St. Vincent - MASSEDUCATION Album Review
Annie Clark, better known by stage name St. Vincent, famous for her unique indie style, has managed to blend indie and pop into a classic album, MASSEDUCTION, which manages to use the cheery pop elements as a sucker punch to delve into deep and dark themes. While other albums also try the “sex, drugs and sadness” approach, Clark managed to turn what sounded like it could be a run of the mill and overused concept into a modern day masterpiece.
Clark herself promised a new direction on this latest album and after the success of her self-titled album, stated she entered “a monastic fantastic” phase which involved a solitary and sober lifestyle. The album is influenced by her personal experiences, but Clark herself stated, “Don’t read into it as too autobiographical.” The themes of good things turning - bad, sex, drugs, loneliness and the celebrity condition - are heavily present throughout the entire album.
Clark mixes pop elements such as electronic beats, sound effects and synths with her traditional indie guitar riffs. The two make a happy marriage as the St. Vincent sound is still present throughout while also making her music more accessible to a wider audience. Artists trying to find a mainstream appeal or a wider audience often find it hard to adapt their sound in a way that is not considered “selling out.” The established fan base usually gets annoyed and it can cause a lot of problems, but St. Vincent is among the few recent examples to succeed in this regard.
The album has similar themes, but each song is unique enough to stand out and keep the listener from being bored. The songs can shift from heavier pop or indie elements dominating or a happy balance of the two and the different blends of the two elements over the variety of songs is where the album truly succeeds.
The titular track is the perfect example of what the album does so well. The synths and electronic beats fit together beautifully with the distorted guitar riffs. The lyrics are unique and memorable, especially with what Clark describes as her favorite verse on the whole album, which starts with “Teenage christian virgins…” is what Clark describes as what she was trying to do lyrically on the album. Clark set out to have memorable lyrics, the kinds fans will get tattooed on their arms, and she does not disappoint. “Happy Birthday, Johnny” is her speaking to her friend about his current situation and what she hopes he is able to get out of it. The verses also sound eerily similar to the melody of the verses of The Beatles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” “Pills” is the song most about drugs, her past addictions and many celebrities’ dependence on pills for sleeping, waking up, etc. The different shifts in the apparent seriousness of the song is really refreshing since even if Clark is trying to tell a message in all of her songs, “Pills” sounds more light-hearted than “Happy Birthday, Johnny.”
In a time where many indie and alternative artists are trying to adapt their sounds and add pop elements, MASSEDUCTION really succeeds without feeling like a sellout or betrayal to the fans. Compared to the singles artists like Weezer have recently released, Clark lays the blueprint on how to successfully adapt a musician’s sound without wholesale changes. Whatever unique project St. Vincent has coming out next should be worth it no matter the wait.
Owen Paiva is a freshman majoring in film/video. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.