This Philly-Powered Video For St. Vincent’s “New York” Is An Accidentally Perfect Commentary On NYC’s Current Bankruptcy Of Vibe

BY JOEY SWEENEY

What does New York City mean today? Who is it for? We think of this often — encountering current denizens whose grasp on the city seems as tenuous as a grade-school crush, in our own wanderings where we know that what we seek there (and increasingly, here in Philly, too) can no longer be found — but it was almost all we could think about when taking in “New York,” the new song and video by St. Vincent.

“New York” may be St. Vincent’s best video and worst song. The video, directed by the compelling, medium-pushing visual artist and Philly native Alex Da Corte and filmed by Philly’s All Ages Productions, provides Da Corte with a compelling palate of scenes that, over and again, illustrates his signature look: bold colors, geometric shapes, the teasing out of the human form across abstraction. There’s so much to look at here. (Same goes for his website, which I’ve had up on my browser for four days now, chipping away at it like a pint of expensive ice cream.)

But listen closely to the song, and it feels at once both aspirational to the point of being a brand piece and out-of-touch to the point of cringing. In this New Yorker profile that might have been more a of study of Annie Clark’s lifestyle and the ways in which she’s shifting her “brand,” you get a real window into how the actual songs might be secondary to what’s going on with St. Vincent right now. All of that is what it is: This writer has no sentimental stake in, or moral judgement about, St. Vincent going for a Top 40 grab. But what feels problematic is the cheapness of the song itself — Clark fills her hook with that kind of new-to-cities bravado that seems like it wants to be lip-synched straight into someone awful’s Snapchat: “You’re the only motherfucker in this city who can handle me,” goes the refrain.

All of this, to me, begs the question: Just what kind of motherfuckers are left in this city to handle you? In the song, we are placed variously on 8th Avenue and Astor Place, in an East Village locale now so foreign to any type of authenticity that yes, indeed, we see where potential handlers might be in short supply. But the affect of the song doesn’t give us that; it instead gives us a kind of banality masquerading as bravura. It’s the bad pandering of Lady Gaga; it’s a knock-off of a CBGB shirt at a Newark souvenir stand. It makes us feel like the song’s imaginational space is not actually the “New York” that Clark is trying hard to pin down but maybe more like the one in Broad City or Master of None that’s simply a movie-based stand-in for some non-reality based version of “New York.” The fantasy, in this case, is almost as unappetizing as the reality, because in this case, they’re pretty close to one another. And ultimately it’s easy to see why, in the end, they had to go to Philly to conjure some kind of vibe for it.

Summer Of 2017, May You Live On In The Body, Mind & Spirit Of This Hippie/Beagle-Powered Bicycle

We have returned from vacation with the types of regrets that generally accompany all summers: We didn’t go swimming enough. We could have grilled more. And while we cherished those moments of Peak Summer, where at one point we simply could not recall the last time we’d put on pants, we could have and should have endeavored to make more of them. But we were thankful for what we had. And still even more thankful, optimistic, that further opportunities lie ahead.

Even so, scrolling across our Facebook feeds the other day, the sight of this man, cruising through the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, made us ache for what we are losing in this very moment. A pre­-nostalgia, if you will. For here he is, cruising on a mountain bike, allowing his beloved beagle to steer, it would seem. He is shirtless, and protected by earbuds and helmet alike. Upon interview with the photographer, we learned that he was also singing out loud the music of the Doors. And by every indication, he is free. Let us say that word again: Free.

He is every opportunity we missed this summer.

Now, the phrase “living your best life” is tossed around these days with a frequency that threatens it with impending cliché, while photographic evidence of the act is often missed or misattributed. But people, that is what this is. It is the only thing that this can be a representation of. And so as we move into a busier season — likely a meaner season, if such a thing can be imagined — we are looking at this photo. We’re looking at it hard. We’re looking, we’re learning, and sadly, we’re saying goodbye. Not forever, though. Just for now.

WATCH: Incredibly Ornate & Delightful Artist "Peep Show" Teeny Tiny House

Philly-based artist Serena Perrone works in a variety of mediums, and her piece "Fata Morgana/Mondo Nuovo" synthesizes a bunch of them all at once: Scultpture, printmaking, installation, probably others. It does so, meanwhile, in a way that's totally captivating in its DuChamp-ian, colorful micro-ness. "Fata Morgana/Mondo Nuovo is a peepshow," she says, "that presents an ambivalent narrative mythologizing the small Sicilian hill-top town of my family’s origin, employing many pre-cinematic themes and conventions to reveal a complex setting that is at once enchanting, idyllic and abysmal. True to any place, the more time spent looking, the more the curtain is drawn back to reveal hidden narratives." It's currently on view as a part of Perrone's contribution to The Print Center's 91st Annual International Competition Solo Exhibitions (through August 5, hurry!).

Listen: The Fairmount Park Twilight Music Festival Playlist

This summer, The Twilight Music Festival will populate eight Sunday evenings, deep in the heart of Fairmount Park, where MLK Jr. Drive meets the Dragon Boat Dock. And across these eight concerts from Philly-connected artists, each one promises to be its own kind of special; in fact, the series is so well-curated that we discovered it also works fantastically as its own playlist.  Curated by Greg Mungan of Johnny Brenda’s, Twilight Music Festival proceeds benefit Philly parks. “[The series] takes advantage of a gorgeous, green, public space along the Schuykill River,” he told us. “I aimed for an eclectic roster of Philly bands that reflects the rich musical diversity of the city and its residents.” And boy did he deliver. Over the run of Twilight, you’ll have the chance to check out Taylor McFerrin, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Sun Ra Arkestra, Worldtown Soundsystem, Bardo Pond, Grandchildren, Steve Gunn (solo) and The Dove & the Wolf. Each concert is free, and the result of a collaboration between Philly Parks & Rec, Fairmount Park Conservancy and FCM Hospitality. And, as you can hear above, each is its own recipe for a pretty magnificent Sunday night.