2014 was a monumental year for Annie Clark. Her self-titled fifth album, St. Vincent, was celebrated by critics, reached No. 12 on the charts and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album.
Tuesday morning, Clark released a new song that reminds everyone why she's the artist we so desperately need right now. "Bad Believer" bulldozes the status quo and leaves mind-numbing pop in the dust, delving into religious iconography and posing difficult moral questions in an era of spoon-fed chart-toppers.
Here Clark waxes poetic about religion, not a new a topic to the indie queen. She started out as a member of the pseudo-religious psychedelic group the Polyphonic Spree, and went on to tour with indie-folk songwriter Sufjan Stevens, who's openly Christian but makes secular music. Christian iconography is everywhere in Clark's discography, in songs like "Jesus Saves, I Spend," "The Apocalypse Song" and "Lazarus."
But Clark has made it clear in interviews that she, like countless artists before her, uses religion as an inspiration, and not as a reflection of personal identity. In a Q&A with Flavorwire, Clark said, "I tend to draw on religious mythology because it's so ubiquitous. I'm definitely interested [in religion] in an intellectual sense."
She's also explored important topics about the state of the modern world. Her song "Digital Witness" begs for humanity's deliverance from technology; "Huey Newton" explores the extent of our disconnected society; "Prince Johnny" probes the depths of self-destruction. Without lyrics, those songs would just be strung-up notes.
Clark's new song revisits religious themes: "From the day I drove into the altar / I let my mind, my sin in the pure / Melt before the trampoline and pastor / Seen it as it touched my trembling hand / What do you know? I'm just a bad believer."
She gives us all something to think about, as opposed to, say, Beyonce: "Hold that cup like alcohol / Don't you drop that alcohol / Never drop that alcohol, never drop that alcohol / I know you thinkin' bout alcohol / I know I'm thinkin' bout that alcohol."
In "Bad Believer," the lyrics are more than just fodder for the dance floor. Clark's words are poetry, something the world, and popular music in particular, could use a little more of these days.
"Bad Believer" will show up on a deluxe version of St. Vincent due out Feb. 9.