There are those who consider Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift an artist. While I can almost kind of understand that line of thinking, to further such a premise would mean to completely disregard what Grimes is doing. Not only does she pack the visual punch of Miley at her most emboldened, she is a one-woman music machine, capable of writing her own tunes, performing every instrument, singing all the vocals, and crafting all the arrangements and production elements.
For the uninitiated, Grimes is 27-year-old singer/songwriter/producer whose latest long-player Art Angels came out this week on the esteemed 4AD label. If, like me, you still buy anything 4AD releases sight unseen, then you'll take special interest in this, if you haven't already.
Oh, she writes and produces her own records? How many 40-year-old guys does she rely on in the process?
Funny you should ask: none. That's right,
Unlike Taylor Swift, whose list of producers for her latest album, 1989, reads like a Who's Who of indistinguishable assembly line pop (Max Martin, Shellback, Greg Kurstin, Ryan Tedder, et al), the list of those who provided co-writing, production or musical assistance is zero.
For anyone who has ever tried to handle every aspect of writing, arranging, performing and producing an entire album, that's an impressive feat. That accomplishment becomes even more impressive when you hear the album, which plays in the ears and mind like a movie, and realize that this is the work of one person.
Maybe, just maybe, Grimes is who we should be holding up as the role model. She's sexy in a quirky sort of way, same as Miley, and quirky in a sexy sort of way, same as Miley, but she's CREATING something, not just singing a Replacements song with Joan Jett to get her "rocker badge".
What makes Art Angels such a supreme kick is that, on the surface, it is the sonic equal to 1989 and Bangerz as far as glossy, immediate pop albums go. Dig beneath the surface of either of those records and you'll quickly realize there is nothing beneath the surface. They are pop albums that exist for the sole purpose of being pop albums. While Art Angels is a pop album, behind it beats a human heart and loads of nuance and subtlety amid the technicolor choruses.
Plus, it's got a guest vocal by Janelle Monae, who, oddly enough, also appears on the latest albums by both Duran Duran and Chic.
While the first two singles, "Flesh And Blood" and "Scream", are both fetching tracks, but if 4AD truly wants to launch this thing into the stratosphere, "Kill V. Maim" needs to be the next single.
For one thing, it's got an ear-worm of a chorus, but how can you not love a song built upon the premise of The Godfather (Al Pacino) as a vampire?
It's this mix of dark, vaguely ghoulish imagery that puts her in the same ballpark as fellow Canadians The Birthday Massacre, although they haven't gone as unabashedly pop as Grimes does on this outing.
What truly sets Grimes apart from the rest of the field is her ability to work within the idiom of pop with its certain formula elements and still manage to inject so much of herself into the process that makes Grimes and Art Angels such a revelation.