By Riley Huff
It’s funny how, back in 2012, Grimes seemed like a bit of an underdog figure. The Canadian singer-producer spent three weeks barricaded in a room by herself in order to meet the deadline for her first major-label album. Visions was the finished product, and she became famous very quickly from it, only to deal with industry figures trying to muddy her creative vision once she became successful.
Since then, she has signed with Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment management company. Earlier this year, she announced her relationship with Elon Musk by appearing with him at the Met Gala wearing a Tesla choker. Even Apple recently tapped her music as a marketing tool for selling Mac computers. With all this corporate support and attention from the elite, she isn’t quite the underdog she used to be.
Grimes’ new single “We Appreciate Power,” featuring HANA, follows on the heels of her rising status as Silicon Valley’s Pop Star of Choice. The song is “inspired by the North Korean band Moranbong,” and it’s “written from the perspective of a Pro-A.I. Girl Group Propaganda Machine,” according to the track’s press release.
The song is preternaturally poppy. It almost sounds like it could be on Top 40 radio, save for the little details that separate Grimes from other mainstream producers. That is to say, she embraces the abrasive: terrified shrieks and out-of-tune horns puncture the production’s robotic sheen.
And actually, the song does have the cadence of a cult chant. Coupled with the industrial churn of guitar, “We Appreciate Power” is particularly effective as an exercise in using dystopian fantasy to shock listeners. Grimes’ aesthetic often comes off like apocalyptic cyberpunk cosplay, but in this soundscape, the Artificial Intelligence Revolution sounds less like pretend and more like an inevitability.
Perhaps Musk put her up to this, some will say. After all, the engineer is known for, among other things, founding OpenAI, a company that aims to regulate A.I. research, and promote research that accounts for the risk of an unfriendly robotic super-intelligence developing in the future. Maybe the single was Musk’s idea of a PSA.
But this song, along with the accompanying lyric video (below), feels like Grimes’ singular vision, and her vision of the future is much more grim. As an artist, she is allowed the liberty of visiting the dark corners her significant other wishes to avoid. In the video, she and HANA appear in catsuits, displayed like Mass Effect characters, inanimate and compliant against a planetary backdrop.
If Grimes’ welcoming of the robot empire with open arms surprises you, well, it shouldn’t. As she has fraternized with business moguls, defended the questionable ethics of her billionaire boyfriend and dropped the “Anti-Imperialist” label from her Twitter profile, her music has shifted focus.
Grimes has shown the music industry that she can create a future of human subservience to machines, and people will visit just because it is hers. She, now more than ever, appreciates power.
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