By Benjamin Baldwin, Editorial Staff (‘20)
Genres: Electronic, synthpop, ethereal wave
“I, poet of destruction, hereby declare that climate change is good,” articulates the titular character and clever pun of Grimes’ fifth studio album Miss Anthropocene. On her stellar new concept album Grimes attempts to create a ‘demonology’ for the modern age – a polytheistic system for the apocalypse. At the heart of the concept is the goddess of climate change named Miss Anthropocene, hinting at both misanthropy and the Anthropocene epoch where humanity has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate. Grimes had emphasized this in the months leading up to the album and some might be disappointed to find that the album actually has very little direct reference to this initial concept. There is no grand arc over these ten songs nor is there really any direct reference to this ominous goddess. The album, rather, uses this concept of polytheism as a way to personify humanity’s darkness in the Internet age.
Instead of painting a picture of a singular apocalypse, each song in itself is an apocalypse. This approach works remarkably well, leaving the album vague enough to have multiple interpretations but focused enough to have clearly thought out thematic strands. Of central focus is the idea of submission: both to our inevitable doom and to the ‘new gods’ we create through the artifice of the Internet. The album is full of darkness, with depictions of the loss of freedom when one falls in love (“So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth”), the perilous cycle of addiction (“Delete Forever”), and the anxieties of depression (“You’ll miss me when I’m not around”). This represents our flaws, our hopelessness, our doom. On other tracks, however, there is this idea of giving into a simulation. “New Gods” (claimed to be the “album’s thesis”) is an ethereal ballad about forming artificial figures to cope with our reality – that is, to live in the artifice of a digital world, of celebrities with fabricated, carefully groomed images through the services of social media. This theme is continued on the beautiful closing track “IDORU” (a play on the words “I adore you” and the Japanese word meaning ‘Idol,’ a type of corporate pop star that is also the subject of a William Gibson novel of the same name) which is shockingly bright on an album with dark, distorted production. However, the song is about “playing a beautiful game” with a corporate product, living in euphoria by entering a simulation and ignoring reality. It ends the album on a deceptively bitter note.
Beyond its intriguing concept and unique themes, the album is also excellently produced. Each song feels like it’s from a different region of some vaguely dystopian future. “4ÆM” is a throwback drum-and-bass insomnia banger that accurately depicts an overly-caffeinated ride through a neon-lit city in a Tesla Cybertruck. “Darkseid” sounds like something that would be played at an alien club featuring a holographic virtual presence. Grimes’ new album is probably her best to date and a strong contender for this year’s best. Highly recommended.
Album Highlights: 4ÆM, New Gods, You’ll miss me when I’m not around, IDORU, We Appreciate Power (Deluxe Edition only)
Scores: Innovation: 4/5, Listenability: 5/5, Production: 5/5, Cohesiveness: 4.5/5, Efficacy: 4.5/5
Overall Score: 9.2/10