In 2016, the world lost two of the most forward-thinking, genre-defining musicians to ever graced the art of making music. Prince and David Bowie were as much musicians as they were lifestyle pioneers — before them, proud displays of over-the-top sexuality and the enigma of artist androgyny were not widely accepted nor understood.
Now, one year later, Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, releases her fifth studio album to reaffirm to those who proclaim that “rock is dead” that it certainly is not and that she is one of the reasons why.
The incredible lives of Prince and Bowie might have ended, but St. Vincent now carries the torch of progressive art rock, and she carries it in a way that would make both of her musical
“Masseduction” is St. Vincent’s long-anticipated follow up to her 2014 self-titled album. After releasing “St. Vincent” to critical acclaim, the quiet, Oklahoma-born guitar shredder became a bona fide rock star.
“St. Vincent” was placed on multiple year-end lists, received a “Best New Music” designation from Pitchfork Magazine and won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Rock Album. This achievement was even more impressive since it was the first time in 20 years that a solo female act earned the award.
“Masseduction” is to her 2014 masterpiece as Kendrick’s “DAMN” is to “To Pimp a Butterfly.” She has won the awards, earned the acclaim of critics and the respect of millions and is hailed as one of the best — if not the best — at her craft.
Amidst all of the success, there are always experiences that give an artist important insight into who they are and force them to answer important questions as to how newfound success has changed them for the better or for the worse.
At the beginning of her career, St. Vincent’s music proved to listeners that she could be as artful and productive with a guitar and microphone as any band or any male singer could. As time has passed, the stories that she has relayed through her lyricism have spoken through cryptic passages and single-line metaphors.
On her new album, though, St. Vincent tells complete stories and describes experiences with a newfound candor. “Masseduction” tells of struggles with relationships, drugs, sex, and purpose.
The first lyrics one hears on the album explain why: “I’ve got this thing I keep thinking / Get high and meet up drinking / The void is back and I’m blinking / I
cannot stop the airplane from crashing / And we circle down from the sky.”
These lyrics seem pretty sad and troubling for a musician who has achieved a level of success that most never will, and these lines are just from the first song, “Hang on Me.”
Continually, Clark uses intelligent lyricism and storytelling to create a remarkably aware masterpiece. As always, her sudden placements of overdriven guitar solos or airy musical interludes round out the album in a beautiful way that can only be described as quintessentially St. Vincent.
The album’s second track, “Pills,” is a song that exemplifies this process and stands out for its contradictory nature. Over surging bass and synth and with a fun, staccato delivery, the song’s lyrics describes the chaotic life and mind of a pill addict.
“I spent a year suspended in air / My mind on the gap, my head on the stairs / From healer to dealers and then back again / From guru to voodoo and voodoo to zen.”
The hook paints a picture that is even more grim: “Pills to wake, pills to sleep / Pills, pills, pills
everyday of the week / pills to walk, pills to think / pills, pills, pills for the family.” She has
definitely achieved bona fide rock star status.
Again and again on “Masseduction,” St. Vincent relays stories with subjects this heavy on her own terms. The impressive candor indicates that Annie Clark has become a real artist. She has had the trying experiences, the failed relationships, the “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” lifestyle that most musicians never see coming.
With a guitar in hand and intelligent lyricism on tap, she recounts these experiences with impressive honesty but also with inspiring confidence. Rock music’s current queen is ready to handle whatever life throws at her, and surely she will continue to make powerful music from those experiences.