Seduction, relationships, and pop culture are the name of the game on St. Vincent’s new album. “Masseduction” aims to do just that, pulling us into its world with dripping synths and lead singer Annie Clark’s sensual voice. Her collage-like songs seem to draw from every area of pop and rock music, providing the perfect backdrop for her exploration of our culture’s most indulgent facets.
If anything, “Masseduction” is an intellectual’s pop record. Its pristine composition and glistening production taste just like ear candy, and its use of rock style and swagger is all sorts of smart and sensual. Clark has put her finger on the pulse of music’s most gratuitous elements, and she seems alive with the energy of it. “Pills,” for example, shines with the singalong feel of a playground song even as the words celebrate our culture’s obsession with drugs:
“Pills to wake, pills to sleep
Pills, pills, pills every day of the week
Pills to walk, pills to think
Pills, pills, pills for the family”
Interestingly, Clark has her ex-girlfriend Cara Delevingne sing the chorus to “Pills.” But after all, love is another drug that we consume with reckless abandon.
“New York” is masterpiece of balladry, smartly balancing a spacious verse that accents the beauty of Clark’s voice with a big pop chorus, one that uses a thick rise of texture to lend weight to its words:
“I have lost a hero
I have lost a friend
But for you, darling
I’d do it all again”
Clark’s channeling of the pop/rock sound continues throughout the record, as she seems determined to blast our ears with candy-coated synth and heavy guitar. “Young Lover” does just that with a strong chorus and a glam-rock strut that Clark owns with confidence and flair. Her screams at the end feel like the embodiment of love’s yearning. She’s tapping into pop music’s obsession with love (and possible her own obsession). How much of this is personal, and how much is cultural? It seems the two mix on the palette that Clark presents on “Masseduction.”
“Slow Disco” is one of my favorites from the record. It begins with just Clark’s voice and warm strings, echoing the best parts of indulgent orchestral pop music (think “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve or “Broken Heart” by Spiritualized).
“Slip my hand from your hand
Leave you dancin’ with a ghost
Slip my hand from your hand
Leave you dancin’ with a ghost”
Towards the end a ghostly, soulful voice takes over, singing out “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death.” Just like the tropes and trappings of culture, pop music has been beat to death after years of abuse and superficial nonsense. “MASSEDUCTION” is St. Vincent’s ode to the beautiful, decaying machine it has become.