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‘Miss Anthropocene’ illustrates a digital dystopia

Grimes creates a virtual otherworld in which electro-pop anthems dominate

<p>Grimes performed at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City in 2014.</p>

Grimes performed at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City in 2014.

For dedicated Grimes fans, the wait for her long-anticipated album “Miss Anthropocene” is finally over, after a five-year period following the artist’s 2015 project, “Art Angels.” Already having gained strong critical acclaim and numerous positive reviews, the album has quickly skyrocketed to the top of the charts. Claire Elise Boucher, the artistic authority behind the stage name Grimes, both wrote and produced all of the sinister pop anthems. 

In the face of overwhelming online gossip surrounding her unexpected relationship with Elon Musk, Boucher has maintained an ever-present force on social media to promote this project, created visually-shocking fantasy worlds through music videos and held a Twitter Q&A for her enthusiastic fanbase. The Face even conducted an interview with her digital self, WarNymph, on the provocative topic of techno-feminism. “Miss Anthropocene” undoubtedly marks the solidification of Grimes’ reign as dystopian pop princess, fully embodying the image of her automated avatar.

The first track, “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth,” sets the tone for the rest of the album with its pulsating bass and intense electronic instrumentation. Paired with the soft, entrancing vocals of Boucher, a vast and menacing musical soundscape has never felt so enticing. The welcome repetition of a simple yet powerful chorus leads way to the restrained choral outburst of the next song, “Darkseid.” This track is appropriately named after a villain character of the DC comics superteam, the Justice League, and contains the return of a featured artist from “Art Angels,” Aristophanes. Her aggressive, spoken-word verses add a dark contrast to the purposefully monotone words of Grimes. 

In “My Name is Dark,” a solo electric guitar and a steady kick drum introduce the screeching intro by Boucher, which holds both an empowering and self-hating tone. The song is penetrated by an overtly negative disposition which urges the listener to scream along in solidarity. Lastly, the originality of “Before the fever” lies in the distorted voice of Grimes shrouded in electronic production. In the face of this deepened vocal effect, the listener feels like they are standing in the serenity of fresh air outside a crowded venue which plays the song, as it seems to be filtered through an architectural medium.

A standout track on the album, the acoustic number “Delete Forever” is a hard-hitting ballad about the evils of the opioid crisis. The song honors personal friends of Boucher and several acclaimed artists who have recently fallen victim to the epidemic. In a verified annotation on Genius, Grimes shared her feelings of powerlessness regarding the topic. 

“The artists it’s happening to specifically feels … a little too on the nose,” Boucher said. “I think [they were] people who in my opinion were best expressing issues of mental health. So to have them die specifically just feels like a weird hopelessness.” 

The folk-tinted strumming of an acoustic guitar further marks this song as a delineation from the rest of the wholly electronic project. However, this is not to say that Grimes allows consistency to become tiresome. The obvious Bollywood influence on the instrumentation of “4 ÆM” is simply one testament to each track’s unique presence.

“Miss Anthropocene,” in addition to revolutionary instrumentation, is doused with thought-provoking themes of divine presence, self-harm and the takeover of artificial intelligence. The glimmering beat of “Violence” ironically underlays a string of seductive vocals about severe aggression, producing a haunting, oxymoronic effect on what seems like a harmless pop anthem. “New Gods” is a vocal-centric piano ballad in which Grimes makes a desperate lament to the omniscient forces of the digital age as she sings, “Hands reaching out for new gods / You can’t give me what I want.” 

Moreover, lyrics about technological takeover are wholly embraced in “We Appreciate Power,” a track in which Boucher and featured artist HANA urge listeners to “submit” to the ultimate future rule of computers. Sounds of swords clashing coupled with disorienting electronic guitar transport the listener to a dystopian battle of the future. Captivating orders to “plug in” and “upload your mind” are followed by promises of digital immortality, solidifying the song’s suggestion of a future ruled by AI-powered simulation — “Come on, you’re not even alive / If you’re not backed up on a drive.”

Looking back on the groundbreaking discography of Grimes, listeners can map the steady artistic progression of Claire Boucher, the self-titled WarNymph of the electro-pop genre. Grimes has altogether maintained her influential voice and augmented her musical genius to new heights, soaring above her previous releases with fully established lyrical and production prowess.