 2012 release Oblivion was a gift to all indie-lovers. This album is a gift to everyone; to fans of the piano ballad, DIPLO and Skrillex aficionadas, and 80s synth-pop nerds. It’s this flexibility which makes Art Angels inherently pop, as a genre that has always been about making something for everyone.
When it comes to music reviews I’m fond of the phrase stand-out single, because I straight up dislike the word ‘banger’, but I’ll go ahead and use it now because I think it’s fitting. Every song on this album is a banger. You don’t have to look past California (Grimes’ version of Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York), Kill V Maim (dance-floor hit) or Venus Fly (sounds like MIA but before Paper Planes) to realise this is true.
But even amid floor-filling pop songs, Grimes manages to retain her outsider ethos; flying close to the sun, but not too close. On odd-track Scream, Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes whispers and growls over nu-metal sounds, and Grimes showcases her bizarre character.
As the album comes to an end with Butterfly, she sings in her usual helium pitch “If you’re looking for your dream girl / I’ll never be your dream girl”, and this rings true. Grimes will never be a pop-star created by a spoiled cultural image; she is unquestionably herself. Writing, producing, and directing her own pop sound, she is re-directing the genre to new and exciting heights. With artists like Grimes, there is hope after all.
Art Angels is out now via 4AD / Remote Control Records. Grimes returns to Australia next year for Laneway Festival.
Review by Rhosian Woolridge.