A complete guide to Grimes’s music video style evolution

The minimal, the extravagant, the bloody.

April 03, 2018

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As the three year anniversary of Art Angels approaches, the drought of new Grimes music is hitting at its hardest. After a back and forth with her label 4AD, we're still in the dark about when exactly her new LP will drop, and the wait honestly feels lethal.

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Not hearing new music, however, makes for a chance to more deeply appreciate the creative powerhouse's sartorial savvy. Like her music, Grimes's style has been consistently rooted in taking risks — a side of her that best comes to life in her music videos. Her chameleon-level hair changes hues on a regular basis, and throughout the years her ability to make varying clothing styles uniquely hers turns anything from punk-inspired fingerless gloves to fairytale-level ballgowns into something exciting and new.

Earlier this year, Grimes stunned in Rodarte's dreamy FW18 campaign, and after she won Video of the Year at the Juno Awards for her Janelle Monáe collaboration "Venus Fly," it was only right to dive deeper into her music video catalogue and bask in the power of her visual artistry.

Below, you'll find a complete breakdown of her style evolution, from the early days of 2012's Dark Bloom to her most recent state of Art Angels apotheosis.

"Vanessa" (2012)

Before she was nailing the avant-garde outfits we know and love, an even baby-er faced Grimes brewed up her own weird-cool-girl starter pack in her first official video: a strapless lavender homecoming dress, sparkly gloves that were somehow both fingerless and elbow-length, and leg warmers. It's part DGAF, part spooky, and completely early day Grimes.

"Oblivion" (2012)

"Oblivion" captured both Grimes's adorably disheveled essence and her eye for can't-miss statement pieces. Her sequined jacket and headphones look felt instantly iconic, but there're also some choice pieces that highlighted her elfish appeal: a charming a-line coat buttoned to the neck, a smock with an oversized Peter Pan collar and ribbon bow, and a tulle skirt paired with a long-sleeved graphic tee. Her sherbet color ombré undercut has a distinct dyed-in-my-friend's-bathroom feel to it that seamlessly complements the video's playful looks.

"Genesis" (2012)
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An early shift into Grimes's hyper-stylized video looks, "Genesis" brought polished pigtails and a seifuku-inspired coat for a mystical innocence that enchanted from the beach to the desert.

"Go" Ft. Blood Diamonds (2014)

Perhaps the most divisive song of her career, “Go” took the world to a post-apocalyptic desert beach taken over by club rats. The sleek hairstyles from “Genesis” appeared again, along with rave-worthy skintight fabrics with intricate cutouts that stand as a departure from her run of free-flowing garments. There's a beautiful shot in which Blood Diamonds stands in the shallow sea holding Grimes, her petite frame draped in a silky, chartreuse fabric. It’s the picture of elegance until your eyes drop down and see she’s wearing Adidas slides, and then you remember that she's here to redefine everything, even footwear.

"REALiTi" (2015)

"REALiTi" played as an early peek into the Art Angels album cycle, and in the video, Grimes contorted and writhed her way through the chaotic streets of Singapore, Manila, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, and beyond in practical travel wear.

Basic knits were a change from her earlier video looks, but thankfully her signature wavy tresses were dyed in patches of bright orange to balance it all out. It was a return to the casual Grimes of "Oblivion" — overall simple, with touches of the unconventional through a slick, leather trench coat and her favorite accessory: fingerless gloves.

"Flesh Without Blood" (2015)

For her first single off Art Angels, Grimes easily outdid the extravagance of central California's Madonna Inn and its Barbie-pink glitter walls and tennis courts — a true feat of her genius. Whether it was a pair of gigantic angel wings and a bubblegum pink cowboy hat or a gown and powdered wig full of Versailles-level opulence, Grimes let us know that “Flesh Without Blood” was only the beginning of a new, beautifully crazed era in which she fully began to channel all the characters Grimes could be.

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"Kill V. Maim" (2016)

"Kill V. Maim" was the frenetic standout off Art Angels, and the video captured its turbulent energy to a tee. Grimes and her staccato dance moves took us on a joyride to hell with a blood-soaked mosh pit as the final destination. The manic intensity translated over to the traffic-stopping sartorial — a shredded latex warlord coat, springy, candy-colored, two-toned curls, dark angel wings and vampire teeth, and footlong, gilded claws made to decimate.

"California" (2016)

Americana carnival meets art student under a thesis deadline.

"Butterfly" (2016)

Billowing linens, ruffles, and masquerade masks made for pure romance as Grimes and frequent collaborator HANA cavorted through Rome's landmarks. The video was part of The AC!D Reign Chronicles, in which Grimes, HANA, and Mac Boucher documented a two-week Europe tour through seven surprise music videos. It was an embrace of her softer side, and she did it with an enviable ease.

"World Princess Part II" (2016)

Delicate chiffon petticoats, sports bras, baby pink FENTY Puma fur slides, and massively teased hair — if enough things clash, it ends up looking good.

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"Belly of the Beat" (2016)

The teased hair made a comeback in "Belly of the Beat," but otherwise, it was one of Grimes's most subdued styling moments. With only one outfit — a flowy, crimson sweaterdress — she glided through an ornate European chateau and the most heavenly verdant landscapes imaginable, bringing her lyric "Everybody dies / We anoint their eyes and we dance like angels do" to life.

"Venus Fly" ft. Janelle Monáe (2017)

"Venus Fly" will go down in history as one of the most captivating works of visual art, and it's thanks in part to its ambitious costume design. The only rule in the controlled chaos of this universe was the bigger, the better. Everything is cutting edge, from the dress decorated with wire coils to glittered eyebrows to the raven-esque feathers and lace to the show-stopping headdresses with mohawks like flames. A video like "Venus Fly" signals just how infinite Grimes's artistic wheelhouse is — I wouldn't be surprised if she expanded into film, creating a visual album à la Lemonade. Anything can happen, and chances are she'll look cool as hell doing it.

Thumbnail via Grimes YouTube.

Read Grimes's 2015 cover story, and watch her FADER documentary Art Angel.
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A complete guide to Grimes’s music video style evolution