Grimes’s “We Appreciate Power” Foreshadows new album and a new direction

When I wrote recently that Grimes is a “bleepy bloopy publicity disaster,” I didn’t expect the second half to be so evergreen while the first half aged like a festering sore. Nonetheless, Claire Boucher’s (possibly just “C” now) new single “We Appreciate Power,” released via 4AD, eschews her electronic roots almost entirely as she takes another swan dive into nu-metal.

“We Appreciate Power” is radically just okay. 

What We Appreciated

First, the track does have numerous strong points. “We Appreciate Power” features HANA, a longtime collaborator with Grimes. Most famously, the two artists collaborated on the Acid Reign Chronicles, a series of music videos made exclusively using iPhone videography and released on YouTube.

HANA’s vocals here are strong – possibly the highlight of the entire 5:42 runtime. She’s an AI Siren: seductive, powerful, and 100% going to ruin your life if you don’t “capitulate” – or if you do for that matter. Her voice’s undulating, silky cadence captures exactly the kind of ethos outlined in the press release: a “machine who use[s] song, dance, sex and fashion to spread goodwill towards Artificial Intelligence.”

Grimes’s production is also stellar. There are tons of ornaments scattered throughout “We Appreciate Power” that make the experience dynamic – screams, shifting atmospheric noises that add much needed variance to an otherwise static beat, and a mighty shift in tone for the chorus. These things all rule, and Grimes’s production acumen continues to grow like bamboo.

There’s also some delightful wordplay: “But AI will reward us when it reigns”, making a potential callback to the Acid Reign Chronicles as well as a simple “when it rains.”

In short, the lion’s share of the purely musical aspects of this song are solid. But there are some glaring flaws that make the song somewhat of an eyeroller throughout.

What We Didn’t

Given what Grimes has said about “Kill v. Maim,” [“Kill V. Maim is written from the perspective of Al Pacino in The Godfather Pt 2., except he’s a vampire who can switch gender and travel through space”] it feels almost bad faith to take the aesthetics and direction of “We Appreciate Power” at face value. So, there’s a strong chance this aesthetic is tongue in cheek.

On the other hand, the public facade Grimes has put forward recently aligns perfectly with this strange, Muse-esque edgyness mixed with faux-fae forced weirdness, so if it is, it’s poorly executed.

The immediate impression “We Appreciate Power” gives off is that of a Muse track. It even has guitar slides that are practically ripped from “The Handler,” a song from Muse’s Drones. Drones is fun. Drones is also a bad album, and “We Appreciate Power” asserts much the same we-live-in-a-society-esque pablum. Couple that with the eyerolling edginess of many lyrical lines that would be at home on a Rush record (“People like to say that we’re insane/But AI will reward us when it reigns” and “submit/submit/submit”) and the Elven ears and – a crossbow? 

Compare to another Grimes track like “Venus Fly” even, where the musical direction and visual-aesthetic direction was much more focused – in that video, on themes of nuclear death, mutation, and angles of death. “Venus Fly’s” visuals were also beautiful and striking, but I’ll chalk that up to budget.

And I will say again – I love Muse and Rush both, but they’re corny as hell. “We Appreciate Power” occupies much the same niche. I love the track – loads – musically, but since it’s coming from an artist, an auteur maybe even, with much more vision (ha), it isn’t able to avoid a trap Grimes set for it – is it self-affirmation or is it self-parody?

With all that said, her new album is something to look forward to because this was an interesting step, if a clumsy one.

I hope it ages well and I eat shit, frankly. Listen and watch below!