Grimes (musician)

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This article is about the Canadian musician. For other people named Grimes, see Grimes (surname).
Grimes in October 2011
Background information
Birth name Claire Elise Boucher
Born (1988-03-17) March 17, 1988 (age 28)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • music video director
  • Vocals
  • synthesizer
  • sampler
  • keyboard
  • guitar
  • bass
  • drums
  • violin
  • ukulele
Years active 2009–present
Associated acts

Claire Elise Boucher (born March 17, 1988), better known by the stage name Grimes, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, record producer and music video director.[8][9][10] Born and raised in Vancouver, she first became involved with the underground music scene and began recording her own experimental music while attending McGill University in Montreal.

Boucher released the studio albums Geidi Primes and Halfaxa through Arbutus Records in 2010, and signed a secondary recording contract with 4AD in 2011. Her third studio album Visions (2012) and its singles "Genesis" and "Oblivion" received widespread critical acclaim; it was hailed as "one of the most impressive albums of the year so far" by The New York Times,[11] was nominated for the Polaris Prize, and received the Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year.[12] Her fourth studio album Art Angels was released in 2015 and has since become her highest-charting project in the United States peaking at number 36.

Grimes' music has been noted by critics and journalists for its atypical combination of vocal elements, as well as a wide array of influences across electronica and pop, hip hop and R&B, experimental and medieval music. In 2013, Grimes was awarded the Webby Award for Artist of the Year.[13]

Early life[edit]

Boucher was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia.[14][15] She is of Québécois, Ukrainian, Russian and Italian descent.[16][17][18] She graduated from Lord Byng Secondary School[19] and studied ballet for 11 years.[20] In 2006, at age 18, she moved to Montreal, Quebec to attend Montreal's McGill University to study neuroscience, philosophy, and Russian literature.[15][21][22] According to the time stamps on her original MySpace page, Boucher began writing music under the name Grimes during her second year at McGill in 2007. Grimes later confirmed that she took her name from grime music after discovering the existence of the genre on Myspace.[23][24][25] In interviews Grimes explains that she was asked to do backing vocals for a friend, and though at first reluctant, realized it was easier than she expected it to be. After this experience, she asked a friend of hers to teach her the basics of GarageBand in exchange for food and thereafter began writing her own experimental music. As Grimes became a more serious endeavour, she started skipping most of her classes, only attending to take exams, resulting in the university taking punitive actions against her and ultimately expelling her.[26] After dropping out, Grimes remained in Montreal and began putting on concerts with her friends at Lab Synthèse, a performance space they started, which was located in an abandoned textile factory that Arbutus Records evolved out of.[27] Two of her songs were released (under her real name, Claire Boucher) on Arbutus Records' Spring 2009 Sampler.[28] Despite having made a few early releases, during interviews from Coachella 2016 Grimes stated that she took her first steps in music-making when she was around the age of 22 or 23,[29][30] about the time she started work as a signed musician.


2009–13: Geidi Primes, Halfaxa and Visions[edit]

Grimes' debut album, Geidi Primes, was released on cassette in 2010 through Arbutus Records. Later in 2010, Grimes released her second album, Halfaxa, also through Arbutus. In 2011, Grimes released a split 12" with d'Eon called Darkbloom. Her recording name was initially claimed to be a reference to Ken Grimes, an "outsider" artist best known for drawings of aliens.[31] However, in December 2014 she revealed on Twitter that the origin of her name was from listing her music on MySpace in the 'Grime' genre multiple times, even though she didn't know what Grime music was at the time. In May 2011 she opened for Lykke Li on her North American Tour,[15][24] and the following August her debut album was re-released through No Pain in Pop Records, in CD and vinyl format for the first time.[32] Also in 2011, she made an appearance on Majical Cloudz's single "Dream World"[33] and collaborated with DJ/producer Blood Diamonds.[34][35]

[After nine days] you have no stimulation, so your subconscious starts filling in the blanks ... I started to feel like I was channelling spirits. I was convinced my music was a gift from God. It was like I knew exactly what to do next, as if my songs were already written.

Grimes in The Guardian, 27 April 2012[21]
Grimes performing in 2012.

She signed with record label 4AD in January 2012. Her third full-length studio album Visions was released on January 31 in Canada through Arbutus, while being released elsewhere through 4AD the two following months.[36] Visions received critical acclaim from music critics and appeared on numerous music publications' year-end lists. NME included it on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list in 2013. The album's second single, "Oblivion", also received additional acclaim. Pitchfork Media ranked "Oblivion" number-one on their 200 Best Tracks of the Decade So Far in 2014.[37] Grimes recorded the bulk of the album whilst isolated in her Montreal apartment for three consecutive weeks, including a period of nine days without food, sleep, or company. [21] After the fact she described the writing process as being "equally enjoyable and tortuous".[38] She felt that its difficulty contributed to its success.[38] Grimes described her composition conditions as blacking out her windows since she could not make music during the day.[39]

In April 2013, Grimes posted a written statement addressing her experience as a female musician in an industry rife with sexism and expressed disappointment that her feminist stance was often interpreted as anti-male.[40][41][42] On December 17, 2013, Grimes posted to her Tumblr that she had signed to Jay Z's management company Roc Nation,[43] whilst still signed to 4AD Records.

2014–present: Art Angels[edit]

On June 26, 2014, Grimes premiered her new track "Go", featuring Blood Diamonds and allegedly written for Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show and uploaded it to her official SoundCloud page and website for free download, showcasing a new sound for herself while she was still working on her fourth studio album.[44] On August 21, Grimes posted a teaser for the video, directed by her and her brother, for "Go".[45] Despite receiving generally positive reviews from music critics, it had a polarizing reaction from fans due to its departure from her previous sound. Rolling Stone ranked it number fourteen on their Best Songs of 2014 list, calling it "a club hallucination somewhere between Rihanna and Skrillex, sung with a ravenous desire that's all her own."[46]

Grimes performing in 2013.

After "Go" had been released, Grimes said in an interview she scrapped an entire album she had been recording. Despite initial speculation claiming that the cancellation was due to negative reactions to "Go", Grimes later clarified that the album was "too depressing" and didn't want to tour it, adding that people's reactions do not factor into her decisions and that "Go" was never intended to be on the cancelled album. She concluded her comments by saying that the album might be released someday.[47] On March 8, 2015, she released a self-directed video for a demo from the abandoned album, "REALiTi", which received critical acclaim from music critics, being named Best New Music by Jenn Pelly from Pitchfork, calling it the "best new Grimes song since Visions."[48][49]

On March 15, 2015, Grimes performed lead vocals on a new song by indie pop band Bleachers, "Entropy", for the HBO TV show Girls.[50] On May 24, 2015, Grimes announced via a series of tweets to her fans that her upcoming album will be "surprise" released sometime in October. She also explained that the album would be a departure from previous singles "Go" and "REALiTi" and was recorded with "real instruments," a departure from the primarily synth and sampler driven composing of her prior releases.[51] In the summer of 2015, Grimes toured with Lana Del Rey for several of her Endless Summer tour dates and toured into the fall of 2015 as the headliner of her own Rhinestone Cowgirls Tour with opener Nicole Dollanganger.[52] On October 20, 2015 Grimes announced that the name of her upcoming album would be Art Angels by sharing the album's cover art on her Instagram account.[53] On 26 October 2015, Grimes simultaneously released the lead single of the album, "Flesh without Blood," and a two act music video featuring both "Flesh without Blood" and an additional song from the album, "Life in the Vivid Dream."[54] After its November release, the album received very favourable reviews, garnering an 88 (out of 100) rating on Metacritic[55] and the Best New Music designation from Pitchfork. Jessica Hopper of Pitchfork described Art Angels as "evidence of Boucher's labor and an articulation of a pop vision that is incontrovertibly hers... an epic holiday buffet of tendentious feminist f***-off, with second helpings for anonymous commenters and music industry blood-suckers."[56]

In the spring of 2016, Grimes toured Asia and Europe with HANA on the AC!D Reign Tour,[57] and in January 2016 it was announced that Grimes will open for Florence and the Machine on the How Beautiful Tour on select dates throughout the summer of 2016. On January 19, 2016 Grimes released the music video for "Kill V. Maim", and on May 9, 2016 Grimes released the music video for "California", the third and fourth acts of her Art Angels video series, respectively. Grimes used a slightly remixed version of "California" for the music video in order to achieve a less "dissonant" visual/auditory mix.[58]

Musical style[edit]

Grimes' music is varied, including an eclectic mix of styles which she herself describes as "ADD music", it shifts frequently and dramatically – "I go through phases a lot."[59] Her work has been likened to various artists, including Björk,[21] Siouxsie Sioux[11] and Enya[27] and she was described by Tastemakers Magazine as an "alien love-child of Aphex Twin and ABBA"[60] The Guardian summarised her musical style: "By sounding a little like everything you've ever heard, the whole sounds like nothing you've ever heard."[61] Her music has experimented with elements of art pop, synthpop,[1] witch house,[62] baroque pop, dream pop,[63] ambient, electro-R&B[64] and dark wave.

According to Grimes, around when she first began songwriting she had a realization as to how music was created after listening to Panda Bear's album Person Pitch, which she describes "jumpstarted" her mind. She explains, "Up until that point I had basically only made weird atonal drone music, with no sense of songwriting. I barely understood anything about music, it seemed like a mystery. But suddenly all music clicked into place and seemed so simple and easy. I was pretty much able to spontaneously write songs immediately after listening to this album once."[65] On her music making process she has also said, "I have a nervous tic. When I was a kid, I would constantly be banging on things with my foot. Making music has been a really good mechanism for releasing some kind of percussive issue that I have. It's usually about finding a perfect beat; I play around until I get a tempo I like and then it's just a matter of filling in the blanks".[61] Grimes utilizes looping and layering techniques, particularly with vocals; many of her songs feature layers of over fifty different vocal tracks which create an "ethereal" sound.[27]

Grimes cites the following as influences: Marilyn Manson,[66] Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Enya, Beyoncé, Bikini Kill, Joanna Newsom, Burial,[67] Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel,[68] How to Dress Well,[69] Cocteau Twins,[70] Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Panda Bear, Tool,[65] Dandi Wind,[71] Aphex Twin, the Dungeon Family, Outkast,[72] Nine Inch Nails, Jedi Mind Tricks,[73] Paramore,[74] Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Yoko Kanno, Kenji Kawai,[75] David Bowie, Queen, St. Vincent, Mindless Self Indulgence, Chris Isaak,[76] and Blink-182,[77] as well as the Dune novels,[67] The Godfather Part II,[68] K-pop,[78] artist Yayoi Kusama, The Legend of Zelda, Akira,[75] and medieval music. In 2012, she considered Los Angeles singer and rapper Brooke Candy "a very contemporary muse".[79]


Grimes created the album art for all of her albums, as well as art lithos for each track on Art Angels that were sold with the vinyl release. Her art is influenced by Japanese anime, manga, and comic artists such as Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes.[80] Mimi Wong of ABC News wrote that "Boucher only started developing her fine art techniques because she wanted to mimic the drawing styles of anime and manga like the Sailor Moon series that became popular in the United States in the 90s."[80]

Personal life[edit]

Boucher has stated that she is vegan unless she deems it inconvenient for others to cater to her nutritional needs.[81][82]

In 2014, Boucher wrote a blog post expressing her aversion to hard drugs and regretting having lost friends to drugs and alcohol[citation needed] "I don’t want [hard drug use] to be part of my narrative," she said.[83][84]

She has a step-brother who raps under the name Jay Worthy;[85] they collaborated on the song, "Christmas Song", released on the Rough Trade bonus disc of her album, Visions.


Main article: Grimes discography


  • Pop Winds tour (Canada, 2010) co-headlined with Pop Winds
  • Darkbloom tour (Canada/US, 2011) support by Doldrums
  • Visions Tour (World, 2012 - 2014) support by Born Gold, Myths, Elite Gymnastics, Ami Dang
  • Rhinestone Cowgirls Tour (US/Canada, 2015) support by Nicole Dollanganger
  • AC!D Reign Tour (Asia/Europe, 2016) support by HANA, Aristophanes
  • March of the Pugs Tour (US/Canada, 2016) support by HANA, Tei Shi, Christine and the Queens
Opening act

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Work Outcome
2012 Polaris Music Prize Best Canada Album of 2012 Visions Nominated
2013 Juno Awards Breakthrough Artist of the Year Herself Nominated
Electronic Album of the Year Visions Won
MuchMusic Video Awards[87] Dance Video of the Year "Genesis" Nominated
2015 Video of the Year "Go" Nominated
Best Post-Production Nominated
Best Director Nominated
2016 International Dance Music Awards [88] Best Alternative/Indie Rock Dance Track Flesh Without Blood Nominated


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External links[edit]