I have a playlist in iTunes that's completely made up of songs where a female musician does not mention being attracted to someone, or someone that they used to be attracted to. If that sounds like a constraint that's ridiculously broad, pull up your 20 most played songs by female artists. If you're like me, not one of them meets the no-attraction criteria.
The no-romance playlist doesn't have an agenda. I made it because the songs where women don't sing about romance are usually songs about making lots of money or working hard (they are also generally hip-hop or country songs, which I think is interesting), making it a great motivational playlist. I like a love song, a break-up song, or a sexy club banger as much as the next person. None of my top 20 most played songs meet the no-attraction criteria. It's just nice to have a break sometimes.
's Annie Clark has been making albums with songs that pass the no-attraction test for a decade. This might be because the focus of her music is generally on making melodies sound fresh, making guitars sound un-guitarish, and making the spaces her songs create amorphous and a little sinister. Which isn't to say Clark isn't a great lyricist - but her clever lyrics tend towards the poetic, the metaphorical, or the minutely personal.
There have been a few songs that mention relationships, most of them tense, over the years, but as St. Vincent sang in "Cheerleader" from her album Strange Mercy
, "I don't know what good it serves / Pouring my purse in the dirt" (ironically, a song that sounded very much like a new take on a breakup anthem when it came out). Clark has never been one to bare her soul in her songs. And even on her new album, Masseduction
, the songs that finally seem to be about her relationships are cryptic rather than confessional.
There are allusions of personal relationships throughout the rest of Masseduction
, in songs like "Hang on Me", "New York", "Young Lover", "Los Ageless", "Slow Disco", pretty much all of them. Of these, the least mention of a relationship is in "Young Lover", where Clark appears to be trying to reason with the addict she loves.
And while this does seem to be the most relatable album that St. Vincent has ever made, it's not just because Clark is singing more explicitly about love and heartbreak. Songs like "Fear The Future" and "Smoking Section" can easily be interpreted about anxiety, about feeling lost, lonely and powerless. "Pills" is explicitly about medicating to disastrous results. "Los Ageless" and "Masseduction" aside, there's less social commentary than there was on her self-titled 2014 album and a lot more self-awareness.