#8. Grimes: Art Angels

Five years ago, if you had said that the savior of pop would be Grimes, no one would have believed you. The pop world had just been shaken by Katy Perry’s tour de force Teenage Dream; meanwhile Grimes (Claire Boucher) was only just winning the respect of the underground music scene with her ethereal studio debut Geidi Primes—a concept album based on novelist Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune. There hardly seemed room for her under the shadow of such generation-defining pop songs as “Teenage Dream” and “California Girls.” The pop world didn’t need saving, and Grimes was hardly the one to do it.

Perhaps that’s what’s so amazing about Grimes’ fourth album Art Angels; it saved what we didn’t even know needed saving. She adopted an “if it ain’t broke, it can still be fixed” mentality to both her musical identity and the pop world at large. Grimes has taken her twisted, danceable, dreamscape style and rerouted it into the nexus of Top 40 pop music. The result is a masterful album that doesn’t sacrifice any of her quirky charm or bizarre musical experimentation.

Listening to the album feels like looking at Grimes through a kaleidoscope, as it weaves deftly between the different colors of her music. The jaunty, polished bounce of “California” feels completely at home next to the primal wailing of “Scream.” “Kill V Maim,” one of the album’s standout tracks, is an infectious, up-tempo, just-left-of-normal dance record that will stay in your head for days. In an interview with Q Magazine, Grimes said the song “is written from the perspective of Al Pacino in The Godfather Pt 2…except he’s a vampire who can switch gender and travel throught [sic] space.”

As if Grimes’ experimental, K-pop infused music wasn’t enough of a statement of individuality, she also wrote, performed, produced, and engineered every song entirely by herself. The album stands defiantly in the face of a pop landscape that tilts towards homogenization and “songwriting by committee.” Art Angels will likely become a catalyst for a gradually more independent, self-sufficient wave of pop over the next decade. With it, Grimes proves that total artistic control and unique expression are not antithetical to creating a pop masterpiece.