St. Vincent’s Alternative Album: Masseduction
by Cristian Trandafir
Annie Erin Clark, otherwise known as St. Vincent, released her fifth studio album, titled “Masseduction” on Oct. 13. St. Vincent is known for dabbling in the rock genre of music and adding her own experimental sounds to her tracks. Her talent is extensive - she is her own vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and even pianist. With her previous album winning her the Grammy for Best Alternative Album of 2015, she said she wanted to release “Masseduction” as the conveyor for some of the best songs she has ever written. Her 2017 work, a play on the words “mass” and “seduction,” aimed to captivate audiences with her unique sound in indie rock. Impressively, “Masseduction” earned Clark her first top 10 song on the Billboard 200.
“Masseduction” blends together electropop, rock, and techno influences. The first track off the album, titled “Hang On Me,” features St. Vincent sullenly singing to the listener that she is, “not meant for this world.” The track features a downtempo beat with static-like treble and muffled synths, with violins and a lone trumpet serving to contrast the bleak mood of the song. There is a feeling of hope as the music transitions to “Pills,” the second track. From here, the album takes on more of a happier, airier atmosphere. The lyrics, however, turn sardonic and criticize the dependency of society on pills for every facet of life, providing a grim undertone to the song.
The title track, “Masseduction,” as well as “Sugarboy,” “Los Ageless,” are written as tragic love songs. “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” “Savior,” and “New York,” continue with the love theme, but they are written with much more hopeful and “happy” love in the lyrics, although they starkly contrast with the eerie production, making the story the tracks tell seem open ended - whether to end happily or darkly. “Fear the Future” brings in a quick snare drum buildup towards the end of the song, with “Young Lover” having a powerful house music-style beat drop at the beginning of the song. This is considered by fans to be the saddest track off the album, with autobiographical lyrics about dealing with uncovering her friend’s heroin addiction. The beat is relentless throughout the track, with punchy percussion and high pitched vocals making it seem like the world St. Vincent sings about is spinning through the listener’s head.
The next break in the album comes with the track “Dancing With A Ghost,” an instrumental and yet again, eerie-sounding track to bring in the finishing section of the album. “Slow Disco” is a composition of violins and other string instruments working to create a slow-paced tempo in the absence of any drums. Although it is written for classical instruments, the lyrics are more contemporary, referencing two lovers’ pinnacle moment at a disco, and the degradation of their love as a slow dance makes both of them glad they came, but yearning to leave. “Smoking Section” personifies St. Vincent as a cigarette, an ocean, a killer, and a depressed victim, all with the finishing words repeated 8 times in the outro: “It’s not the end.” The real ending track is called “政権腐敗,“ or “Power Corrupts” translated into English. It features the culmination of St. Vincent’s experimental sounds throughout the album. “Masseduction” is repeated by an electronic voice throughout the song, with Japanese vocalists repeating “Power Corrupts” in Japanese. Meanwhile, electric guitar riffs, low synth wobbles, and distorted instruments paint a grainy image of a world where “mass destruction,” the other repeated lyrics throughout the song, runs rampant. It is definitely a very strong finish to the album, with St. Vincent excelling at showing why she won Alternative Album of The Year in 2015 at the Grammys.
Unlike her songs with bleak endings and the erosion of hope, St. Vincent’s future as a musician is much brighter. Although “Masseduction” has sold approximately 1,000 copies less in the first week than “St. Vincent,” (29,000 compared to 30,0000, respectively), hit singles from the album release including “New York” and “Los Ageless” have already garnered over one million views each on YouTube in the span of a month since the official music videos have been put up. St. Vincent is not ready to settle with the success she’s has, however, as she is eagerly waiting to go on tour and display her next project, “Fear the Future.” She is set to go on a teaser-tour showcasing new songs off her project in 2018. On January 12, she will be coming to Chicago’s very own Chicago Theatre to showcase her new tracks.