Tabloids wouldn’t be tabloids if they didn’t reach; when the baleful eye of the Daily Mail fell on Annie Clark in 2016, the newspaper, in an attempt to explain the indie artist who records as St. Vincent to a more general audience, introduced her as a “female David Bowie.” In true tabloid fashion, the description of Clark, a Dallas-raised and New York–trained musician, wasn’t quite accurate. Last we checked, David Bowie’s female counterpart was David Bowie. But then again, as Bowie knew, fame has a twisted, self-fulfilling logic. Present falsehoods can become tomorrow’s truths, and the description of Clark as a pop star had a certain prophetic quality. Clark has always been extraordinarily meticulous with her self-presentation, and though the intensity of the press’s attention may have caught her by surprise, it seems highly unlikely that she didn’t choose to invite it. No one makes their romance with Cara Delevingne public without expecting to enter the spotlight; when the liaison dissolved, Clark rebounded not by retreating into obscurity but by canoodling with Kristen Stewart.
She’s been ready for her close-up for some time. Following up on a triumphant self-titled album in 2014, St. Vincent’s incoming Masseduction is, as all indications from the title on down suggest, focused on the nuances and implications of tremendous public exposure. The album’s two lead singles are situated where the masses gather most. “New York” and “Los Ageless” share much besides the big city: Jack Antonoff’s purported pop wizardry, talk of romantic longing that verges on the crazed, and, as today’s release of the video for “Los Ageless” proves, a parallel visual aesthetic. Bright, crisply delineated zones of color prevail, and at the center of each one stands, or sits, Clark herself, sporting an impressive variety of perfectly coordinated outfits and coiffures.
If there’s a difference between the two videos, it’s likely related to the difference between the two great cities. New York is weighed down by a certain inextinguishable physicality; likewise the visuals of “New York” evoke real locations (First Avenue corner florist, Eighth Avenue apartment, the cube at Astor Place). Los Angeles, though, being essentially out of time and being, gets the imagistic treatment it deserves: Clark’s shot in a spiffy cosmetic surgery clinic, watching television, posed as a plastic doll, perusing trays of writhing food, in a beauty salon, at some kind of Pilates-esque session. It’s not about who she is or when she’s living, but her ability to realize a fantasy; an intriguing tension emerges between presentations of simulacra and the professions of love so intense it can’t not be true: “How can anyone have you and lose you and not lose their minds too?”