Album Review: St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION is a Indie-Pop Venture of Fame, Grief, and “Pills”

by Stephanie L. Carlin

With her self-titled album released in 2014, she gained fans, a Grammy, and explosive sales, it seemed like St. Vincent was building an empire that would guarantee her success and happiness. But her new album, MASSEDUCTION came out October 13th, and proves this not to be the case. This is not an album about St. Vincent. This is an album about Annie being thrust into the spotlight with new success and love, and coping with all of the loss that is magnified by tabloids.

Let’s start with the title song, “Masseduction.” It sets the album up for the pop songs on it to make sense, and not seem like outliers. “I can’t turn off what turns me on.” These are big stories being told and St. Vincent is aware. We live in a time where songs about breakups and trauma are popular and the artists don’t seem to put a lot of thought into their songs, according to Annie. “Oh, what a bore to be so adored.” These celebrities get admiration for mindless party songs and then one song about a vague incident with someone close to them gets them millions of dollars (I’m looking at you, literally every boy band in existence). We live with mass consumption of sexual trauma, thus the title of the song.

However, going into this album, there is so much more than a breakup happening to Annie. One should look no further than the song we hear before the title song:

Pills to wake

Pills to sleep

Pills, pills, pills, every day of the week

Pills to rock

Pills to think

Pills, pills, pills, for the family

When first listening to “Pills,” you hear a cascade of bottles falling down and she goes on to to sing about how, for a year, she was going to “dealers” and “stealers” to bring her mind to “zen.” The hook of the song chillingly sounds like a light chant, or even an anthem, that one would sing to themselves in suspended belief that what they’re doing is helping them cope. I find myself feeling a little guilty even saying that I haven’t gotten the opening line out of my head.

There’s also a somewhat obvious West/East coast comparison in this album. In “Los Ageless,” the LA scene seems to Annie seems pretentious and annoying, and the synths express that very well. She doesn’t like these changes she has to make as a female artist–further expressed in “Savior” – but she understands why the city is important to her and her career despite making her insane.

In Los Ageless, the waves they never break

They build and build until you don’t have no escape

But how can I leave?

I just follow my hood to the sea, go to sleep

How can anybody have you?

How can anybody have you or lose you?

How can anybody have you or lose you

And not lose their minds, too?

 

Whereas across the coast “New York” is framed as a sad ballad, explaining that the city isn’t that same without this person in her life. This is one of the best songs of the album. It’s so simple but so much subtleness  in the melody that brings out how broken she is but still how much she loves this person

New York isn’t New York

Without you, love

So far in a few blocks

To be so low

And if I call you from First Avenue

Where you’re the only motherfucker in the city

Who can handle me?

Songs like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” and “Sugarboy” have hinted at the person this album is talking about but that’s not the point. For whatever Annie had to get over, the album provides stages of grief for her, beginning with “Hang On Me” acting as denial, “Los Ageless” providing anger, “Fear the Future” as bargaining, and “Smoking Section” as a deep depression for the final, and most powerful song in the album. She talks about suicide and thinks about the revenge she could get with it. She simply sings, in a husky, broken-down voice, “let it happen” but realizes that “it’s not the end.” It is the perfect song to allow Annie to begin anew.

(Side note: “Young Lover” is an excellent song on its own and I highly recommend a listen to this as well as the rest of the tracks listed).

What did you think? What’s your favorite track from MASSEDUCTION? Let us know in the comments below!