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The Meaning Behind The Song: New York by St. Vincent

The Meaning Behind The Song: New York by St. Vincent

Introduction

“New York” is a song by American musician St. Vincent, released in 2017. The song is a tribute to the city where the artist lived for nine years and was written shortly after she moved away. The lyrics are a reflection on the bittersweet experience of leaving a place you love but which has also left its mark on you.

Lyrics Analysis

The lyrics of “New York” are simple and straightforward, yet they convey a depth of emotion that is typical of St. Vincent’s music. The song opens with the line “New York isn’t New York without you, love”, which sets the tone for the rest of the track. The repeated phrase “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me” adds a sense of intensity to the song, while the chorus “I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend, but for you, darling, I’d do it all again” is both melancholic and hopeful.

The song’s second verse takes a more introspective turn. St. Vincent reflects on the experience of living in New York and how it has shaped her as a person: “The last days of the century, I walked through halls of an aging tenement, and fell in love with the aching in my chest”. The reference to the “last days of the century” is a nod to the Y2K fears that were prevalent at the time.

The chorus repeats twice more, with St. Vincent adding a spoken-word interlude in the second chorus. The final lines of the song (“You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me / … / Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”) are a reference to the Lana Del Rey song “Young and Beautiful” and serve as a commentary on the fleeting nature of youth and beauty.

Music Analysis

Musically, “New York” is relatively simple, with a slow tempo and minimal instrumentation. The song is built around a repeating piano motif, which serves as the backbone of the track. A simple drumbeat enters in the second verse, along with some subtle synths and guitar. The song’s climax comes in the final chorus, with an explosion of synths and distorted guitar.

One notable feature of “New York” is St. Vincent’s use of her voice. She sings the verses in a low, breathy register, before soaring into her upper range for the chorus. The spoken-word interlude is delivered in a robotic, almost monotone voice, which adds a layer of detachment to the song.

Influences and Reception

“New York” has been praised as one of St. Vincent’s best songs and has gained a cult following since its release. The song has been compared to other New York-themed tracks, such as Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and LCD Soundsystem’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”. St. Vincent has cited Reed as an influence on her music, and the two artists performed together several times before his death in 2013.

The song’s music video, directed by Alex Da Corte, features St. Vincent wandering through a surreal version of New York City, dressed in a variety of outlandish costumes. The video has been praised for its visual style and its reflection of the song’s themes.

FAQs

1. What inspired St. Vincent to write “New York”?

St. Vincent wrote “New York” shortly after moving away from the city where she had lived for nine years. The song is a reflection on her time in New York and the bittersweet experience of leaving a place you love but which has also left its mark on you.

2. What is the meaning behind the line “New York isn’t New York without you, love”?

The line reflects St. Vincent’s sense of loss after leaving New York and the idea that the city is not the same without the person she is addressing in the song.

3. What is the significance of the line “I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend”?

The line is a reference to the death of David Bowie, who was a close friend and mentor of St. Vincent’s. The song was written shortly after Bowie’s death and serves as a tribute to the late musician.

4. What is the significance of the spoken-word interlude in the second chorus?

The spoken-word section adds a layer of detachment to the song and serves as a commentary on the fleeting nature of youth and beauty. It also serves to break up the repetition of the chorus and add some variation to the song’s structure.

5. What is the significance of the reference to Y2K in the second verse?

The reference to the Y2K fears that were prevalent at the time serves to date the song and place it in a specific time period. It also adds a sense of nostalgia to the lyrics and reflects on the passing of time.

6. What other artists have been influenced by New York City in their music?

Many artists have written songs about New York City, including Lou Reed, LCD Soundsystem, and Jay-Z. The city is a cultural icon and has served as a muse for countless artists throughout history.

7. What is the significance of St. Vincent’s use of her voice in “New York”?

St. Vincent’s use of her voice reflects the song’s emotional journey, with her low, breathy delivery in the verses building to a soaring climax in the chorus. The spoken-word section adds a layer of detachment to the song and contrasts with the more emotional singing in the rest of the track.

8. What is the significance of the music video for “New York”?

The music video, directed by Alex Da Corte, features St. Vincent dressed in a variety of outlandish costumes wandering through a surreal version of New York City. The video reflects the song’s themes of loss and nostalgia, with the visuals adding another layer of meaning to the lyrics.

9. How has “New York” been received by fans and critics?

“New York” has been praised as one of St. Vincent’s best songs and has gained a cult following since its release. The song has been compared to other New York-themed tracks and has been praised for its emotional depth and simple instrumentation.

10. How has St. Vincent’s music evolved over time?

St. Vincent’s music has evolved over time, with each album showcasing a new side to her artistry. Her early albums featured more traditional singer-songwriter fare, while her later albums have incorporated elements of electronic music and avant-garde experimentation.

11. What other songs should I listen to if I like “New York”?

If you like “New York”, you may also enjoy other St. Vincent tracks such as “Los Ageless”, “Digital Witness”, and “Cruel”. You may also enjoy other New York-themed songs such as “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.

12. What is the main takeaway from “New York”?

The main takeaway from “New York” is the bittersweet experience of leaving a place you love but which has also left its mark on you. The song reflects on the passing of time and the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, while also offering a sense of hope for the future.

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