Sometimes it’s hard to believe how young an artist like Grimes really is. Following the release of 2012’s roundly praised breakthrough album Visions (incredibly her third full length LP), the then 23-year old Claire Boucher appeared to have the world at her feet. Three and a half years down the line and the now 27-year old Canadian native has decided to roll back the years in what could essentially be perceived as an effort to relive her lost youth.
Although it may shock and disturb diehards of its darkly hypnotic predecessor, new release Art Angels is a much more mainstream, pop-centric affair, that suggests not only a dramatic style change, but also a somewhat cathartic response to the otherworldly, yet almost overly sophisticated sound that has shaped her career thus far. In stark contrast to her previous work, just about everything about Art Angels – from its glitzy production, to its relentless over-sampling, to its unlikely collaborations – unashamedly screams ‘I WANT TO BE POPULAR!’
Fulfilling the role of potent elixir to Visions‘ dark tonic, the album’s electric panache brings some light to Grimes’ eerie, labyrinthine world. However striking her transformation from indie-electro innovator to all-encompassing pop star may be for some people, Boucher’s enduring, ambidextrous talents cannot go ignored, while her ability to create a pop record of such broad appeal must be acknowledged. Sprightly bubblegum pop gems like ‘California’, ‘Artangel’ and the luscious teen dream that is ‘Butterfly’, stand aside effervescent club bangers like ‘Flesh Without Blood’, ‘Realiti’ and ‘Venus Fly’ ft. Janelle Monae, as the album’s bread and butter, but Grimes doesn’t totally stray from her experimental methods. The boisterous ‘Kill vs Maim’, outlandishly abrasive ‘SCREAM’ ft. Aristophanes, and the elegantly orchestral ‘Easily’ provide suitable bulk to what is a pretty flawless pop record.
Having carved out a reputation as something of an underground indie-pop pioneer, Grimes will no doubt face accusations of selling out, with hordes of hipster types already queuing up to dismiss Art Angels as nothing but an expensive career makeover. Considering she’s accomplishing so much at such a young age however, perhaps the rest of us are obliged to allow a budding, mid-twenties artist her chance to have a little fun.