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Released: 2022

Our jam today, “Shinigami Eyes” by Grimes, is a haunting anthem that explores the power dynamics in relationships, the alluring terror of knowledge and the intoxicating feeling of being in control. With lyrical references to manga culture and an underlying narrative of love and power, it’s a song that dives deep into the existential dread and unquiet lives of modern pop culture.

Let’s start with the passage from the chorus: “Got my Shinigami Eyes on, Are you ready to die?” The term “Shinigami Eyes” is a direct reference to the popular manga and anime series “Death Note”. In the series, a character with Shinigami eyes could know a person’s name and lifespan just by looking at them. Grimes reprisals this concept as a metaphor, applying it to the toxic dynamics in a relationship where one party feels omnipotent, fully aware of the other person’s insecurities, flaws or secrets. The question, “are you ready to die?” is a chilling reminder of the fatal power these eyes represent.

Grimes then proceeds with “And young men’s love doth lie, Never in their hearts only in their eyes”. This verse taps into the Shakespearean notion that young love is often superficial, rooted in physical attraction rather than emotional depth. The next lines make things even more interesting. In “Rent-free in your head. Missing from your bed”, Grimes implies an emotional dominance over someone else. It’s clear that she’s living in her lover’s head, a constant thought, but simultaneously, physically absent. This paradoxical imagery paints a picture of control and influence without needing physical proximity.

The lyrics “I’m the queen on the chess board. And the red upon the rose” serve to further underline dominance in this relationship. Being the queen in chess implies power and near-unlimited movement. The ‘red upon the rose’ metaphor, however, is layered with interpretations. It could represent beauty, but also danger (like thorns on a rose), or even the blood of a vanquished foe.

“And everything is fine. Got my Shinigami eyes on. Are you ready to die?”, the refrain repeats, reinforcing the power dynamics and the intoxicating, if not terrifying, control she wields, signifying the all-seeing, all-knowing nature that comes with these omnipotent eyes.

Grimes’ “Shinigami Eyes” is an exploration of the feeling of power, control, and the consequential existential dread. With each refrain, she underscores her command and authority, imbuing the song with a chilling yet fascinating aura. While the song may seem cryptic to some, it’s clear that Grimes is not only questioning our readiness for the truth, but also illuminating the intoxicating feel of omniscience and power.

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