Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, has never believed in quiescence. Like Lady Gaga, Madonna, or David Bowie, she’s a shape-shifting artist constantly reinventing her music, fashion, and public persona.
But lately, it’s as if she upgraded the breakneck speed of her reinventions to 5G. She and her boyfriend Elon Musk broke up. Then in a recent Vanity Fair profile, she admitted she was back with the billionaire memester but living separately and hiding a secret baby with a name that sounds fit for a Sith Lord: Exa Dark Sideræl Musk. Now they’ve broken up again, and she’s maybe dating Chelsea Manning?
Meanwhile, Grimes has adopted the anime-like visage of a dark cybernetic fairy queen in some photoshoots and music videos, like a retro-futurist Heavy Metal magazine cover made flesh. Last week, she even donned brightly hued luxury NFT “crypto-clothing” during a virtual musical performance for the metaverse’s first-ever fashion week — floating above a stage in Decentraland as a crowd of avatars looked on.
Grimes’s vibe shift toward transgressive whimsy is at once exhilarating, exhausting, and disappointing. The disappointment has little to do with her music (there’s no denying her latest single “Shinigami Eyes” is a banger) and everything to do with her heel turn away from the political left toward a kind of Silicon Valley–friendly libertarianism more associated with her ex-boyfriend.
“When people say I’m a class traitor, that is not . . . an inaccurate description,” she told Vanity Fair. “I was deeply from the far left and I converted to being essentially a capitalist Democrat. A lot of people are understandably upset.”
Manic Pixie Dream Capitalist
Social media exploded in wonder and outrage in mid-2018 when it learned that Elon Musk and Grimes had paired up after a Twitter meet-cute. After all, he was a union-hating oligarch well on his way to becoming the richest man in the world. Musk never went full MAGA, but he instead embodied a Big Tech upgrade on the old Donald-Trump-as-celebrity-CEO model, a media-savvy showman who thrived off the labor and innovation of the workers he exploited yet ruled over Reddit rather than glitzy real estate properties in New York, Florida, and Las Vegas.
Before she became one half of our very online generation’s James Carville and Mary Matalin, Grimes’s alignment was something closer to chaotic good.
She was a feminist indie-pop star who supported Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016 and even unfurled a massive Sanders banner as a background for her Coachella set that year. Her old Instagram avatar was an image of Karl Marx, and “anti-imperialist” appeared in her profile bio.
Those images were erased soon after she began dating the world’s richest man and started to raise Musk’s banner alongside Bernie’s, metaphorically speaking. “When I look at the aims of my boyfriend and I look at the aims of Bernie, like, their end goals are very similar. Fix environmental problems, reduce suffering,” she said in early 2020.
Perhaps that’s true if you squint hard enough, but Bernie wants the government to pass the Green New Deal and tax billionaires like Musk out of existence to help end climate change and human suffering. The Tesla CEO’s market-friendly solutions involve expensive electric cars with a questionable carbon footprint and colonizing Mars. Musk and Sanders are not on the same planetary orbit, as highlighted by their recent Twitter spats.
Grimes has drifted further right in the last couple of years. In 2020, she implied that she’d broken up with socialism for a newfound love of free markets. She claimed she was “a bit of a socialist, but not economically.” That’s the loose equivalent of saying “I’m a chef, but not with food.”
But what about last fall when tabloids photographed her reading the Communist Manifesto while dressed like an extra from Lord of the Rings? Grimes later confessed that was a stunt meant to troll the media. She’s clarified in an Instagram post that while Marx had some good ideas, they’re no match for Dogecoin. “I’m more interested in a radical decentralized UBI that I think could potentially be achieved thru crypto and gaming but I haven’t ironed that idea out enough yet to explain it.”
In her most recent interview, it’s clear that she’s shifted her philosophy to match her otherworldly Bride of Pinbot aesthetic. She’s now a techno-optimist who believes the future is postdemocracy and posthuman. “Like with the internet and everything, what’s happening is that we’re all becoming individual neurons in some kind of super-brain,” she said in a recent interview. “And I can’t help but feel like there’s this super-intelligence developing where we’re all these individual parts of it.”
Had Grimes played more Nintendo, she’d realize that sounds a lot like Mother Brain, the evil artificial intelligence from the Metroid series. The truth is, we don’t need boundless AI, NFTs, or spacefaring capitalist ex-boyfriends to invent a better world. True democracy, including a democratically economy, is a dream not worth giving up.