Born and raised in Vancouver, Grimes began releasing music independently in the late 2000s, releasing two albums, Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, in 2010 on Arbutus Records. She subsequently signed with 4AD and rose to prominence with the release of her third studio album, Visions, in 2012. Visions includes the singles "Genesis" and "Oblivion" and received the Canadian music industry Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year. Following this, her fourth studio album, Art Angels, was released in 2015 and received critical praise as several publications named it the best album of the year. Her fifth studio album, Miss Anthropocene, was released in 2020.
According to the timestamps on her original Myspace page,[non-primary source needed] Boucher began writing music under the name Grimes in 2007. Her performer name was chosen because at the time, MySpace allowed artists to list three musical genres. She listed "grime" for all three, without knowing what the grime music genre was. Grimes is self-taught in music and visual art.
In January 2010, Grimes released her debut album, Geidi Primes, a concept album inspired by the Dune series, followed by her second album, Halfaxa, in October of the same year. After the release of Halfaxa, she began to publicly promote her music and tour beyond Montreal. In 2011 Grimes released five songs on her side of the split 12" with d'Eon, Darkbloom (through both Arbutus and Hippos in Tanks). Beginning in May 2011, Grimes opened for Lykke Li on her North American Tour, and the following August her debut album was re-released through No Pain in Pop Records, in CD and vinyl format for the first time. In 2011, she collaborated with DJ/producer Blood Diamonds.
Following extensive touring and positive reception to her first two albums and Darkbloom contribution, Grimes signed with record label 4AD in January 2012. The subsequent release, Visions, appeared on a number of publications' year-end lists and is considered Grimes' breakout album.NME included it on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list in 2013.Visions won the Electronic Album of the Year Award and Grimes was nominated for the Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the Junos. Grimes also won the Artist of the Year Award at the 2013 Webbys.
[After nine days] you have no stimulation, so your subconscious starts filling in the blanks ... I started to feel like I was channelling spirits. I was convinced my music was a gift from God. It was like I knew exactly what to do next, as if my songs were already written.
The album's second single, "Oblivion", also received critical acclaim and was produced into a music video co-directed by Emily Kai Bock and Grimes.Pitchfork ranked "Oblivion" at number one on their 200 Best Tracks of the Decade So Far list in 2014. In interviews following the album's release, Grimes explained that she was assigned a strict deadline by which to have her third album finished far before it was complete, resulting in her recording the bulk of Visions while isolated in her Montreal apartment for three consecutive weeks. Notably, this intensive recording session included a period of nine days without sleep or food and with blacked out windows, since she generally could not make music as readily during the day, and doing "tons of amphetamines" She described the writing process as being "equally enjoyable and tortuous", feeling that its difficulty contributed to its success.
In April 2013, Grimes posted a written statement addressing her experience as a female musician as rife with sexism and expressed disappointment that her feminist stance was often interpreted as anti-male. When speaking about her preference to produce all her studio albums herself, she said, "I don't wanna be just like the face of this thing I built, I want to be the one who built it".
On June 26, 2014, Grimes premiered the new track "Go", produced by and featuring Blood Diamonds. It was a track that had been written for and rejected by Rihanna and was premiered on Zane Lowe's radio 1 show.Rolling Stone ranked it number fourteen on their Best Songs of 2014 list.
On March 8, 2015, Grimes released a self-directed video for a demo version of "REALiTi" from an abandoned album. It received critical acclaim from music critics, being named Best New Music by Jenn Pelly from Pitchfork, calling it the "best new Grimes song since Visions." On March 15, 2015, Grimes and Bleachers released their collaboration, "Entropy" for the HBO TV show Girls. In the summer of 2015, Grimes toured with Lana Del Rey for several of her Endless Summer Tour dates. She then toured in the fall of 2015 as the headliner of her own Rhinestone Cowgirls Tour with opener Nicole Dollanganger.
Speaking of her upcoming fourth album, scheduled for a "surprise" release in October, Grimes said that record was recorded with "real instruments", a departure from the primarily synth and sampler driven composing of her prior releases. On October 26, 2015, Grimes released the lead single of the album, "Flesh Without Blood", as well as a two-act music video comprising both "Flesh Without Blood" and "Life in the Vivid Dream", another song from the upcoming album. The album, titled Art Angels, was released in November to favourable reviews, garnering an 88 (out of 100) rating on Metacritic and the Best New Music designation from Pitchfork. Jessica Hopper of Pitchfork described Art Angels as "evidence of Boucher's labor and an articulation of a pop vision that is incontrovertibly hers... an epic holiday buffet of tendentious feminist fuck-off, with second helpings for anonymous commenters and music industry blood-suckers."
Art Angels was named best album of the year by NME, Exclaim! and Stereogum. It peaked at number 1 on the Billboard US Top Alternative Album Chart and number 2 on the Billboard Top Independent Album chart. Grimes won the 2016 International award at the Socan Annual Awards and the 2016 Harper's Bazaar Musician of the Year Award in October.
In the spring of 2016, Grimes toured Asia and Europe with supporting act Hana on the Ac!d Reign Tour. Grimes continued touring through the summer of 2016, performing at various music festivals across North America and opening for Florence and the Machine on select dates of the How Beautiful Tour.
Continuing the series of music videos for songs off Art Angels that began with "Flesh Without Blood" and "Life in the Vivid Dream" ("Act I" and "Act II", respectively), Grimes released the music video for "Kill V. Maim" ("Act III") on January 19, 2016, and the music video for "California" ("Act IV") on May 9, 2016. Grimes crafted a slightly remixed version of "California" for the music video to achieve a less "dissonant" visual/auditory mix. This alternate version of California has not otherwise been officially released for sale or streaming. On August 3, Grimes released the song "Medieval Warfare" as part of the soundtrack of the summer blockbuster Suicide Squad.
On October 5, 2016, Grimes with friend and collaborator Hana Pestle, more commonly known by stage name Hana, released "The Ac!d Reign Chronicles", a lo-fi series of seven music videos including songs by Grimes ("Butterfly", "World Princess Part II", "Belly of the Beat" and "Scream") and Hana ("Underwater", "Chimera" and "Avalanche"), each starring in their respective segments. Additional appearances include Aristophanes in SCREAM and two of Grimes' backup dancers, Linda Davis and Alyson Van, throughout the series. "The AC!D Reign Chronicles" were recorded over the course of two weeks during the duo's time touring Europe and were made with minimal production, shot exclusively on iPhones with no crew aside from her brother, Mac Boucher, who assisted with filming. Post production, Grimes and Hana edited the videos in their entirety. "Concept & Art direction" are credited to Claire Boucher.
On February 2, 2017, Grimes premiered on Tidal the high budget futuristic music video of "Venus Fly", starring herself and Janelle Monáe. The video was uploaded on YouTube on February 9. She won Best Dance Video for "Venus Fly" at the Much Music Video Awards. In 2017, Grimes won a JUNO Award for Video of the Year, featuring "Kill V. Maim".
2018–2020: Miss Anthropocene and collaborations
In February 2018, Grimes wrote on Instagram, "well no music any time soon after all." It was later revealed that this was due to a clash with her label, 4AD. She later revealed on an Instagram post that she would eventually be releasing two albums, and that "they would be separated by a period of time", with the first being released with 4AD, and the second with an undisclosed label. Grimes stated that this first album would be "highly collaborative and [characterized by] most glorious light", with the second highlighting themes of "pure darkness and chaos".
On April 10, 2018, Grimes was featured on "Pynk," the third single from Janelle Monáe's album, Dirty Computer. On May 30, 2018, Grimes was featured on "Love4Eva" by Loona yyxy (part of the kpop group "Loona") from their debut EP Beauty & the Beat. On June 15, 2018, she was featured in a video for Apple's Behind the Mac series on their YouTube channel, with a preview of a song from her upcoming album titled "That's What the Drugs Are For", later released as "My Name Is Dark". On the same day, she posted two Twitter videos previewing two songs from her upcoming album, "adore u (beautiful game)" and "4ÆM". In 2018, Grimes composed the theme music for Netflix's animated series Hilda.
On October 31, 2018, Grimes was featured on "Play Destroy" by Poppy on her album Am I a Girl?
Grimes also appeared on Bring Me the Horizon's "Nihilist Blues" from their sixth album, Amo.
On August 13, 2019, Grimes posted an advertisement for the Adidas by Stella McCartney Fall 2019 collection on Instagram, stating that she would release the first single off her upcoming album, Miss Anthropocene, on September 13.
She released the music video for "Violence", featuring i_o, on September 5. On October 25, an unfinished version of the album was leaked online. On November 15, she released two versions of the single "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth" and performed "4ÆM" at the 2019 Video Game Awards in order to introduce herself as Lizzy Wizzy, a voiced character in the game Cyberpunk 2077.Miss Anthropocene was released on February 21, 2020. That same month, she released the single "Delete Forever", which was partly inspired by the death of Lil Peep and the ongoing opioid crisis.
Grimes collaborated with Benee on the dance-style song "Sheesh" on the latter's debut album, Hey U X, released on November 11, 2020. On December 11, Grimes and other associated artists, all using aliases, released a Cyberpunk 2077-themed DJ mix album on Apple Music, titled This story is dedicated to all those cyberpunks who fight against injustice and corruption every day of their lives!. It contains two new songs by Grimes, "Samana" and "Delicate Weapon".
2021–present: Alter Ego and upcoming sixth studio album and EP
Later in June, she started a new partnered Discord server called "Grimes Metaverse Super Beta" and a new podcast "Homo Techno", co-hosted with science communicator Liv Boeree. She used the Discord server to tease new music frequently, and released a snippet of a song called "Shinigami Eyes" which she continued to promote in subsequent social media posts. as well as an upcoming collaboration with British DJ Chris Lake. Grimes spoke about an upcoming concept album with Billboard, describing it as a "space opera".
In July 2021 Grimes, alongside will.i.am, Alanis Morissette, Nick Lachey, and Rocsi Diaz were revealed as judges on Alter Ego, a new singing competition series in which the contestants make the use of motion capture technology to portray themselves as "dream avatars". On September 30, 2021, Grimes released a new song titled "Love". The song was recorded in response to her split from Elon Musk and the increased media attention from it. On December 3, 2021, Grimes released a new song titled "Player of Games". On the same day, she also announced the title of her sixth studio album, Book 1.
In January 2022, Grimes announced a 10th anniversary vinyl of her album Visions. On January 26, 2022, Grimes released "Shinigami Eyes."
A week later, on February 3, 2022, Grimes announced her forthcoming EP titled Fairies Cum First.
Grimes described her music as "ADD music", shifting frequently and dramatically – "I go through phases a lot." She said "Most music with traditional verse, chorus and bridge structures can probably be considered 'pop.' But I think most people think about Top 40 these days when they use the word 'pop,' and I'm emphatically not from that world." She said that Panda Bear's 2007 album Person Pitch "jumpstarted" her mind. She explains, "Up until that point I had basically only made weird atonal drone music, with no sense of songwriting. I barely understood anything about music ... But suddenly all music clicked into place and seemed so simple and easy. I was pretty much able to spontaneously write songs immediately after listening to this album once."
Grimes created the album art for all of her albums, as well as art lithos for each track on Art Angels that were sold with the vinyl release. Her art is influenced by Japanese anime, manga, and comic artists such as Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes. Grimes illustrates her merchandise, including t-shirts, album art, and show posters. Her illustrations have appeared in gallery shows, including at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. She created an alternate cover for Image Comics' The Wicked + The Divine, and designed a capsule collection of t-shirts for Saint Laurent, in 2013. That year, she also curated a two-day event at the Audio Visual Arts Gallery in New York City with a silent auction to benefit the Native Women's Association of Canada's campaign to raise awareness of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. In early 2021, she sold original digital art in the form of non-fungible tokens for $5.8 million.
Boucher has a step-brother who raps under the name Jay Worthy; they collaborated on the single "Christmas Song", released on the Rough Trade bonus disc of her Visions album. One of her brothers, Mac Boucher, was involved in the making of some of her music videos, such as "Violence", "Go", "Realiti", "Flesh Without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream", "Kill V. Maim", "Venus Fly" and "We Appreciate Power".
In 2009, Boucher and a friend attempted to sail down the Mississippi River to New Orleans from Minneapolis in a houseboat they built. Following several mishaps, including engine trouble and encounters with law enforcement, the houseboat was impounded by the city of Minneapolis. Boucher claims that elements of the story were exaggerated in the newspapers that reported on it at the time. The adventure has been turned into an animated video narrated by T-Bone Burnett.
In the past, Boucher has been open about her drug use, stating during the creation of Visions in 2012, she "blacked out the windows and did tons of amphetamine and stayed up for three weeks and didn't eat anything". In 2011, she and fellow Canadian artist d'Eon spent "a week playing shows and doing acid in Mexico City".
In 2014, Boucher wrote a blog post expressing her aversion to hard drugs, distancing herself from her previous endorsement, saying she does not want "[hard drug use] to be part of [her] narrative". "Losing people to drugs and alcohol is the worst because they destroy any good memories you have of them before forcing you to deal with the empty space they leave behind. I want people to know that I hate hard drugs. All they've ever done is kill my friends and cause me to be unproductive."
As a singer, Boucher is known for having a lisp; she stated that she "likes it", and has no desire to undergo speech therapy.
Since 2018, she has been called c (the symbol for the speed of light) in her personal life.
From 2007 to 2010, Boucher was in an on-and-off relationship with Devon Welsh, then lead vocalist of Majical Cloudz. The two met in 2007 at a first-year dorm party while studying at McGill University. From 2012 to 2018, Boucher was in a relationship with electronic musician Jaime Brooks, who supported her on the Visions Tour performing as Elite Gymnastics.
In 2018, Boucher began a relationship with technology entrepreneur Elon Musk. They met after discovering on Twitter that they both came up with the same pun relating to Rococo and the thought experiment Roko's basilisk. On May 4, 2020, she gave birth to their son, whom they named "X Æ A-12" (pronounced "Ex Ash A Twelve" or "Ex Ay Eye"). The name reportedly violated the naming law in California, where the child was born, and was subsequently changed to "X Æ A-Xii". According to an image of the birth certificate, the letter "X" is the child's first name, and "AE A-XII" the middle name. He is Musk's seventh child. Grimes said via Instagram that Go Won of the South Korean girl group Loona, with whom she collaborated in 2018, is her son's godmother. The couple "semi-separated" in September 2021.
In January 2022, Grimes said of her relationship with Musk: "I would probably refer to him as my boyfriend, but we're very fluid." She further revealed that their second child, a daughter, Exa Dark Sideræl Musk, nicknamed Y, was born in December 2021 via surrogate. In March 2022, following publication of the interview (which had been delayed two months before its publication), Grimes tweeted that she and Musk had broken up again "but he's my best friend and the love of my life."