Grimes (musician)

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This article is about the Canadian musician. For other musicians named Grimes, see Grimes (surname).
Grimes in 2011
Background information
Birth name Claire Elise Boucher
Born (1988-03-17) March 17, 1988 (age 27)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • visual artist
  • music video director
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • synthesizer
  • sampler
  • guitar
  • piano
  • drums
  • ukulele
Years active 2009–present
Associated acts

Claire Elise Boucher (born March 17, 1988), better known by her stage name Grimes, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, music video director, and record producer.[9][10][11] 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 Montréal.

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,[12] and received the Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year.[13] Her fourth studio album Art Angels was released in 2015 and has since become her highest-charting project in the United States.

Grimes' music has been noted by critics and journalists for its atypical combination of vocal elements, as well as a wide array of influences, ranging from electronica to pop, hip hop, R&B and even medieval music. In 2013 Grimes was awarded the Webby Award for Artist of the Year.[14]

Early life[edit]

Boucher was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia.[15][16] She is of Québécois, Ukrainian and Russian descent.[17][18] She graduated from Lord Byng Secondary School[19] and studied ballet for 11 years.[20] At age 18, she moved to Montreal, Quebec to attend Montreal's McGill University to study neuroscience.[16][21] During her studies, she began to record and perform under the name Grimes, taking the name from grime music after discovering the existence of the genre on Myspace.[22][23] However, as Grimes became a more serious endeavor for her, she began to miss a large number of classes, and began only attending to take exams, resulting in the university taking punitive actions against her and ultimately expelling her.[24] In Montreal she 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.[25] Two of her songs were released (under her real name, Claire Boucher) on Arbutus Records' Spring 2009 Sampler.[26]


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.[27] 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,[16][23] 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.[28] Also in 2011, she made an appearance on Majical Cloudz's single "Dream World"[29] and collaborated with DJ/producer Blood Diamonds.[30][31]

[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.[32] 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,[33] while NME went as far as to include it on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Grimes recorded the album in extended isolation[21] at home in Montreal, and described her writing process as being "equally enjoyable and tortuous".[34] She felt that its difficulty contributed to its success.[34] Grimes described her composition conditions as blacking out her windows, taking amphetamines, and staying awake for three weeks without eating.[35][36] She added that she could not make music during the day.[35] Grimes later clarified that she "hated" hard drugs and their impact on her friends, and did not want to be associated with their use.[37][38]

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.[39][40][41] On December 17, 2013, Grimes posted to her Tumblr that she had signed to Jay Z's management company Roc Nation,[42] 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.[43] On August 21, Grimes posted a teaser for the video, directed by her and her brother, for "Go".[44] 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."[45]

Grimes performing in Sweden in 2013.

She eventually scrapped the entire album she had been recording and despite initial reports 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 for it, adding that people's reactions do not factor in her choices 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.[46] 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."[47][48]

On March 15, 2015, Grimes performed lead vocals on a new song by indie pop band Bleachers, "Entropy", for the HBO TV show Girls.[49] 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 said it "probably" will be accompanied by two simultaneous single releases with an unspecified date and that the album will be a departure from previous singles "Go" and "REALiTi", which was recorded with "real instruments".[50] In Summer 2015, Grimes toured with Lana Del Rey for several of her Endless Summer tour dates. Grimes brought HANA on this tour to perform with her. Posting the cover of her upcoming album, Art Angels via Instagram on 20 October 2015, Grimes commented, "Art Angels: album cover. Music & video next week. Artwork by Grimes".[51] On 26 October 2015, she released the lead single to the album, "Flesh without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream".[52] After its November release, the album received stellar reviews, garnering an 88 (out of 100) rating on Metacritic.[53]

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."[54] Her work has been likened to various artists, including Björk,[21] Siouxsie Sioux[12] and Enya[25] and she was described by Tastemakers Magazine as an "alien love-child of Aphex Twin and ABBA"[55] 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.".[56] Her music has experimented with elements of art pop, synthpop,[1] witch house,[57] baroque pop, dream pop,[58] ambient, electro-R&B[59] and dark wave.

According to Grimes, she had a "realization" at age 20 as to how music was created,[56] which enabled her to begin recording and experimenting. "One day, I was listening to music and it suddenly made sense to me how it was constructed", she said.[56] She went on to say: "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".[56] 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.[25]

Grimes cites the following musicians as influences: Marilyn Manson,[60] Christina Aguilera,[61] Skinny Puppy,[62] Nine Inch Nails,[62] Cocteau Twins,[23] How to Dress Well,[63] Swans,[21] Dizzee Rascal,[22] Dandi Wind, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey,[64] Enya, TLC, Aphex Twin, Outkast, Jedi Mind Tricks, Dungeon Family, Drake, Lana Del Rey,[65] as well as K-pop,[66] medieval music and industrial artists. She also considers Los Angeles singer and rapper Brooke Candy "a very contemporary muse".[67]

Personal life[edit]

Boucher has stated that she is vegan unless she deems it inconvenient for others to cater to her nutritional needs.[68][69][70]

In 2014 Boucher wrote a blog post expressing an aversion to hard drugs and regretting having lost friends to drugs and alcohol.[37][71]

She has a step-brother who raps under the name Jay Worthy;[72] they collaborated on the song, "Christmas Song", released on the Rough Trade bonus disc of her album, Visions.


Main article: Grimes discography


  • Visions Tour (World, 2012 - 2013)
  • Rhinestone Cowgirls Tour (US/Canada, 2015)
  • The Acid Reign Tour (Europe, 2016)
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[73] Dance Video of the Year "Genesis" Nominated
2015 Video of the Year "Go" Nominated
Best Post-Production Nominated
Best Director Nominated


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External links[edit]