Vancouver’s electro oddball Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) debuted the first material from her upcoming fourth album ‘Art Angels’ yesterday (October 26) – the first official album material she’s put out since 2012’s brilliantly freaky ‘Visions’. To accompany the surprisingly poppy new tracks – ’Flesh Without Blood’ and ‘Life In The Vivid Dream’ – is a typically eccentric video that draws on all her audiovisual work to date. But what’s her best video ever?
This chilled dance track was going to be scrapped from Grimes’ fourth album – she released it in what she called its demo form in March 2015 as a “special thank you” to the fans who came to her shows in Asia – but thanks to the hugely positive reaction it received, it’s been rerecorded and added to the tracklisting for ‘Art Angels’. In this demo form, its video is similarly homemade – Grimes herself directed and edited it while on tour in Asia. The self-shot footage encompasses manic crowd shots, escapades in jungles and markets, and random dances in stairwells. Compared to her other videos, it’s refreshingly low-key and unaffected.
4. ‘GO FEAT. BLOOD DIAMONDS’
This standalone, chart-friendly single was originally written for Rihanna, said Grimes last year, but the Barbadian pop star turned it down. Grimes recorded herself instead, alongside the rather tall producer Blood Diamonds, also from Grimes’ hometown of Vancouver, who you can see holding the diminutive Boucher in the video. We’re in a land of deserts, head-encircling cornrows, massive swords, pink smoke bombs and extremely long pieces of cloth. And we’re also in the fisheye cam of a surreal club. Don’t think too much, it’s fun.
The first thing you see after the minute-long, echoey choral intro to 2012’s ‘Genesis’ is Grimes’ mate, a pink dreadlocked sword-wielder who dresses in cutout plate armour, flashing her white contact lenses. Grimes herself is chilling in a car sporting the manga stylings of Sailor Moon, and a snake about her neck. As her jeep speeds through the desert, her gang drag their swords along the ground, recalling the high-speed badassery of M.I.A.’s iconic ‘Bad Girls’ video – but Grimes’ posse of weapon-wielding weirdos lives on in Rihanna’s ‘BBHMM’ video from earlier this year. Does it err on self parody when she starts swirling a spiked morningstar? Yes. Does that matter? No, not really.
2. ’FLESH WITHOUT BLOOD/LIFE IN THE VIVID DREAM’
What will shock you about ‘Flesh In The Blood’ shouldn’t be its pop aesthetic – anyway, she’s already clarified “flesh isn’t a ‘representation’ of everything, just a taste of a vibe”. No, the thing that sticks out is the brief flash of a bloody-mouthed angel that prefaces this two-act vid, directed by Grimes herself and featuring a range of far more varied outfits and locations than ‘Genesis’.
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At first, she’s in a pinktastic rococo bedroom wearing a pink cowboy hat, angel wings and a white dress. Next thing you know, she’s a parasol-toting, indigo-haired Marie Antoinette twirling around a pink badminton court with her turquoise, horn-rimmed sunnies – while trucks drive by, jarringly, in the background. As she bleeds herself dry with a dagger stuck in her belly, things take a much darker turn. This is where we segue into the pensive melancholy of ‘Life In The Vivid Dream’, in which her self-inflicted damage reaches unsettlingly critical levels.
The best video thus far has to be ‘Oblivion’, Boucher’s breakthrough track, shot in Montreal at a motorbike rally and football stadium. The song is about her experience of sexual assault, but like many of Grimes’ videos it presents her as a powerful figure. “In Japanese culture,” Boucher explains, “there are female characters who can embody this girl uniform and still cut someone’s head off with a sword. ‘Oblivion’ embodies that kind of archetype, going into this masculine world that is associated with sexual assault, but presented as something really welcoming and nice.”
The video is a relaxed charmer, benefiting from its low budget. Grimes wanders the corridors of the football stadium with her headphones on, lipsyncing to camera with hotdogs, football players, and actual crowd members. “The film was very expensive,” she’s said, “so we had to use everything we shot. We didn’t have any permits, so it has a very documentary feel. That’s why people are walking in front of the camera at times.”
The logistics don’t factor in, though, because of Grimes’ unbothered on-screen persona. Casual but full of attitude, she practically owns everything in the video.