On Grimes, or The Blurred Line Between Public and Private


If you don’t care anything for Twitter, you might have missed all the buzz going around today regarding Claire Boucher – better known in the music realm as Grimes – and the deletion of her Tumblr account. Let’s first hash things out a little bit so we’re all on the same page.

Boucher posted her thoughts on a wide variety of subjects, but the original post was deleted before I got to read the entire thing, so I’m left with the Pitchfork story as a primary source of information. On its face, there doesn’t seem to be much to get Boucher’s hackles up in the Pitchfork story. In the post in question, Boucher seems to have made some points regarding the state of the music industry, and responded to criticism of her list of her favorite songs of last year. None of the opinions Pitchfork chose to highlight are particularly inflammatory or revelatory in nature, and none of them are ones I’d even disagree with (though the merits of Beyonce or PSY can certainly be debated). But the fact that Pitchfork picked up her opinions and presented them as newsworthy seems to have been the impetus behind the deletion of her Tumblr account. On its face, that action strikes me as counter-productive at best, and disingenuous at worst.

Is Boucher entitled to privacy? Without a doubt. Pitchfork certainly isn’t welcome to invade her private residence and record her dinner conversations to mine for her thoughts on any number of subjects. Any individual with a conscience should agree with that premise. But the fact that Boucher has become a public figure because of the success of her music effectively limits the spaces where she can continue to have private conversations. No longer is her blog simply “her blog.” It’s an outlet for her artistic self, and a way for her to connect with her fans; though I didn’t follow her blog, I’d have to imagine that she shared new videos or songs or tour dates there which were also picked up by larger media outlets. In that same sense, I’m sure she shared some of the better stories and reviews she received for Visions over the past year or so. And if that’s the case, she’s already blurred the lines between her own persona and her work persona before this ever happened. (Now, I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong if her Tumblr wasn’t used in that manner. But it was called Actually Grimes, and not by her own name, so that leads me to believe the blog was a mix of her opinion and her work.)

Pitchfork was instrumental in Boucher’s rise to fame in 2012. For her to be angry that they’re still, in essence, providing her with additional outlets for her output – whether it’s creative or not – demonstrates a misunderstanding of her current state. She’s no longer afforded the privilege of private thoughts when in a public forum, and while that might be unfair, and while she obviously doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Her Tumblr, in essence, is no different than her voicing her opinion in between songs at a concert and having them subsequently reported.

Is that loss of privacy traumatic once its fully realized? I’m sure. Perhaps Boucher’s response is purely reactionary, and will be rethought and retooled in time to provide her with an outlet she still feels connects her with fans without being used as material for Pitchfork. Maybe not. But regardless of whether she returns to blogging, there’s a disconnect here. Who Boucher is when she’s Grimes and who she is when she’s Claire are no longer separate entities, and what either one does, regardless of how mundane it might be, represents a possible news story.

All that said, Pitchfork – and the blogging world at large – isn’t without blame here either. Music shouldn’t be on a twenty-four hour news cycle, because there simply isn’t that much going on. An artist tweeting where they are eating on tour largely isn’t interesting outside of the people who follow them on Twitter or Facebook. And that’s a fine line to walk. In this particular case, I think Boucher’s thoughts on the music industry are certainly relevant, but music journalists across the board need to be careful with reporting what is actually important to ruminate on – like Boucher’s opinions here – and what is simply TMZ-style bullshit. All too often I see outlets slipping into the latter category, and that’s discouraging.

  • Tiana Feng

    Actually Grimes never really used Tumblr to promote her own work at all. It was always just opinions and random anime or fashion photos. Even on twitter she really keeps the Grimes press to a minimal and usually just posts nonsense. I do agree however that deleting it was unnecessary and didn’t help her cause. If she believed in all the things she said (which were rather good points), she should have kept them up there and defended it to her death. However, news story about every little thing she says are so unnecessary.

  • Stephen Carradini

    The CNN-ization of music is definitely a weird phenomenon. Does music need a 24-hour news cycle? If real news reporting suffers under the strain of 24-hour days, what will happen to music, which (as you note) does indeed have less going on?

  • tympanogram

    I agree – not everything she does needs a story about it, but this seemed like a very strange thing to go off the rails over.

  • tympanogram

    It’s going to be pictures of what Ben Gibbard is eating at In-N-Out Burger, or whose house some indie band is staying at when they’re in town. And that’s a shame, because it detracts from what those outlets should be talking about.

  • thesfcritic

    Are you sure this is why she pulled down her Tumblr?

  • tympanogram

    That’s what two separate bloggers told me, and that was the conversation all day on Twitter.

    Do you know something different?

  • thesfcritic

    Nope. Just wasn’t completely cued in.

  • Tiana Feng

    I’m not sure she pulled it down just because her posts made news. Her tumblr has been reblogged and attacked by tons of other tumblrs who criticized every one of her posts, especially over the Charli XCX (and she removed the original post of that one too after it got backlash). I think she’s more upset people attack everything she writes, not the fact they become news story. Still stupid thing to be upset about if thoughts are going to be public tho.

  • thesfcritic

    Where else do you see this happening? What are some examples?

  • thesfcritic

    But are there examples of it already happening? I mean, look at the press behind Rhianna’s tour, and have fabricated those interactions were.