Hello, devout Jalopnik readers. I’m sure by now you’re well aware that Elon Musk, the Tesla/Space X billionaire bro, the big kid with an even bigger wallet, is dating Grimes, the Canadian indie musician/producer/critically acclaimed weirdo, born Claire Elise Boucher. But who are these people? What does it all mean?
After all, those are a lot of identity terms! A lot more than just “girlfriend,” you’ll surely note, because Grimes is a complicated and celebrated artist. And one who now might’ve gone and fucked her shit up by dating a very high-profile man who seems systematically at odds with a lot of the grassroots, anarchist-ish, punk-ish things she’s, historically, been viewed as representing—and by wading into Tesla’s labor issues at the same time.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Who Is Grimes? Why Is She A Thing?
Glad you asked. At some point in 2007, a young woman named Claire Boucher relocated from her hometown of Vancouver to artsy Montreal to attend the prestigious McGill University and record/release music on MySpace under the moniker Grimes. Around that time, she befriended a guy named Sebastian Cowan who, in 2009, founded the ultra cool indie label Arbutus Records, releasing music from a slew of hyper-talented electro-pop musicians that would go on to define a certain ‘00s warehouse party, Montreal sound. (If you’re curious, I suggest beginning with early Grimes and graduating to Majical Cloudz and Doldrums.)
At some point in 2009, too, Grimes and a pal attempted to sail down the Mississippi River on a houseboat they built, loaded with live chickens and 20 pounds of potatoes—this is the kind of bat shit, crust-punk adjacent person we’re working with here. Got it? Good.
Anyway! In January 2010, after realizing “Hey, I can do this music thing,” Boucher released her debut album on cassette, Geidi Primes, on Arbutus, a sort-of-concept album stylized after the Dune series (which, uh, seems like something Musk would be very into?) A few months later, in September, she released another album, Halfaxa, and started giggin’ around Canada and eventually, like, everywhere. She received attention from beloved indie electronic artists like Lykke Li and Blood Orange and the rest became history—in 2012, a year after dropping out of school, Boucher signed to major-indie label 4AD Records and released Visions, an album that made literally every big, tastemake-y music publication’s “best of 2012” list.
The record really threw the industry off its game—here, this true, DIY weirdo came out of seemingly no where to write mind-blowingly simple and effective hooks, drenched in reverb. Grimes, too, is a visual artist and designed the album in addition to writing and recording all the material herself—and, what seemed to impress press the most, was that she produced the thing herself. (Though we should note here that “I did it all alone” is also a very Muskian attitude to have, so maybe they have more in common than expected.)
It felt revelatory—there aren’t enough women producers in the biz being given top-tier gigs, and Grimes found in a solution in not only doing it herself, but doing it better than her male contemporaries.
Just listen to “Oblivion” from the release:
And she grew from there! In 2013, she signed to Jay-Z’s management company Roc Nation, essentially securing a future in the big leagues. In 2015, she released her latest LP, Art Angels, which ended up on “best of” lists again—but now, Grimes was famous—a combination of cult of personality, an approachable art weirdo-ness that set her up for superstardom, and genuine talent.
She started getting invited to things like the Met Gala, she began modeling for A-list brands like Rodarte and now, she’s on top of a world of her own creation... and somehow, for some reason, decided to date Elon Musk in the process.
How Does Elon Musk Enter The Equation?
Another fantastic question! That’s not totally known, but the pop cultural consensus seems to be that the pair met on Twitter, the most romantic social media platform.
According to trusted celebrity gossip rag Page Six, Musk wanted to tweet a joke at some point earlier this year but searched the platform to see if it had been done before—and it had, by Boucher. How ripe for a love story!
Apparently the joke involves AI and is some real nerd shit:
“Thought experiment Roko’s Basilisk considers the hypothesis of a future where AI lords over the world and could punish those who did not help it into existence. His joke was to merge this thought experiment with a pun using “Rococo,” referring to the ornate French 18th Century Baroque style, perhaps pointing out that both concepts are complex, too extreme and ridiculous...In 2015, she created a character named “Rococo Basilisk” for a video of her song “Flesh Without Blood.” “I don’t know if you’ve heard of Roko’s Basilisk,” she told Fuse. “[This character] is doomed to be eternally tortured by an artificial intelligence, but she’s also kind of like Marie Antoinette.”
“Elon was researching the idea of joking about Rococo Basilisk, and when he saw Grimes had already joked about it, he reached out to her,” says the insider. “Grimes said this was the first time in three years that anyone understood the joke. They were both poking fun at AI.”
It was enough for them to touch base, realize they’re both nerds but, like, totally cool ones, and go on some dates. The first time we (the public) saw them together was Sunday, May 6 at the annual Met Gala. Musk cosplayed as James Bond, and Grimes was her regular, goth-y self. So, we know they’ve been dating this year, but the duration is unknown. Seems new-ish, though?
Why Are People Mad?
“Why do I care about any of this!” you might now be wailing, ready to fire off an angry missive in the comment section. “I am a real car-driving person! I come here for the CARS! What does this have to do with the cars?”
Well, it does, since part of this controversy is how Grimes waded into Tesla’s ongoing production and labor issues, making this ridiculous story all the more ridiculous.
See, Musk is a lot of things to a lot of people. To some he’s a genius, a real-life Tony Stark, someone who has jump-started an electric and autonomous car revolution while running a space transport company on the side—all while supposedly reinventing public transit.
To others, the dude is a bullshit artist, an evil capitalist and union-buster, someone who has been against efforts by the United Auto Workers to unionize the Tesla plant. Fans think someone like Boucher, who has really made a name for herself on her own terms as a creative powerhouse, wouldn’t buy into some bullshit billionaire-written fantasy, but it happens, I guess.
It’s especially disheartening that Grimes has begun to defend some of Musk’s practices on this subject: On Monday, May 22, in a series of tweets that have since been deleted, Boucher responded to accusations that Musk fired Tesla employees who attempted to unionize by saying it’s “fake news” (yikes) because she’s “even visited factories” (double yikes). How the hell would she know about conditions? Did she talk to workers, who answered her inquiries honestly, unafraid of fallout?
She may have deleted the tweet, but the internet never forgets or forgives:
And it’s not doing anything great for her reputation, that’s for dang sure—in a matter of days once-loyal listeners have turned their backs on the musician. Presenting as anti-labor will do that to ya:
Plus, fans are worried. Musk has (allegedly) expressed some dangerous, troubling, even misogynistic behaviors in the past when it comes to women—he’s apparently been emotionally abusive to at least one his partners. In September 2010, his first wife Justine Musk wrote a long piece for Marie Claire, detailing some harrowing conduct: he called her grieving following the death of their infant son “emotionally manipulative”; he told her he’s the “alpha” in their relationship and if she was his employee, he’d fire her. According to Justine, he quite literally forced her to become a blonde trophy wife and divorced her not long after a tragic car accident inspired her to reevaluate her life. It’s dark shit, and hopefully Grimes won’t get too pulled into it.
So maybe think twice before going along with the quick-hit narrative of “wow, Elon Musk is dating some weird, cool, goth chick.” Grimes is more than that and Musk has plenty of issues.
But, hell, if these two are in it for the long haul, maybe they’ll change their tune on workers right and become kind overlords to us on the Mars colony one day. To those of us left scrounging through space-scraps here on Terra because we were too poor to go to said colony: godspeed.
Maria Sherman is a writer and editor at Gizmodo Media Group who specializes in pop culture and music coverage.