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‘Masseduction’: confusion, satisfaction and genre fluidity

| Tuesday, October 24, 2017

masseduction webSusan Zhu

In 2014, St. Vincent released her self-titled album and I was hooked. It captivated me fully and quickly became one of my favorite albums of that year. I was attracted to St. Vincent’s potent lyrics and her top-notch musicianship. On top of that, I was intrigued by her adopted persona/aesthetic and the non-genre conforming sound. Was I listening to rock, pop, or some other genre? I did not know; I did not care. It was great.

After much anticipation and a couple of satisfying singles, St. Vincent released “Masseduction” on October 13. My little heart raced as I “stayed up” until midnight to start off my fall break on a high note by listening to the album. Despite — and maybe because of — all my hope for the album, I was not satisfied. It was not what I wanted it to be. This upset me. So naturally I explored reasons why.

I first blamed myself. Surely, I overhyped it up and it was destined to fail. I then blamed St. Vincent. Why would she make an album that leaned so far away from her previous material? Lastly, I blamed Jack Antonoff, who produced the album. He has a bit of a reputation for taking artists who sit on the border of a couple of genres and ushering them into pop. He most notably did this with Lorde’s “Melodrama” and with Taylor Swift’s “1989” and her single “Look What You Made Me Do.” So maybe he was the reason for my underwhelmed feelings for the album. I took this mentality with me as I left for break.

Upon returning from break I decided to listen to the album a couple more times before writing a seething review. Good thing I did. After listening to it again, I really liked the album. I noticed so many more pleasant tidbits that provided for an enjoyable listening experience. What had brought about this change of heart?

When I first heard the album I had just come off a rough week and was listening to the album mindlessly. After returning to campus with a refreshed mind, I listened to the album very intentionally a couple of times. Relistening to the album helped me pick up on some of St. Vincent’s influences on the album. The track “Sugarboy” was reminiscent of a Prince song with its ‘80s drum machine sound, synthesizer solo and chanty, serious-sounding background singers. “Savior” has a guitar part that sounds incredibly similar to that of David Bowie’s “Fame.” In addition to playing a role as music influences, both Prince and Bowie also serve as style and persona influences of St.Vincent. All three artists adopt new personas with bold, cutting edge fashion from album to album. Together they create a group of artists who work outside the bounds of musical genres and venture outside the realm of gender norms.

Another factor that played into my initial reaction to the album had to do with my own mindset. When I first heard the album, my life felt like it lacked cohesion and was generally disorganized. In some ways, this album reflects that. Almost all of the songs on it seem unrelated in style, theme and composition. This turned me off because it reminded me too much of my own situation. When I listen to music I like to seek out sonic vicariousness. After listening to “Masseduction” again, I began to admire the vulnerability of St. Vincent’s lyrics and her willingness to take chances in her artistry; qualities I am continually to trying to adopt for myself.

Outside of the deeper personal satisfaction that I got from the album, “Masseduction” is a hard-hitting pop album filled with masterful guitar riffs and glorious choirs of backing voices. This is St. Vincent at her most St. Vincent; finding strength in her vulnerability and identity in her confusion.

Artist: St. Vincent

Album: Masseduction

Label: Loma Vista Recordings

Favorite Track: Los Ageless

If you like: Haim, Lorde, Prince, David Bowie

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

 

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