Early last week, news that Tesla CEO Elon Musk was dating the musician Grimes took the internet by storm—and just hours later, they showed up together at the Met Gala. Some onlookers more focused on the business world might have been a bit puzzled —despite a passionate fanbase, Grimes (whose real name is Claire Boucher) is hardly a household name.
But the two have a lot in common, and even if you don’t care about gossip or music, the relationship offers some insight into one of the greatest technological visionaries of our age. Here’s why.
They Built Their Careers One Step At A Time
Musk’s first company, started after he dropped out of graduate school for physics, was an online city guide called Zip2. Selling Zip2 to Compaq allowed him to build Paypal, whose sale in turn funded Tesla and SpaceX.
Grimes, similarly, expanded her palette bit by bit, starting with the very lo-fi album Geidi Primes, which was so obscure its first release was on cassette—part of a nostalgic revival of the format. That built to the slightly more polished album Visions, then onward towards even bigger things.
They’re The Star of Their Own Show
Though Musk occasionally nods to the huge staff of engineers and execs that have helped him accomplish so much, his public profile is so immense that they mostly stay in the shadows. Grimes is more literally a one-person-band: her early works were recorded in her bedroom and uploaded to MySpace. She has even toured extensively by herself, using electronics to recreate her songs live.
They Come From the Future
Elon and Grimes are both preoccupied (or maybe obsessed) with technology and outer space. According to reports, they connected in part through an obscure joke about artificial intelligence. Boucher’s Geidi Primes album was named after a fictional planet in Frank Herbert’s classic Dune novels, and Musk named SpaceX’s two drone ships in honor of sci-fi novelist Iain M. Banks, arguably Herbert’s most worthy successor. And Grimes’ echoey, electronic sound would fit right in at a dance club on Mars—where Musk wants to build a colony.
They’re Not Afraid to Fail—And Then Talk About It
Musk is notorious for setting goals so ambitious that, even when he falls short, he winds up somewhere pretty cool. Lately, that has gotten him in apparently serious trouble for badly missing production goals for Tesla’s Model 3, which he admits was largely his fault. But the same ambition led to a landmark moment for SpaceX last Friday with the launch and recovery of the Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket—during which it appears Boucher was hanging out in the SpaceX control room.
Grimes seems to be made of similar stuff. In 2014, when fans were disappointed by an early song from the album that was going to follow Visions, Boucher scrapped the work she’d done and took the whole project in a new direction. What she wound up with was 2015’s Art Angels, an album that hewed closer to her offbeat roots while still pushing into pop territory—and won her almost universal acclaim.
It’s unclear how serious the Boucher-Musk pairing is, or where it might be headed (and Musk doesn’t have the best record with relationships). But they’ve got a lot going for them, including, last but not least, Musk’s obvious fondness for offbeat music, from David Bowie to mariachi.