Grimes’ “California” Video Represents Very Little About California–Or Does It?

“And when the ocean rises up above the ground maybe I’ll drown in.” A title card with these lyrics from the chorus opens Grimes’ latest music video in promotion of Art Angels, “California.” And while the high-pitched chanteuse certainly represents many things about the state with her aesthetic and music, there is a surprising lack of that evident in this visual narrative.

Directed by Grimes herself, “California” features an array of colorful scenes, set primarily indoors–the first indication of a fledgling portrayal of the Golden State. More Americana-inspired than anything else, Grimes’ appearance as a cowgirl singer onstage in an American flag dress and color-coordinated balloons is the first of her characters to indicate a certain love of the freedom of the West. The slower-paced remixed version of the song does, however, echo the ethereal vibes of CA.

Elsewhere, Grimes’ art studio character, with her bluish-purple hair and pink bangs, is a subtle nod to the type of girl who flocks to California, all rave-loving and lunar-influenced. Another Grimes in a basketball court with an 80s-inspired interior design waves a ribbon wand to the music, letting the spiritual nature of the beat take her over.

Soon, cowgirl Grimes’ stage is overtaken by a futuristic Marie Antoinette series of characters and sets (as you’ll remember from “Flesh Without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream,” Grimes is quite fond of futuristic Marie Antoinette tableaus). The weirder and less cohesive the video becomes the more one might, on the surface, be led to believe that none of it really has anything to do with California, a state that has incited so many sonnet-like songs in its honor. But take a closer look, and you’ll see that maybe Grimes knows exactly what she’s doing. Because what is California if not a haven for the bizarre, daffy and unreasonable?