PRINT November 2014



“POST-NEVERMIND describes Nirvana’s effect on the music industry at large. When Nevermind toppled Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from number one on the Billboard charts in 1992, it alerted label executives that Nirvana could make money like MJ, resulting in the signing and marketing of punk acts like Green Day and the Offspring. Post-Nevermind lasted less than a decade, as online piracy soon decimated the industry, forcing major labels to focus on what still worked: mainstream radio. As “alternative” radio was long dead, less commercial artists took to the Internet to produce, promote, and distribute their work. Those who embraced the new platform, like MGMT and Vampire Weekend, won out—finding a new online audience that labels had yet to come to grips with.

“Post-Internet”—which gained currency in Net art circles in the late ’00s—was redefined and brought to mainstream attention in 2012 by Canadian musician Grimes to classify her sound. For Grimes (born Claire Boucher), the term described a generation that grew up with an all-access pass to a largely unregulated Internet, and that experienced the neurobiological results of consuming everything at once. The new, nonhierarchical availability of both subcultural and mainstream gave Grimes and her peers the freedom to mix and explore a massive spectrum of influences and genres that had previously been inaccessible.

Grimes’s steep ascent to popularity began on Arbutus Records, an “artist community” birthed from Montreal’s DIY scene in the late ’00s. She released the albums Halfaxa and Geidi Primes in 2010, and her echoed-out vocals over dreamy digital synthscapes were embraced as part of the growing Internet aesthetic witch house. The clear pop direction of her 2011 follow-up, Darkbloom, eschewed this trend, with Pitchfork describing her as a blossoming “avant-pop force.” Grimes’s highly anticipated fourth album, Visions, was released on esteemed British label 4AD in partnership with Arbutus in late 2012. Visions was met with almost unanimous critical acclaim and named album of the year by

While the initial popularity of Visions stemmed from its music alone, the spotlight thrown on Grimes through interviews, music videos, and photos revealed an unfamiliar celebrity. An outspoken feminist role model à la Tavi Gevinson and Lena Dunham, Grimes, with her constantly changing hair color, stick-and-poke tattoos, and oversize Pictureplane T-shirts clashing beautifully in the face of mainstream media, added glamour and visibility to attitudes and aesthetics previously limited to the online underground. Despite this rise in her stardom, the highest point Visions reached on the Billboard 200 was 98, for just one week.

Almost a year after releasing Visions, Grimes posted a picture on her Tumblr of herself throwing the Roc Nation diamond hand symbol, with the caption “ive joined the x men”: The X-Men were Roc Nation, a label owned by Jay-Z (Professor X), managing artists like Kanye West, Rihanna, Shakira, and Timbaland. Grimes had always been an outspoken fan of pop stars like Beyoncé, but it was unclear what changes to her music or new directions in her career would result from forming this alliance.

Grimes, “Go ft. Blood Diamonds” (2014).

The first track released since Grimes joined Roc Nation was actually penned by her and Blood Diamonds for fellow X-Girl Rihanna. This creation myth cannot be overstated—Rihanna, one of the best-selling artists of all time, exists in a completely different stratosphere from Grimes, so it makes complete sense that her people rejected the track. Grimes’s decision to make “Go” herself resulted in her most polarizing track to date, scrutinized intensely by underground and mainstream listeners alike. While some fans fretted that the track sounded like Skrillex or was catering to the radio, Grimes has never claimed to oppose high production values or casual genre blending, and “Go” was a direct continuation of that sensibility.

Kurt Cobain was known for shouting out obscure bands like the Meat Puppets in the same sentence as the Beatles, and though he had major reservations about selling out, he was determined and worked incredibly hard for success. He and Grimes are both archetypal Pisces, and their weirdly flexible, futuristic infusions of underground and pop, singular and mass—rejecting the network and feeding it—seem aligned.

When asked on Twitter what “Go” was about, Grimes responded: “its about escaping into people or art even if its painful rather than escaping into drugs or alcohol and being numb.” On Tumblr, she said, “i guess i wanted ppl to be able to interpret it as being about love as well in case it had to be radio friendly.” Grimes’s message seems both perfect and necessary in the face of Internet addiction and the end of network neutrality. What remains to be seen is whether the culture industry beyond the Internet will embrace this new generation’s voice, and what new territories will be available to artists post-Grimes.

Asher Penn is founder and editor of Sex Magazine.