With the release of her 2014 self-titled album, St. Vincent unveiled a curated self: surreal, colorful, and deliberate. In the video for her single, “New York,” it seems her aesthetics have carried through and refined for the new album.
Where “New York” may have seemed St. Vincent’s foray into the simpler pop song, its video fully rejects that. In a way, the video seems more revelatory than the song itself–which Annie Clark told the New Yorker is about a “composite” of people–although in glimpses: we begin with the opening and closing of animated blinds. The artsiness of that, however, is somewhat subverted just a second later, when we’re confronted with the lower half of a torso, decked in a leopard leotard and pink tights: OK, it’s a butt. And according to that New Yorker interview, it’s her friend Carlotta’s.
But initial (and occasionally repeated) butt gag aside, the rest of the video works with a much softer surrealism. In the various scenes, Clark is often positioned against a pastel background, and a slow zoom out reveals that, contrary to the bland or even soft first impression, she occupies a somewhat nonsensical or unexpected scene. The scenes in this video are deliberate segments for which we only receive so much information at time, changing our perspectives throughout. The camera makes a point to stand still, however, for the punchiest line of the song: “You’re the only motherfucker in this city who can handle me.” The stillness of the frame delivers the line directly, harshly, just as her voice does.
Of course, we retain the St. Vincent hallmarks throughout: inexplicably deliberate but soft arm movements, an even, measured facial expression. And while the burning greens (large basil? cabbage? spinach?) are nonsensical, the swan is nonsensical, the shell-shaped hand-dryer is nonsensical, there’s something about the surrealness that seems important or true, even if it means absolutely nothing at all.
St. Vincent’s next album, MASSEDUCTION is out October 13.