Grimes (aka Claire Boucher, aka c) has had it rough the past few years. Since 2015, label issues have delayed new music from coming out. She's been under constant media and public scrutiny thanks to her relationship with Elon Musk. Azealia Banks came for her throat. And she's a bit upset that we're killing the fucking planet.
Her newest album, Miss Anthropocene, is born from this anger. The title, a portmanteau of misanthropy and the Anthropocene epoch, refers to the goddess of Climate Crisis, one of the many deities Grimes creates through the album. Across the ten tracks, she looks at the many ways our species is hurtling toward oblivion. She screams about political apathy, raves about climate change, and cries at the devastation of the opioid crisis. Her intention is to subvert our natural fear of the apocalypse—instead of examining these crises from her perspective, she sings from the point of view of malevolent gods hell–bent on destroying humanity.
It's occasionally difficult to tell which perspective Grimes sings from. She switches characters constantly, lamenting and somehow encouraging humanity's suicidal ideation. Although the tone shifts are sometimes jarring, this is some of the greatest music Grimes has ever created. Influences from her previous work are clear, but the album never retreads familiar ground. Miss Anthropocene, then, stands as the pinnacle of Grimes' remarkable career thus far.
Miss Anthropocene's greatest strength lies in Grimes' god–like ability to absorb a variety of genres, bend them to her will, and create dark, futuristic soundscapes. Given the impossible task of classifying Miss Anthropocene under a singular genre tag, ”ethereal” comes to mind. Elements of metal, house, hip–hop, country, and synth–pop litter the record, often in the same song and morphed beyond recognition.
From the first few seconds of the opening track, "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth," it's evident that Grimes has turned her back on the bubblegum pop influence of her previous album, Art Angels. Rumbling layers of bass, roaring electronic feedback, and sluggish drums dominate the mix while Grimes' voice, at times a low warble or a hysteric shriek, is layered in reverb. "So Heavy..." takes on the point of view of the God of Gender Roles and is about the degradation of ejaculation. It's a bold album opener, but Grimes never cared about typical pop conventions. "So Heavy..." directly leads in to "Darkseid," where Grimes invites Taiwanese rapper 潘PAN to deliver a mind–bending series of verses. In typical Grimes fashion, the song's title cheekily references the DC Comics villain who aims to enslave all sentient life.
The album's centerpiece, "New Gods," is Grimes' take on a traditional piano ballad. Sparse production creates a desolate sonic environment, evoking the image of a lone woman who rejects her previously held beliefs as she desperately turns towards vindictive idols. "Hands reaching out for new gods / You can't give me what I want," she sings, her voice trembling as waves of synths crash over her. Rejecting tradition is scary. Openly calling for annihilation is scarier.
But on "Delete Forever," Grimes describes her fear of that very annihilation. Written in the wake of Lil Peep's overdose, she opines the tragedy of opioid abuse and the absolution of death. Tender guitar strums underscore one of her best vocal performances as a post–chorus beat drop prevents the song from shifting the tone too close to melancholy.
On "My Name is Dark," she confronts nihilistic thoughts directly. As layers of electric guitars, synths, and bass summon an all–encompassing wall of sound, Grimes screams "I'm not gonna sleep anymore ... I'll never trust the government and pray to God for sure." The character she plays on this song is a manic insomniac just now experiencing the hedonistic liberation that comes with accepting inevitable doom. While some of the other tracks are purposefully depressing, "My Name Is Dark" revels in a depressing terror of extinction—Grimes mutters "imminent annihilation sounds so dope," at one point, her smirk audible.
There is a singular break from the gloom of Miss Anthropocene, though. On closer "IDORU," Grimes uses the framework of a love song to imagine a brighter future. "Unrequited love has reassembled me," she croons. Perhaps she's singing from the perspective of our planet when the climate crisis has been averted; perhaps optimism isn't completely implausible. "I adore you," she declares as bright textures circle the mix. If the rest of this album lives in the dark, where our most self–destructive thoughts bubble up uninvited, "IDORU" is the first glimmer of sunlight. It's the perfect epilogue, and reminds us that utopia is equally as achievable as the opposite.
Miss Anthropocene is important. The earth is dying. We're killing it and ourselves. To promote the album, Grimes released a manifesto from the point of view of the titular goddess, declaring "now is the time to burn twice as bright and half as long." Just like the album, the manifesto is morbidly funny on the surface, but deeply unsettling upon closer look. This isn't just a great record. It's an alarm bell for a species on the brink of extinction.