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Grimes and the Changing Face of the Music Industry

In the newest issue of The New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh wrote about Grimes, real name Claire Boucher, whose history in underground experimental music led her to making homemade electronic bedroom pop. Last year, Pitchfork named her song “Oblivion” the best song of the decade to date, and as she’s preparing to release her second proper album, she and artists like Lana Del Rey are redefining what pop music and independent musicians are.

Boucher has a hard time censoring herself in interviews, or on social media, which means that she provides a steady stream of content for music Web sites, whose readers love to express their sharply differing opinions of her. “I feel like if I read about myself from the media I would hate me,” she says. “I’d be, like, ‘Fuck that bitch!’ ” Online, she has shared not only her enthusiasms but also her frustration with the music industry, where “women feel pressured to act like strippers and its ok to make rape threats but its not ok to say your a feminist.” Her outspokenness has helped to make her something of a role model. Musicians are now expected to advertise their political beliefs, but Boucher is unusually thoughtful and passionate about social injustice and environmental degradation. (She travels with a canteen, and has essentially banned plastic water bottles from her tour bus.) One particularly trenchant Tumblr post, from 2013, earned a vigorous endorsement from Spin, under the headline “GRIMES’ ANTI-SEXISM MANIFESTO IS REQUIRED READING (EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN).” That last phrase hints at what is, for Boucher, a disquieting possibility: that her online presence might be even more popular, and more influential, than her music.

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