Review: Grimes' New Album, 'Miss Anthropocene' Mixes Pop And 'Violence' The electronic artist's new album, her first since 2015's acclaimed Art Angels, subverts the expectations of mainstream pop music with dark, densely-layered songs.
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Review: On 'Miss Anthropocene,' Grimes Crafts Pop Both Visceral And Cryptic

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Review: On 'Miss Anthropocene,' Grimes Crafts Pop Both Visceral And Cryptic

Review

Music Reviews

Review: On 'Miss Anthropocene,' Grimes Crafts Pop Both Visceral And Cryptic

Review: On 'Miss Anthropocene,' Grimes Crafts Pop Both Visceral And Cryptic

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/808839481/809368354" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Grimes' fifth album, Miss Anthropocene, pushes the pleasure buttons of mainstream pop while also appearing to critique it. Mac Boucher/Neil Hansen/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Mac Boucher/Neil Hansen/Courtesy of the artist

Grimes' fifth album, Miss Anthropocene, pushes the pleasure buttons of mainstream pop while also appearing to critique it.

Mac Boucher/Neil Hansen/Courtesy of the artist

Canadian-born pop artist Grimes often sings in the voices of imaginary characters; the spirit of her new album, Miss Anthropocene (an evident pun on "misanthropy"), is a malevolent goddess who personifies climate change.

Miss Anthropocene is a dark record, at times almost indefensibly nihilistic, but at its best it recalls modern horror movies like Us or Parasite, which frighten us with a larger purpose in mind — to shock us into rethinking certain attitudes.

The woman behind Grimes, Claire Boucher, grew up loving anime, and her pop persona frequently presents like a science fiction warrior superhero. Boucher's also a technical auteur, producing her own densely-layered music and telling stories both visceral and cryptic.

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My favorite song on the new album, "Darkseid," features the Taiwanese rapper 潘PAN (formerly Aristophanes), with whom Grimes previously worked with on the Art Angels track, "SCREAM." With Asian-language artists like BTS on English-language pop charts, the collaboration is surprisingly on-trend, except that it features a woman poeticizing ecological suicide, rather than men shoveling boilerplate love songs.

That's how Grimes works: Her music pushes the pleasure buttons of mainstream pop while also appearing to critique it. Another example is the song "Before the Fever," which could be heard as a reckless come-on, or a statement of apocalyptic fact.

We are in a cultural moment where songs about depression, even suicide, have become pop lingua franca — as they have been occasionally at other points throughout the history of songwriting. In that sense, Miss Anthropocene fits into a long tradition of songs conjuring depression, even if Grimes frames them abstractly. It's not what I normally expect from a 21st century pop album, but that's why, despite all the darkness, Grimes' music continues to fascinate.