Since her 2007 debut album, Marry Me, Annie Clark—better known in the music scene as St. Vincent—has proven she has a talent for crafting pop music that is tasteful and experimental without being esoteric or indulgent. Throughout her decade-long career, she has gone from a chamber pop songstress to an avant-garde innovator. Her 2014 self-titled record was her most assertive, and its change in vision sparked much hope for future projects.
On her latest album, Masseduction, Clark has teamed up with Lorde and Taylor Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff to further experiment with futuristic elements. And this time around she has added in a heavy, overarching theme of love and sexuality, which dominates most of the record.
Masseduction finds Clark at her most vulnerable, with her lyrics direct and at the forefront of the album. Consequently, however, the music suffers greatly from this approach. In some songs, the music is not enough to withstand the sentiment of her lyrics. Nowhere is this more notable than in “New York,” which has its sleek and shiny instrumentals clashing with her heartfelt singing, resulting in a very awkward track and St. Vincent’s weakest single to date.
In her first two albums, Clark used romantic chamber pop to make her sinister and cynical lyrics stand out. Her appeal is largely owed to this charming and idiosyncratic appeal. Past singles like “The Strangers” and “Year of The Tiger” are proof that Clark’s songwriting has always been meticulous, which makes listening to a record as scatterbrained and insipid as Masseduction all the more disappointing.
“Happy Birthday Johnny” and “Smoking Section” showcase Clark’s most sentimental side, while “Masseduction” and “Savior” are provocative and self-aware songs about sexuality and its power over us. While their message is somewhat powerful, they just feel awfully vapid. Most of the songs on the album, such as “Sugarboy,” “Los Ageless” and “Fear The Future,” with their crisp synths and Clark’s signature guitar playing, are exactly what you would expect from St. Vincent after her 2014 self-titled album, but they rely too much on their futurisms to evoke any real sense of surprise. Most of the songs on this record want to be so immediate that they just end up sounding dull and shallow.
While the overly anticipated Masseduction opens a new chapter for St. Vincent as a songwriter, it is her most confusing effort to date. It is safe to say that the old St. Vincent is officially gone.
By Patricia Cardenas