St Vincent – Masseduction review

Secret Meeting score: 74

by Philip Moss

St Vincent’s career seems to have taken off somewhat since her last LP – the magnificent, self titled electro-pop masterpiece, released in 2014. But, strangely for an independent artist, not because of her music. No, Annie Clark (to use her real name) has become tabloid news due to a number of high profile relationships, including a year and a half dating supermodel, Cara Delevingne, and most recently with Hollywood actress, Kristen Stewart.

Thus, when the first single, New York, for fifth album, Masseduction, was dropped, the press and fans alike jumped on its refrain – ‘New York isn’t New York without you love,’ asking the question would this new record be a ‘break up’ album? The answer, though, is not a simple one.

Indeed, St Vincent has always been somewhat chameleon-like, and this time she’s seen a  transformation through the use of overt sexual imagery, plus her willingness to satircally use her body to promote the record. Again, not a strategy typically employed in alternative music. And, considering her choice of producer, Jack Antonoff, best known for his work with Taylor Swift and Lorde, it seems St Vincent sees this as her opportunity to crossover and appeal to the mass audience who know her for her extra-curricular activities.

Despite a number of new topics, album centrepiece – Happy Birthday, Johnny – sees a return to the relationship with her uncle (last touched upon in Prince Johnny on her last album). However, the personal, piano ballad chronicles how the pair have drifted – ‘The last time you called it was on New Years’ Eve/You asked me for dough to get somethin’ to eat’ – but her new found ‘fame’ seemingly having got in the way – ‘I said, “let me think,” and you yelled through your teeth/Accused me of actin’ like all royalty.’ 

However, the album saves its absolute best, Smoking Section, till last. ‘Sometimes I feel like an inland ocean/Too big to be a lake, too small to be an attraction.’ And, in many ways, this summarises where St Vincent finds herself at this point in her career. Caught in a middle ground. A celebrity, in many ways, but not necessarily for her art. But, when it’s at its best, Masseduction is absolute proof that St Vincent does not need any gimmicks to reach the A-List.

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