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4 Weeks, 4 Albums: Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

Never have I appreciated the relationship between teacher and student more than when I sat down for a piano lesson. My teacher, Nick probably realized I had an interest in all things eccentric after plunking out multiple Lady Gaga songs on the piano. He had decided to show me “Cheerleader” by St. Vincent. Originally, I had dismissed it. “It is TOO weird,” I think I said. I don’t know what I was thinking. Who gave me the right to dislike something for being “TOO weird”?

Quickly, I realized that I couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to the soft and hypnotic sound of St. Vincent’s voice coupled with the disgusting guitar. I think I came into the lesson the following week apologizing to my piano teacher and telling him I couldn’t stop listening. And if I didn’t, I’m taking this opportunity to say I’M SORRY NICK. 

Strange Mercy has a place in my heart for multiple reasons. I remember the exact moment when I was introduced to it. I know every word even on the songs I’m not in love with. And even after a decade of listening to it, I can interpret it in different ways. Also it’s weird. It’s TOO weird -too smart and -too relatable. 

Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

Introducing the album is “Chloe in the Afternoon”, a song about really kinky sex. Vincent jumps from soft, high vocals to the growling strum of a guitar. It’s empowering -it’s confident -and it introduces us to the world of St. Vincent. In the following songs “Cruel” and “Cheerleader”, St. Vincent points the finger at the ways society likes to put women in boxes. Vincent dismisses the stereotypes of making women the caretaker and supporter of man. So far, St. Vinny reeks of confidence and feminism. 

But the perspective of these songs are questioned in the fourth track “Surgeon”. In reference to a Marilyn Monroe quote, St. Vincent asks the listener to “come cut me open, best finest surgeon”. Whether it be sexually or emotionally, St. Vincent asks the listener to pay attention. She details days of overwhelming anxiety and depression. St. Vincent’s facade is taken down and the rest of the album focuses on her disconnection and depression. 

The title track, “Strange Mercy” describes believing any positive lies to distract yourself from a stressful situation. St. Vincent clings to a fantasy in order to grieve. In “Dilettante”, St. Vincent is trying to keep up with a lover, but there is a disconnect. The lover fails to acknowledge St. Vincent, leaving the singer limping behind. 

The album closes with “Year of the Tiger”, in which St. Vincent reflects upon her confidence in the beginning of the album. Vincent mocks The American Dream; the drive to be successful and on the move has left her burnt out. The singer is lost in her own anxieties and absent from the world. Pairing Vincent’s soft vocals into this aggressive instrumental atmosphere shows just how disconnected the singer is to her environment. After the first three songs, the tone shift with a snap. This could reflect how mental health can affect you in an instant -then your left dealing with the pain in 7 songs or more. 

The emotional turmoil of St. Vincent in the process of making this album was given mercy in the form of critical acclaim. This momentum would later continue in her fourth and fifth albums; accumulating anticipation for her soon-to-be-released, Daddy’s Home. 

I’ve been stalking St. Vincent since 2011 and I’m still just as excited to see what’s to come from her. She has expanded my music tastes and introduced me to artists I couldn’t imagine living without. Even after all of these years, she continues to remind me that nothing can ever be too weird and every song is worth listening to twice.

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