St. Vincent is one of the more enigmatic performers of today. Creatively restless, in just six albums she has dipped into genres ranging from art-rock to electro-pop, worked with former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and been heralded as the rightful heir to David Bowie’s throne. On Masseduction, the Grammy Award-winning artist’s sixth album, released on October 13, 2017, she returned with some 80s-inspired pop – and perhaps her best record yet.
Early single “New York” was a story of big-city romance. With a lush orchestral accompaniment, it’s a wonderfully cinematic track that shows off St. Vincent’s softer side (“But for you, darling, I’d do it all again”). Lyrically, it’s indicative of what is probably Clark’s most personal album. In 2014, David Byrne said, “Despite having toured with her for almost a year I don’t think I know her much better… mystery is not a bad thing,” and while St. Vincent still carries an otherworldly aura, Masseduction finds her more honest and open than before. In interviews leading up to this record, Clark described it as “all about sex and drugs and sadness.” This is most blatantly evident on “Pills.” “My head on the stairs, from healer to dealers and then back again,” she sings, against a background of hypnotic synths.
On a record as stylized and grandiose as the Bowie claims suggest, Masseduction’s mechanic drums and choppy synths also bear out the inevitable Kate Bush comparisons. However, with contributions from Kendrick Lamar beatmaker Sounwave and Lorde/Taylor Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff, Masseduction is also the closest St. Vincent has come to making a modern pop record. Dig a little deeper beneath the sheen, though, and you find further rewards, among them the apocalyptic “Fear The Future.”
St. Vincent brought her Fear The Future show to London on October 18, 2017. In what, at the time, was being talked about as the most divisive tour of the year, she performed with no band and just a backing track in tow – but for every disgruntled fan, many more were enthralled by her. If shows such as these did little to solve the “style over substance” debate that has raged around St. Vincent, Masseduction nevertheless emerged as a record with great depth. It may well turn out to be her statement piece.