The chameleonic singer-songwriter, 38, returns with Daddy's Home, an adventurous new effort inspired by her father's prison time.

By Leah Greenblatt
May 07, 2021 at 02:00 PM EDT
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St. Vincent
Credit: Zackery Michael

Whatever your pre-breakfast game face, just know that Annie Clark's is better. Nestled at home in New York with her toast and cappuccino, the musician best known as St. Vincent somehow manages to make a cotton kimono, dark glasses, and oversize eyeshade shoved carelessly over her brow look almost impossibly chic: half indie-rock Auntie Mame, half Hitchcock heroine off-duty.

But would you expect any less from the artist whose mood boards for previous album cycles include pilled-out housewife (Strange Mercy), near-future cult leader (St. Vincent), and "dominatrix at a mental institution" (Masseduction), and who appeared on Saturday Night Live last month in a louche swirl of 1970s sin and silky polyesters? (The Me Decade hedonism is real; the kicky blonde bob is a wig.)

Transformation is pretty much Clark's game, though talk of her aesthetics tends to obscure what a meticulous musician she is: a cut-glass songwriter and instrumentalist — she's had her own signature guitar line since 2016 — who regularly outshreds her male peers. In 2014, her self-titled fourth album made her only the second woman after Sinead O'Connor to take home a Best Alternative Album Grammy in nearly a quarter of a century; Masseduction, her sleek 2017 opus, earned her another trophy for its title track, though it was her hummingly erotic performance of that song at the ceremony alongside a serpentine, touching-you-touching-me Dua Lipa that sent the internet alight.  

The Dua moment was just theater, a canny play on audiences' expectations whenever two beautiful unrelated women happen to appear together onstage. But Clark is nothing if not battle-tested in those tricky dynamics, having already become involuntary headline fodder thanks to high-profile romances with Cara Delevingne and Kristen Stewart — relationships that flipped her overnight from alt darling and accomplished artist in her own right to hot-click catnip for the Daily Mail crowd.

Daddy's Home, the Dallas native's new seventh studio album (out May 14), is in a way a response to all that extracurricular noise: specifically the story of her father, who in 2010 went to jail for his role in a stock-manipulation scheme. "Pops was in the clink for 10 years, and he's out," she says. "I don't mention it for sympathy or trauma points or anything like that. It's just that the story was told without me in a tabloid-y way, and then it kind of seeped into my narrative. I was like, 'Oh, this is awkward. I don't want to really talk about this.'"

Until she realized she could steer that narrative herself. The result, produced with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff (he of the legendary Lorde and Taylor Swift whispering), addresses her personal history both directly and obliquely in a richly textured album that swings from fat-bottomed disco funk to a dreamy Pink Floyd haze — its glittery assemblage of Bowie-esque character sketches dotted with knowing references to menthol mouths, benzo beauty queens, and "sign[ing] autographs in the visitors' room."

"I like the Bruce Springsteen quote that's something like 'Rock and roll is basically just people screaming, 'Daddy, why?'" She laughs, drawing out the last word. "That's not not true…. But, also it was like, 'Okay, well, the tables have turned, and I'm the daddy now.'" Accordingly, her latest steers away from the glossy machine dreams of Masseduction toward something stylistically deeper and more analog, foregrounding the lyrics of surreal, prettily filigreed story-songs like "The Melting of the Sun" and "My Baby Wants a Baby."

Now, after a lockdown spent reading Russian literature for fun (just a little light Dostoevsky), indulging her inner handyman ("Did some cabinets. Did some painting. Had a plumbing experience."), and staying in touch with famous-person friends like Fiona Apple and Paul McCartney (no, really; she and Apple text sometimes) the singer is ready to put this Daddy on the road. "I wish I was on tour this exact moment," she says wistfully. "Give me a hangover and a Qantas airline lounge. Put me in, coach."

To read more from EW's 2021 Pride Issue, order the June issue of Entertainment Weekly — with covers featuring Lil Nas XMj RodriguezBowen Yang, and Lena Waithe — or find it on newsstands beginning May 14. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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