St. Vincent's "New York" may not be "Despacito," but it's a strong contender for song of the summer status with the indie rock set. Uniquely among indie hits however, it's attracted the attention of some corners of the tabloid and fashion press thanks to St. Vincent's (AKA Annie Clark) past relationships with Cara Delevingne and Kristen Stewart. On first listen, the song could certainly pass as a breakup song.
"New York isn't New York without you love," goes one memorable line. "I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend," goes another. Some have deconstructed the lyrics hoping that they might provide clues to Clark's oft-photographed but little discussed public relationships.
Well, Clark recently went on the "Song Exploder" podcast for an in depth discussion about the catchy single's creation and inspiration—and perhaps to clear up any lingering tabloid rumors. As it turns out, the song isn't so much about any one relationship and its dissolution, but rather more about text messages Clark sent her friends, the death of David Bowie and Prince, and the fact that she just likes living in New York.
"The original genesis of this song was I was back in New York and I had texted a friend of mine who had moved away, 'New York isn't New York without you,'" she recalled. "And I was like 'Oh, hmmm, maybe I'll squirrel that away.'"
She also explains that the "I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend,” was more inspired by the death of musical icons during 2016. It was also, notably, originally written from another song and lifted into this one to complete the verses.
"It’s very silly to make something like David Bowie’s death about me—it has nothing to do with me—but I will say that I was really affected. And I cried. I cried for somebody I didn’t even know. And I don’t know that I’ve done that before.”
Lines like "You're the only motherf---er in the city who can handle me" came about, because, well, Clark just really likes to swear and finds it to be a sign of intimacy. "‘Motherf---er’ says, like, I know you inside and out," she said. "And you know me. Don’t pretend.”
She does, however, seem to address being single, at least, in one explanation, explaining that the lyric, "So far in a few blocks to be so low." The confusion of "solo" with "so low" is an intentional pun, but she does explain that it grew out of the originally written lyric, "I've come so far in these few blocks." The original idea being that she's grown so much since living in the few blocks of her New York City neighborhood. Whatever the case, it's one line among many, all of which seem to have disparate points of inspiration.
For whatever its inspiration may be, Clark is quite pleased with the results.
“It’s the first song I’ve written that I thought, ‘This might be someone’s favorite song.’ I’ve never had that experience before," she said.
It certainly already is a lot of people's favorite song of the year, and maybe the only complaint one could make about is that at only two-and-a-half minutes long, a listener has to hit play at least twice in a row to feel satisfied.
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