Grimes’ plaintive Player of Games is sung as if by a woman who has lost her man to the outer space of video games
In writing a few digs at her ex-boyfriend and co-parent Elon Musk into a new song, the Canadian singer Grimes has joined a long list of songwriters who claimed the last lyrical word after love gone bad with a fellow celebrity.
But those songs are usually a lot more critical and vindictive, such as Justin Timberlake telling Britney Spears to “Cry Me A River.”
Grimes’ song Player of Games is more plaintive, sung as if by a woman who has lost her man to the outer space of video games. She sounds more sad than mad, and her references to Musk in the moody diss track are pointed but covert.
“Sail away to the cold expanse of space. Even love couldn’t keep you in your place. Can’t you love me like that?” she sings. “If I loved him any less I’d make him stay. But he has to be the best player of games.”
As usual, there is an element of plausible deniability. Grimes does not actually say Musk’s name, and it is not as if her audience is primed to look for ex-boyfriends in her lyrics, as people are for Taylor Swift. Her ten-minute version of All Too Well on Saturday Night Live last month , like other material from her album Red, such as “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is directed at her ex-boyfriend, the actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Swift has famously observed that if ex-boyfriends do not want her to write bad songs about them, they should not do bad things.
But some of Grimes’ song is too obvious to be understood any other way but as a criticism of her failed relationship with the Tesla billionaire and galactic entrepreneur.
“Baby, would you still love me, out on Europa? Or will you forget? Baby, how can I compare to the adventure out there?” she sings.
In July, NASA announced that Musk’s rocket company SpaceX would fly its mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter thought to be suitable for life.
These are not determinedly cryptic insults, like Carly Simon’s paradoxical You’re So Vain, which was a mystery for decades before it became certain this was about Warren Beatty.
The shots do, however, seem to be sung directly at Musk with a clear note of recrimination, or at her audience, complaining about him.
“I’m in love with the greatest gamer, but he’ll always love the game more than he loves me,” she sings.
The song does not seem to mention their child, a boy called X Æ A-Xii Musk. After they broke up in September, Musk has said they remain close and involved in their child’s care, often staying in the same place.
Player Of Games might not be as flagrantly spiteful as Alanis Morissette allegedly singing You Oughta Know about Dave Coulier, best known as Uncle Joey on Full House. (There is uncertainty in the public record over this, and theories about other possible targets, including Matt LeBlanc, who also played a Joey, but on Friends. Morrissette has never confirmed any version.)
Nor is it as self-referential and ironically aware as Sarah Silverman, who in 2008 went on her boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel’s show, shortly before their relationship ended, with a video for her song “I’m F–king Matt Damon,” with Matt Damon himself on backing vocals. It was such a critical hit that it inspired Kimmel’s star-studded clapback music video, “I’m F–king Ben Affleck.”
But Grimes’ song does get a bit spicy. The video shows her naked, in an embrace with a caped knight in armour, or perhaps just the armour. It is not clear there is anyone inside.