Cheerleader

Album: Strange Mercy (2011)

Songfacts®:

  • St. Vincent performed this Strange Mercy track on several television shows including Conan, Later... with Jools Holland and the Gossip Girl episode "Crazy, Cupid, Love."
  • The artistic video was shot by Japanese-American director Hiro Murai (David Guetta, Childish Gambino, The Shins). We see a giant St. Vincent tied to the center of a gallery space, surrounded by onlookers. Murai explained to Billboard magazine: "We filmed this in a gallery close to the El Rey in LA and kept referencing Ron Mueck, who does gigantic sculptures of vulnerable people who are the biggest things in the room."
  • St. Vincent had virtually the whole song written but was struggling with the chorus. Her producer, John Congleton, warned her off the original lyric as it sounded too rude. The singer recalled to A.V.Club: "I had the 'I, I, I, I don't want to be a "blank" no more' line, and my original—I probably shouldn't admit this—but my original thing was 'dirt-eater.' Because I was thinking of the people in medieval times who were sin-eaters, and I was thinking of a word that could describe that sentiment."

    "I went through a million different ideas, like, 'Wait, what's this many syllables and can describe this thing that I'm trying to get at?' And there were a lot of really bad ideas. John was like, 'Dirt-eater sounds like you have a scatological fetish.' I was like, 'Oh no, gross.' And then we Google it, and it's also some obscure racist term, so I was like, oh no, that's not going to work. 'What's the word? What's the word with this many syllables that's going to describe what I'm talking about?' And if you'll notice in the song, at the end I do sing 'dirt-eater.' I also sing 'bird-eater,' like a 'the cat who ate the canary' sort of thing."

    "But after brainstorming, I was like, 'Cheerleader.' And John looked at me, and was like, [resigned tone] 'Yeah, cheerleader.' It just said it. It just said it. And it's funny: I wasn't an actual cheerleader in high school. I was a theater nerd and was in the jazz band, and I was not that person. But I also didn't harbor a secret hatred for cheerleaders or anything like that. I was pretty mellow and egalitarian. But that was just the word that summed it up. So there it was, take it or leave it. Somewhere there's a list of all the bad ideas that we brainstormed that are varying degrees of foul and inappropriate."

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