St. Vincent, Masseduction | Album Review
Grammy-winning, alt-pop darling St. Vincent returns with an intriguing, well-rounded album with ‘Masseduction.’
Grammy-winning alternative musician St. Vincent is back. After captivating the world with “Digital Witness” and her Grammy-winning, self-titled album in 2014, she returns with Masseduction. Masseduction definitely isn’t your ‘everyday title,’ but it’s simply a play on words – mass + seduction. Like the title itself, Masseduction ends up being an incredibly intriguing album.
“Hang on Me”
“Hang on Me” marks the first notion of strong pop influences throughout Masseduction. From the start, the production features electronic cues, which are often associated with the modern pop palette. Don’t get it twisted though – “Hang on Me” still feels like alternative pop as opposed to the mainstream. Thematically, Annie Clark references love as well as nonconformity:
“Yeah, so hang on me / Hang on me, hang on me / ‘Cause you and me / We’re not meant for this world / You and me / We’re not meant for this world.”
Following the brief, mysterious opener, “Pills” nears the five-minute mark. Uniquely, a former flame of Clark’s provides vocals: Cara Delevingne. Delevingne confirms the many uses for pills, most colorfully including “pills to fuck.” As for St. Vincent, she’s ‘all over the place,’ apparently suffering the effects of the pills. Among the most unique features of “Pills” is the change of pace that occurs in the second half of the song on an extended outro.
The title track “Masseduction” is indeed sexual as its title (mass seduction) suggests. Annie Clark references Lolita (controversial 1955 novel) and “Teenage Christian virgins” participating in non-penetrative sex acts. On the catchy chorus, St. Vincent asserts, “I can’t turn off what turns me on.” Essentially, she has a point.
“Sugarboy” ranks among the most fun songs from Masseduction. While it’s fun, particularly with its chants of “boys” and “girls,” there’s also a bigger social, sexual message. Arguably, Clark speaks on her own sexuality, taking on the role of boys liking girls, and/or she’s simply suggesting stereotypical gender roles are archaic. Regardless of the specific message, St. Vincent has a surefire gem.
“Los Ageless,” set in a minor key, features electronic-driven production work. On the first verse, she sets the tone about Los Ageless, a clear play on Los Angeles. Naturally, the chorus is the crème de la crème. Here, the vocal production truly stands out. Additionally, the chorus itself is catchy. On the second verse, St. Vincent continues to reference age and social issues. Fittingly, the bridge marks a lyrical and musical contrast. Clark is edgier, leading into the final chorus.
One assumes that ‘Johnny’ on “Happy Birthday, Johnny” is the same ‘Johnny’ who appeared in “Prince Johnny” from St. Vincent. Ultimately, this is a thoughtful ballad, contrasting the more cutting-edge “Los Ageless.” “Happy Birthday, Johnny” features strong vocals and well-rounded song.
“Savior” contrasts balladry for more groove, which has dominated Masseduction as a whole. Kinky, “Savior” commences with naughty lyrics:
“You dress me up in a nurse’s outfit / It rides and sticks to my thighs and my hips / You put me in a teacher’s little denim skirt / Ruler and desk so I can make it hurt.”
Wow, just wow. Lots of personality by all means. Speaking of personality, promo single “New York” is chocked-full of it, not to mention a couple of f-bombs, with ‘mother’ preceding them. Even with some swear words, Annie Clark sounds cool, calm, and collected. Well-written and enjoyable, St. Vincent keeps things simple on “New York.” Arguably, the pre-chorus, which varies, is the best part of “New York.” Nonetheless, the chorus, which doesn’t appear until after the second verse, is strong as well.
“Fear the Future”
“Fear the Future” barely crosses the two-and-a-half-minute mark. The production is bombastic, noisy, and robust. The overall sound is dramatic and hard-hitting. While “Fear the Future” isn’t the best of Masseduction, it’s another consistent, enjoyable number. A throbbing beat fittingly anchors the slick “Young Lover.” Here, Clark focuses on love and rehabilitation. Lyrics throughout support the fact that drugs are taking over the young lover’s life.
Following interlude “Dancing with a Ghost,” balladry returns on the clever “Slow Disco,” where it seems the inevitable is happening in a failing relationship – death. It seems that Clark suggests that breaking up beats being dead in the relationship when she sings, “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death?” Another moody number, “Smoking Section” beautifully and enigmatically concludes Masseduction.
All in all, St. Vincent shines on Masseduction. This is an intriguing album that incorporates ample pop cues, but still retains alternative sensibilities. Masseduction is driven by issues surrounding love and sex, naturally intriguing topics. Annie Clark herself is nothing short of intriguing.
Gems: “Pills,” “Masseduction,” “Sugarboy,” “Los Ageless,” “Happy Birthday, Johnny” & “New York”