‘Grimes stirs controversy with Boiler Room set’, ‘Grimes trolls the Boiler Room’, ‘WTF IS THIS?!’ – these were the titles of some of the many articles that followed Grimes’ DJ set at Richie Hawtin’s Ibiza party on Wednesday afternoon.
Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, aka One Of The Most Important Cultural Figures In Recent Memory, made an appearance on Boiler Room TV – the club night you attend via webcam unless you’re one of the twenty people there dancing awkwardly and littering the decks with empty beer cans – where she pissed off a lot of people on the Internet by dropping Taylor Swift, Britney Spears and a healthy dose of J-pop into her set.
Naturally, it was polarising. Just like her Top 10 of 2012 list, which got absolutely slated because it had the likes of Justin Bieber on it. You would think all of this would be a given coming from an artist who has listed her number one influence as Mariah Carey, but whatever.
Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the backlash came from the sort of cultural elitists who believe all music should be taken very seriously at all times and Nicki Minaj is a manufactured tramp and omg is Grimes seriously texting during this live stream wow I simply cannot process such flippancy guess I’ll just complain about it on Twitter for an hour, it’s not like I can close the browser or maybe go outside or learn to experience joy or anything… You know, those ones.
We’ve come to accept the fact that we live in a world where anybody who does anything ever has to suffer a few goblins with iPhone’s for hands whinging about it online. This isn’t about them. This isn’t even about Grimes, really. This is about the fact that, despite artists like Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé constantly wiping the floor with the world performance-wise, pop music is still frequently looked down upon or considered vapid, along with anybody who claims to enjoy it, and that sucks.
People love to hate things that are popular. That’s inevitable. In the same way songs like ‘Gangnam Style’ split the world into two camps (‘why has this happened’ and ‘how is this so GREAT’), you can guarantee that at least half of every Pitchfork end-of-year list will be dismissed as “overrated”, regardless of what’s on it. In Grimes’ words:
“I don’t see why we have to hate something just because it’s successful, or assume that because it is successful it has no substance.”
Can I get a woop woop?
I’m not about to harp on about the values of pop or “how hard” it is to be famous, but immediately begrudging people like Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj (or even Psy) for achieving such a massive status is definitely ridiculous. They clearly work their butts off to be (and remain) where they are and their presence has a massive effect on our cultural perspective in a positive way, so to tar everyone currently in the Top 40 with the same “vapid” brush makes about as much sense as shrugging off Ed Banger’s entire roster as worthless because you personally don’t vibe with synths.
Besides, does all music have to be taken so fucking seriously all the time? Sure, the lyrics to pop songs are mostly made out of repetition or simplistic rhyme, but they aren’t particularly designed to speak to you on any deep, existential level. Can you imagine if they were? Club nights would be absolutely dreadful. Pop music exists, arguably more so than any other genre, for pleasure’s sake. It’s the chemical difference between twerkin’ and tear jerkin’ and I know which one sounds like the better time.
Similar to rap (a whole other argument), pop lends itself to mindsets like “I’m above this” or “I’m smarter than you because you think Red is a solid album”, both of which perpetuate the level of pretentiousness that leads people to use words like “resplendent” to describe Fleet Foxes. I mean that’s fine I guess but come on if you can’t at least appreciate the “weeee!” in ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ then what are you even doing with your life? In the same way sex can be either meaningful or recreational, music can just be fun.
Despite all that, I still feel like the “I’m above this” crowd less and less comprise the majority. For example last weekend I went to a show in Manchester where a bunch of punk and grindcore bands played, and then a J-pop superstar came on with glowsticks and captured the hearts of all, crusties and Mineral fans alike. That’s the dream, you guys (for real though check this out , and if you don’t love Pei Pei you’re probably dead inside).
So, was Grimes “trolling” Boiler Room? Was she doing an intentionally post-modern critique of “crap DJ culture” by sounding like a “crap DJ”? Or maybe, JUST MAYBE, was she playing the music she genuinely enjoys in an environment that perfectly befit it and every musical puritan who stares miserably into their drink whenever Katy Perry comes on in a venue jumped at the chance to hurl another thoughtless insult at an easy target?
Basically, I had the best night out dancing to Taylor Swift on Wednesday afternoon and if you couldn’t find it in you to handle Vengaboys without getting your RCA cables in a twist then I feel bad for you, bro. Who wants to hear heavy German techno in the middle of a pool party anyway? Fuck that. Lay down ‘Gasolina’ already and get saucy. Maybe selecting ‘All I Want For Christmas’ in August was a little tongue in cheek, but let’s not forget, and I quote:
“The first time I heard Mariah Carey it shattered the fabric of my existence and I started Grimes.”
Thank you, based Grimes. Drop it like it’s pop.
Originally published on The 405 here.