Music Video Relapse: "Cruel" (2011) by St. Vincent

Posted by Adam Fairholm on January 7, 2014 in Music Video Relapse

Staff Post


Yesterday, St. Vincent released a video of her standing still while the audio from her new track, "Digital Witness" plays. First of all, it's pretty clear from both the track and her new grey hairstyle that David Byrne has been a big impact on her. Also, whether or not Clark meant it to be, I found it a sort of humorous take on the really counterintuitive practice of putting audio up on YouTube.

It also got me thinking of all the great St. Vincent music videos that we have neglected to watch yet on Music Video Relapse. So today, we're watching one of my favorites - "Cruel" (2011), directed by frequent St. Vincent collaborators Terri Timely.

The video starts out with Clark in some sort of large hole, and then takes us to a convenience store, where Annie notices some people watching her as she shops. After she leaves, a bag is thrown over her head, put in a car trunk, and taken back to her captor's house.

It turns out that the people that abducted her (two children and a middle aged man) are a motherless family, and they've taken Annie so they can basically use and abuse her for family and mom stuff - cleaning, cooking, doing puzzles, that sort of thing.

It seems like Ms. Clark is not quite cut out for the work, though - her food gets a pretty poor rating and there's still dust all over the house even after she's cleaned it. The family can't abide by that and decide that burying her alive in the backyard is the best course of action (we then realize what we were looking at in the first shot is Annie in the hole they dug for her).

This video definitely gives me a Wes Anderson vibe, both in the styling and the precociousness of the two kids. Annie Clark brings a really endearing quality to it though - she never seems at all too concerned about being taken from a gas station convenience store, and seems to be generally trying her best to fit into her new role. As they're burying her, she even seems kind of disappointed in herself.

There's also a dark comedy element that few artists can pull off better than St. Vincent. The shot of Clark in the trunk playing the guitar solo is a great comedic moment, as well the children's ever increasing frustration with her to the point where the little girl is holding her head down in the bathtub.

Underneath the dark comedy, though, is an interesting take on how being a mother can be an under appreciated thing. For some reason the best reflections on this always come from comedy, like The Lonely Island's spot on song "Mama". (There are plenty of dramatic explorations on the trials of being a modern mom, too, of course.)

Clark can take comfort in the fact that her dancing skills were pretty good, though. She did that pretty well.

Adam Fairholm is the co-founder and lead developer of IMVDb. You can find him on twitter at @adamfairholm.

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