Music

California Dreaming: Thoughts on Grimes’ “California”

So last weekend, I was away from my computer doing “adult” things. That sounds wrong, but what I mean by that is I had some business to attend to. Wait, that still doesn’t help.

Anyways, the point is that I’ve gotten busy and life sort of happened. And it’s pretty obvious that I’m not producing posts as frequently anymore. I’ll probably reveal what I’ve been up to for another time, but I just want to let you all know that I’m busy and alive.

Aside from that, though, this post isn’t about my trip, but something that I came across during my downtime while hanging out with my friends. Grimes premiered her latest music video, “California.” And it should be a given that I love it.

This song came at an appropriate time for me.

What is California?

In a literal sense, it’s a state, obviously. Yet, figuratively, what California means to people is an opportunity or a chance to be something great. In a cultural perspective, California is divided up into two regions, NorCal (Northern California) and SoCal (Southern California), each having their own respective lifestyle. NorCal is filled with entrepreneurs, start-up hopefuls, and techies living in San Francisco and Silicon Valley while SoCal is filled with musicians, actors, and artists dreaming of landing a record deal or making it in Hollywood.

California appears to be personified as a god/goddess of dreams; in which Grimes uses the pronoun, “you” when referring to California. Grimes’ angelic voice and the dreamy pop sounds just add to how California is something that’s unattainable. I’m sure you are all familiar with the words, “California Dreams” and that’s what California is to some individuals. People frolick to California with hopes and dreams, but once arriving, California isn’t as it appears to be.

California
You only like me when you think I’m looking sad
California
I didn’t think you’d end up treating me so bad

In the lyrics above, Grimes seems to describe how California can easily hurt people. It seems that California is an attraction for individuals who dream of opportunity that they can’t get anywhere else except California. Therefore, by traveling to California, one believes that he or she has a chance for success, and that is how California captivates people, “You only like me when you think I’m looking sad,” giving false hope to people. In her case, it seems that California destroyed her dreams of music stardom as stated with the words, “I didn’t think you’d end up treating me so bad.”

A Statement on the Music Industry

I couldn’t help but wonder if this is Grimes’ perspective on today’s music industry. Music became more of a business for people to profit from as oppose to appreciating a musician’s aesthetics and creative expression. As a result, the musician became a product rather than an individual.

The things they see in me, I cannot see myself
When you get bored of me, I’ll be back on the shelf

The “they” Grimes is referring to is the music industry and the “things” are her “talents” that the music industry can use to make revenue when she becomes a famous pop singer. Also, when Grimes says, “I cannot see myself,” it could imply that she isn’t sure what these big music industries find so profitable within her. One could question if it is really her musical talents or just her image and look that is attracting an audience which is something we often see in mainstream pop music. We can further assume that “I cannot see myself” might represent a loss of identity. How the music industry wants to shape her image goes against her set of values and self-worth. Furthermore, the statement, “When you get bored of me, I’ll be back on the shelf” implies that if she isn’t popular or the next “it girl” she will be let go or in other words, fired.

We can further see her being used as a “product” of the music industry through some of the settings in the music video.

grimes4
(Via Youtube)

In this screenshot, we see her as a country singer wearing a ridiculous “All-American” cowgirl outfit. Also, the background singers and dancers are in ridiculous get-ups which could reflect on the absurdness that mainstream pop music tends to have in their music videos. One should also note that at the beginning of the music video, we hear the audience members chatting with one another just before the song and Grimes’ showgirl performance begins which implies the concept of “all eyes are on me,” further emphasizing her as a product of the industry.

grimes2
(Via Youtube)

Also, in this scene, Grimes is dressed up with a beret, giving off this artistic feel to her persona. One could see the freedom she has as an artist as she dances and spins around to her own rhythm and music. Yet in another view, she is surrounded by porcelain statues which could represent the facade an artist has to put up with in the music industry. In fact, at times, a musical artist may feel like a stone statue unable to move at their own pace or will because they must comply with the rules made by music industry people.

How does “California” relate to my life?

Sometimes, I feel like California has kicked my butt when it comes to making my dreams come true. So I can relate to Grimes’ feelings in this song—people trying to make you into something that you aren’t comfortable with. However, that doesn’t necessarily means that one should give up on his or her dreams or settle and accept with what society thinks you should be.

Plus, like Grimes, there are moments where I feel like I’d drown in California too.

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22 comments

  1. Interesting post. I live in California, south of it, and I can see how the music video relates to California. There are times where California has its up and downs but it is not that bad in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I don’t like LA traffic. NorCal traffic is much more doable except no one likes driving to SF. I rather take the BART.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is really bad with traffic. I can imagine NorCal being controlled XD. If Lord willing, my family and I planning to live up in the mountains. The scenery is nice up there.

        Liked by 1 person

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