I was googling around for St. Vincent performance videos last night and came across this one, and it’s gotten under my skin.
At first I wondered why she’d bother with a cover of this morose little tune, written by Jackson Browne, apparently at the tender age of sixteen, and first performed, oddly but endearingly, by Nico.
Scrolling down the YouTube listings, I shuddered in fear at the thought the song had been covered by Bon Jovi and the egregious Rascal Flatts, but THANK GOD, those are different songs.
“Please don’t confront me with my failures. I have not forgotten them.” That’s a little hard on yourself at sixteen, Mr. Browne, but typical of adolescent self-laceration at its best. Maybe it could only have been written by a sixteen-year-old. Not far from the Replacements’ “Sixteen Blue,” and—surprise!— Paul Westerberg has also covered this song.
Anyway, Annie Clark’s version blows them all away.
I don’t know for sure if she’s really feeling it, or just selling it really well (that is her secret, as it should be), but when her voice starts cracking and her eyes welling up, she’s exposing some pretty raw nerves. And then that steely thousand-yard stare. She’s got a magnetism that is at once alluring and kind of scary.
Ms. Clark’s appeal was always apparent. She had the gorgeous voice, the sophisticated compositions, the bona fide guitar chops— but there was always something a little off-putting about her. My initial resistance had to do with what I saw as her formalist, ironic affect, more music conservatory than rock ‘n’ roll. But her charms have continued to grow on me, as I think I’m beginning to see the wicked wit in her sensibility. Now I’ve swung ever so gradually into the zealot camp, to the point where I’m wondering when Karl Lagerfeld will claim her as his latest muse…..
Mr. Wikipedia has the whole history of “These Days,” which is fairly fascinating, actually.