Tone Deaf: What Does the Program Director Listen to?

by Jade Watts


(Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

After much anticipation, St Vincent released her newest feat, Masseduction, and it’s a home run. With every new piece of work she issues, St Vincent’s sound becomes increasingly more experimental and obscure while retaining marketability and musical excellence. Masseduction is a metaphorical break up album with her dysfunctional lover- fame.

Fame is a tricky beast to become entangled with because those involved never know who’s genuinely in control. In her song “Masseduction,” St Vincent paints the listener a picture of just how this happens. A particular line in the song, “Teenage, Christian virgins/Holdin’ out their tongues,” highlights this point tastefully.The implication is that a teenage Christian virgin would be astutely in control of their desires and impulses, yet here they are holding out their tongues for what one can only assume is drugs or ejaculate. If these young virgins were truly in control of their appetite, why would they model this behavior?

St Vincent is to the virgins as fame is to the unchristian like behavior–fame makes you think you’re in control of your actions when you sincerely aren’t. This would explain why everyone wants it except those who have it and why St Vincent is giving the listener a peek under the cloak of fame’s seduction to reveals an uglier truth. Fame leaves one aroused from all its gifts, to the point where those who succumb to it’s call realizes “[they] can’t turn off what turns [them] on.”

St Vincent was infatuated with fame, until the force of her break up with actress and model Cara Delevingne rattled her back into reality. Fame was the means behind their estrangement, as they had no time to continue their intimate relationship because of their hectic schedules, and it devastated the two who were still very much in love. Outraged and heartbroken, St Vincent lashes out a against the obsession of eternal youth and the idea fame is only for the young with song “Los Ageless.”

It’s clear in this explosive vibrant tune that youth is not all it’s cracked up to be. The imagery of St Vincent constantly trying to outrun her problems and age, and the lyrics “How can anybody have you and lose you/And not lose their minds too?” show just how toxic a relationship most have with their age.

Similarly, St Vincent describes how fame is seen as something that only the young and beautiful can process. With line “the last sages hang out by the bar/burning pages of unwritten memoirs,” she exposes to the listener that those who are older no longer have any sway or notability in modern popular culture. Paralleled with her feeling her intense heartbreak over her lost love, St Vincent also expresses the overwhelming sensation of “waves [that] never break” and being held to a higher standard than most because of the all exposing spotlight fame throws on her.

St Vincent endures reckless depersonalization as fame polarises her for the consumer. In her song “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” St Vincent serenades a troubled family member who seems to be struggling with a drug use problem, Johnny, and tells the story of their last few interactions. In the last verse, he is asking St Vincent for money which she is hesitant to give him.

Johnny then accuses St Vincent of feeling superior to him because of her fame, as well as faking kindness and charity in front of the public, “accuse[s] [her] of acting like all royalty.” She ends the song by wishing him well and “hopes [he] finds peace” after he is released from a correctional facility. In the following song “Savoir,” St Vincent is asked, more erotically, to keep a lover in line and to save them. This follows the trend of being seen as greater or more human than others. When she tells her love “[she] can’t be [their] savior,” they beg and plead so she’ll keep up the act.

All this tension between the high standards set for her, her ruined relationship of her great love, and the constant watch of fame, overwhelms St Vincent. These stressors and the responsibilities she has to the public takes a toll on her mental and emotional health. In her upbeat high production quality song “Pills,” St. Vincent comments on the opioid epidemic as well as the misuse of substances to achieve mental, emotional, and physical well being. Instead of demonizing those who use opioids recreationally or habitually, St Vincent makes a more personal case about opioid misuse and exposes it using almost satirical scenarios.

This heartbroken grammy award winner was sprung into the public eye with help from her notable relationship with actress and model Cara Delevingne, but since their relationship came to a halt, cynical fans of St Vincent’s music have been waiting for the breakup album. She’s delivered. But instead of demonizing the hectic romance she shared with Delevinge, St Vincent demonizes the root of their problems–fame. After the high of seduction, all that fame has caused her is grief and depersonalization, and what better way to get back at it than by exposing it.

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