by Preston Radtke
St. Vincent is back! Such was a thrilling sentiment for many an indie and chamber pop junkie on the morning of June 30, 2017. This sweeping euphoria stemmed from “New York”, St. Vincent’s first single off of her upcoming album rumored to be out in late summer or fall. In interviews Annie Clark – the woman behind St. Vincent – promised a rather noticeable style change on the new record, and those changes are starkly apparent on “New York.” It is still very St. Vincent, but there are in fact certain colors present with which Ms. Clark has never before painted.
St. Vincent deserves praise for the content and meaning of this song. True, it is an oft overdone subject—losing a loved one and waxing nostalgic—but few modern pop or indie tracks today feature quite as much emotion as Clark infuses into this track. Strains, inflections, and vocal tempo all mold perfectly to paint the picture of a near Miss Havisham persona. Clark beautifully paints the picture of their former relationship, and what her life will now be. She mentions old haunts in which they used to spook, her desire to change in a more drastic manner to save herself, and she even bemoans the loss of a close somebody who appeared to be the final remnant of a fragmented and separated friend group.
Stylistically though, this track kind of disappoints. Frankly, the delivery and structure work fine, except for the chorus and song length. The song’s build is very vintage St. Vincent, and very well executed. Unfortunately though, the chorus lacks dynamics and screams pop music. This radio-friendly chorus consists of the repeated lines “I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend.” This phrase, draped in hypnotic repetition, is sung so plainly as to almost be boring. The rest of the song is seriously beautiful: Clark’s voice, the piano, the content. But the chorus really drags it down. Clark could have harmonized or inflected a bit differently for each chorus. It’s apparent that the emotion is supposed to carry this song, and in most ways it does, but the heartstrings being pulled can only distract for so long.
The song is also oddly short. At around two-and-a-half minutes it is in fact on the quicker side of St. Vincent’s catalog, but it is also the structure of the song that makes it feel fast. The chorus takes a while to arrive, which results in a track that, bizarre as it is, doesn’t seem to have any sort of resolution or climax. There is no bridge, no grandiose progression, none of the classic climactic indicators. The song just kind of ends rather suddenly. Maybe to symbolize how suddenly this relationship ended?
The lyrics off “New York” are surprisingly predictable and cliché for someone of Clark’s creativity. Referring back to the chorus, the line “I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend” is one of the most predictable and obvious lyrical inclusions possible for a chorus. Unfortunately the lyrical subtlety and wit found on standout albums like Actor and St. Vincent don’t seem to be present on “New York.”
All images from Genius
Annie Clark infuses some quite beautiful rhymes on her latest single "New York". It is the perfect blend of effective and cunning without coming across as forced. On the whole though, the song is overly simplistic and does not offer the lyrical and structural prowess that was the trademark of her most acclaimed albums. As always though, Clark’s voice makes up for virtually all of the shortcomings on this track, lyrically or otherwise.