Why Grimes’ ‘Ethereal Chav Jam’, 4æm is a COVID-19 Banger

The fourth track on her latest studio album, Miss Anthropocene, is proof that Grimes (AKA Claire Boucher) can still balance her penchant for pop with her desire to push the envelope even further.

Grimes Debuts New Song "4ÆM," Announces 'Cyberpunk' Role At The ...
Photo Credit: Sterogum

Described by the Canadian musician as her “ethereal chav jam” when she teased the track on her Twitter two years ago, 4æm is relevant now more than ever as the maddening party-track designed for solitary confinement.

I mean, this track slaps, periodt. However, while many love 4æm’s humid melodies, synthesised hook and the robust drum n’ bass beat, it also truly encapsulates the frustrating uncertainty of a global pandemic.

Unlike 2015’s critically acclaimed album, Art Angels, which favoured sprinklings of Grimes’ signature casual creepiness amid an upbeat attitude – Miss Anthropocene is a descent back into Grimes’ love of the dark and disturbing. However, 4æm truly breaks the mould in the way it mimics Grimes’ earlier works – a complex blend between the scenic tracks of Geidi Primes and the primordially hip-swaying beats from Halfaxa. 

With the pandemic reaching Australia three months after 4æm’s December 2019 release, one could think Grimes saw the future while making this track. It’s uneasy, anxious introduction, accompanied by Grimes’ reverbed register is reminiscent of whale-song. It’s other-worldly and incredible, but ultimately leading to tragedy. The calm before the storm, which kicks in with the simple hook:

“I’m out late at 4 AM

He says, “How’s the weather, baby? How you’ve been?”

You’re gonna get sick, you don’t know when

They never doubt it at 4 AM”

The cloudy, metallic hook is then followed by a vocally-fried sample of Deewani Mastani from the Bollywood blockbuster, Bajirao Mastan. While Grimes notes that the song is her cyberpunk interpretation of the Bollywood classic, the elements come together to form a sinister, yet familiar feeling.

Cyberpunk 2077 Official TGA Soundtrack Grimes – 4ÆM - YouTube
Photo Credit: YouTube

The song feels like someone descending into madness, climaxing at the haunting sound of Grimes singing “na na na, na na na,” in endless repetition. During the COVID-19 lockdown, 4æm couldn’t feel more fitting for the growing feelings of collective hopelessness in the face of an unseen sinister entity – the virus.

The track sounds like desperation that eventually dissolves into unbridled psychosis – as if a person has finally broken under the weight of the world’s growing angst. It’s a track that if played over video of anti-masker riots and 5g tower-installations, would fit perfectly.

Grimes was clear of Miss Anthropocene’s direction as an album inspired by new gods, climate change, and ironic disgust with the new world order. While one could argue that 4æm is the god of early-morning booty-calls, the advent of a global pandemic has changed the tune of this track in many ways.

If there is an evil entity attached to this song, it’s the collective mental breakdown the world is suffering in the face of a new enemy. 4æm feels as though it enshrines the god of orderly chaos and civic destruction. With no resolution or closure in sight during the track’s tightly produced 4 minutes and 30 seconds, 4æm feels less like a condensed version of 2020’s endless progression. 

This year, humanity has been set adrift amid an absurd landscape of beauty, confusion and anxiety. A concept interwoven at the very core of 4æm. Why? Because amid the entrancing spectacles surrounding us, we could get sick, but we won’t know when.

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