There are few musicians in the world today whose lives and careers have taken quite so many unexpected turns as the life and career of Claire Boucher, better known by her alter-ego, Grimes.
From little-known experimental artist to queen of the conceptual pop genre (and, of course, the partner of Elon Musk), Grimes has experienced an astronomical rise to fame, thanks to her ever-changing musical sound and her increasingly talked-about personal life.
Here, DDW takes a look back at the life, career and evolution of Grimes.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Claire Boucher had something of a sheltered upbringing.
She was raised Roman Catholic and was educated at a Catholic school, where she found herself focusing much more on her studies than on her social life. While this meant that Boucher was rather introverted during her teenage years, it also allowed her to become incredibly intelligent – so much so, in fact, that she was able to study both neuroscience and Russian at university.
However, whilst at university, she realised that her true passions didn’t lie within the pursuit of a career in either subject. Boucher was not only an intelligent adolescent but a hugely creative one, too, and had always expressed an interest in creating art and music – the latter of which she had never explored in practice until the age of 19.
Once she did begin to dip her toe in the world of music, experimenting with synthesizers and creating dreamy, conceptual tracks, Boucher realised that she had found the thing that would make her truly happy. She began uploading her creations to Myspace, where she went under the name Grimes, and quickly garnered a following.
Having realised that life was too short to dedicate her time to pursuits that didn’t interest or excite her, Claire Boucher decided to turn her back on her academic career in order to build on her musical ambitions full-time – and so Grimes was born.
From the very beginning of her musical career, it was clear that Grimes was determined to do things differently – her debut album, Geidi Primes, was released on cassette in 2010.
It wasn’t until 2012, however, that Grimes truly came into her own with the release of Visions, considered by many to be her true break-out album. The project was met with widespread acclaim, making it onto several year-end rundowns of 2012’s best albums – Visions was even featured on NME’s 500 Best Albums Of All Time list in 2013.
Visions also marked the true beginning of her music video evolution, which allowed Grimes to show off her creative eye when it came to visual art and uber-stylised concepts, no matter how small the budget she was working with at the time. One particularly good example of this is the video for Genesis, which creates a surprisingly dreamy, ethereal atmosphere with clever use of costumes and direction.
Many outlets speculated on whether the success of Visions had something to do with the intensive recording process that Grimes had set out for herself whilst creating the album. Determined to create something which transcended known genres and became an entirely new musical monster, Grimes had locked herself away in her Montreal apartment for three consecutive weeks – including a period of nine days which saw her go without food, sleep and natural light (after blacking out her windows), all whilst taking, as she put it herself, ‘tons of amphetamines’.
Perhaps this intensive approach to her creative process is why Grimes took a two-year-long break before the release of her next project, Art Angels, with its single rollout beginning on June 26th 2014. This album saw Grimes collaborate with several artists, including BloodPop (with whom she released Go) and Bleachers (who featured on Entropy) and was a sure sign of her rising prominence within the music industry.
It was a particularly successful project, earning Grimes the accolade for Album Of The Year according to multiple music publications, including NME, Exclaim! And Stereogum and a place performing at celebrated music festivals worldwide, such as Lollapalooza, Coachella and Glastonbury.
However, with growing fame comes public intrigue. Grimes had always been recognised favourably for her music, but the following years saw her personal life receive plenty of interest, too – for better or for worse.
Grimes took another break from music within the following years, though it wasn’t by choice.
In early 2018, she had announced that she was working on new music, though this statement was soon retracted – an Instagram post in which she had announced her intentions to release new projects was edited to state that there would be ‘no new music any time soon’ and that the ‘music industry is trash’. It was soon discovered that the caption was in reference to a disagreement with her label at the time, 4AD.
However, aspects of her life outside of her work had started to make the news, too – at the 2018 Met Gala, Grimes was in attendance with Tesla and SpaceX mogul Elon Musk, announcing that the pair were in a relationship.
It was a union that proved controversial, with fans of Grimes pointing out that some of Musk’s political and social views highly contradicted her own. Musk’s new public relationship also brought back attention to an article penned by his former wife Justine, who claimed that she was a ‘starter wife’ in a piece which called their split ‘America’s messiest divorce’. Despite the attention, the pair appeared harmonious, having bonded over a mutual love of space, science and various other intellectual interests.
Later on in the year, their relationship was once again the subject of gossip headlines, thanks to a fued with famously controversial rap artist Azealia Banks, in which she claimed via her Instagram story that the pair had left her alone in Musk’s house for days and accused the pair of ‘tripping on acid’ during her time at the home.
This came shortly before a public fallout with singer Poppy, with whom Grimes had attempted to cancel a collaboration after she claimed that she had been ‘dragged into a disgusting situation’ surrounding a highly publicised identity theft/plagiarism lawsuit between Poppy, her manager Titanic Sinclair and his former creative partner Mars Argo. In response, Poppy claimed that Grimes had ‘bullied’ the team that they were working with.
Never in the six years since the beginning of her career had Grimes been so heavily discussed for anything outside of her music – suddenly, it felt as though there were frequent stories released about her relationships with collaborators, producers and, most often of all, her partner Elon Musk.
It wasn’t until March 2019 that Grimes was able to bring the narrative back to her musical career, as she announced her long-awaited new project, Miss Anthropocene.
The first single from the album, Violence (featuring the late music producer i_o), was released in September of that year, to widespread acclaim. It was immediately clear that, despite the drama surrounding her personal life playing out in the press, Grimes’ focus had been on developing and refining her sound. The resulting Miss Anthropocene album was just as celebrated upon its eventual release.
The album’s promotional cycle coincided with further good news for Grimes, who announced in January 2020 that she and Elon Musk were expecting their first child together. Their son arrived just four months later and was named X Æ A-12 (pronounced X Ash A Twelve) – a name which, albeit incredibly controversial, is incredibly characteristic of Grimes and her out-of-this-world persona.
As for her future projects, it was announced in March 2021 that Grimes had signed to Columbia Records – and here at DDW, we can’t wait to see what she does next!