“St. Vincent has high hopes for you,” barked a platinum blonde receptionist, clad in a bright pink spandex bodysuit and white pumps, as she greeted me and a group of other baffled twenty-somethings at the entrance to the singer’s private Oct. 4 “escape room”-themed event with Spotify in New York City. High hopes for what, we weren’t sure — but we were about to find out.
The event, part of Spotify’s Fans First program, invited the lauded singer/writer/instrumentalist’s most devoted listeners on the streaming platform to a warehouse close to Times Square, with the promise of a sneak peek at St. Vincent’s upcoming Masseduction (out Oct. 13) — and a chance to meet the star born Annie Clark herself. But first, we’d have to join forces with strangers to solve six puzzles inside the dystopian-themed warehouse, each completed challenge unlocking an iPod loaded with one unreleased Masseduction track.
Sound bizarre? Sure — but that’s St. Vincent. The 35-year-old is known for performance art that pushes boundaries, like taking the stage at New York City’s Poisson Rouge last year clad in a purple toilet costume, or holding a purposely awkward, sarcastic press conference to announce Masseduction back in September.
But the artist is known just as much for her serious reflections on the digital age, social media and the very concept of celebrity as she is for her brilliant sense of humor. In one “room,” we scrambled to fill fake prescription bottles with doses of “libido,” “sadness” and “anxiety” before listening to “Pills;” in another, we blushed while blindly identifying various sex toys, a task that unlocked the album’s title track.
As the singer explained on a personal note addressed to each escape-room attendee, “rewards await those who prove themselves worthy,” and all this would be “worth it” in the end. It was. Below, check out the most interesting new details we learned about Clark through the event, which concluded in an hour-long, revealing Q&A with the star.
She’d love to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar.
Clark admitted to fans that she hasn’t exactly been in the-new music loop lately, instead focusing all her energy on completing her own Masseduction. But there is one artist she’s been obsessing over: Kendrick Lamar. “I mean, it’s kind of obvious, but Kendrick Lamar,” said Clark, responding to a fan who asked for her dream collaboration. “He’s great. Everyone loves him, I know. But he is that great.”
She wants to direct more films — but you’ll probably never see her act again.
Clark has dipped her toes in film before, directing the recent all-female horror anthology XX and now working on a female-led, modern retelling of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. And while the singer added at the Spotify Q&A that she’s working on writing and directing a new film “based on a true story,” she has little interest in appearing on the big screen herself. “I don’t mind the performance aspect of it, because that’s kind of interesting, but I really don’t like the lack of control,” she explained. “I want to direct stuff, because you have control.”
Her self-titled 2015 album was hugely inspired by writer Lorrie Moore.
Clark praised Birds of America short-story author Lorrie Moore as one of her largest non-musical influences, adding that she drew inspiration from Moore classics like “People Like That Are the Only People Here” for her acclaimed St. Vincent. “I ripped [Moore] off so much on the last album, I am surprised she didn’t, like…” Clark admitted, her voice trailing off into the audience’s laughter. Clark also noted prolific French-American sculpture artist Louise Bourgeois as an inspiration.
She wrote Marry Me track “Paris Is Burning” about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The melancholy, haunting “Paris Is Burning,” a standout track from St. Vincent’s debut album, has long stumped listeners. Thankfully, St. Vincent finally offered fans an explanation for the track’s cryptic lyrics last night: “That song for me was a protest song about the treatment of poor people and people of color at the time of Hurricane Katrina,” she revealed. “It’s not anything I’ve maybe ever said, but that’s what I was thinking about.”
She’s bent on changing the conversation around queerness.
“I’m really interested in queerness being a bigger umbrella,” Clark explained when asked about how her work relates to sexuality. “To me, it’s not just about sexuality, necessarily. It’s about reconfiguring society, and reinventing the kind of typical archetypes that we walk in and how we organize community.”
“It’s really important — and the most important thing right now — to have people in the multitude of voices telling their own stories,” she continued. “I think that increases empathy, and empathy increases the well-being of the planet.”
She really, really likes escape rooms.
It was St. Vincent who brought the “escape room” concept for the event to Spotify, and the singer was noticeably shocked when most attendees admitted they’d never taken part in a similar game before. “You get to use logic and team-building skills to solve problems together in social ways. What’s not to love?” she joked. “It’s really nerdy, I just really like escape rooms. We wanted to do something that was special.”