How the Incarceration of Her Father Inspired “Daddy’s Home” by St. Vincent

Some songs can hit really close to home. For St. Vincent, discussing her father’s incarceration was quite personal. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail in 2010 for charges related to a $43 million stock-manipulation scheme. He served nine in total. It sounds like something that could make for an intense and downbeat song—particularly as she’s a public figure in an age of media saturation—but she chose to do it in a way that showed she had a sense of humor about the situation and she had learned from the experience. This was all encapsulated in “Daddy’s Home,” the title track to her 2021 album of the same name.

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“While her last album Masseduction peered at her newfound fame through an electro-pop funhouse mirror,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Claire Shaffer, “Daddy’s Home looks backward, examining Clark’s relationship with her father—and her own self-discovery ‘with becoming Daddy,’ as she’s put it — through the funky stylings of Sly Stone, Pink Floyd, and other artists of the mid-Seventies.”

Gallows Humor

St. Vincent has pointed to the gallows humor she brought to the song and entire album. “I think there’s humor in all of it,” she told Variety in January 2022. “I think when people heard that the record was ‘Daddy’s Home’ and that it was referencing my father being incarcerated, they were expecting that particular song to be a scathing rhetoric. Or me weeping into a microphone. I’m not sure what it was that people thought would be the appropriate reaction, appropriate story. But my story is that all you could do is laugh. To me, that song is funny.”

I sign autographs in the visitation room
Waiting for you the last time
Inmate 502

Daddy’s home

You still got it in ya
Government green suit
And I look down and out
In my fine Italian shoes
And we’re tight as a bible
With the pages stuck like glue
Yeah, you did some time
Well, I did some time too

Daddy’s home

That first lyrical reference refers to the fact her star was on the rise as her father was sent away. Press clippings of her career made the rounds from her dad to other prisoners, so they were aware of her burgeoning success. Such news likely boosted his spirits but must have made for a surreal situation for his daughter when she visited. “I always pictured it like I was throwing a little paper airplane over the gates,” she told The Guardian in 2021.

The vocalist and guitarist produced Daddy’s Home between fall 2019 and the end of 2020. Although the pandemic kept people in isolation, that did not affect her work on the album. In fact, she said she had more time to devote herself to it and not deal with interruptions. Daddy’s Home went Top 10 in the UK, Portugal, and Ireland, and it ascended to No. 16 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart. The song has racked up 2.5 million Spotify listens and the video around 250,000 YouTube views.

The promo clip features a solo live performance that St. Vincent gives on a flatboard truck slowly circling an industrial neighborhood. It completely deconstructs the idea of promoting music with a public display. The only people who see her are three aging kick line dancers, an annoyed man reading newspaper comics, and a trenchcoat-clad perv who flashes her. The truck even breaks down. Yet she vamps it up like there’s a large crowd observing her. This is the humorous antithesis of something like Dokken’s “It’s Not Love” video in which Sunset Strip fans followed them in droves.

The “Tables Have Turned”

But not everything is as it seems in St. Vincent’s world, even the theme of the song itself. As she referenced before, she did not go the conventional lyrical route. She just expressed what was in her heart.

“The title ‘Daddy’s Home’ to me means a lot of things,” St. Vincent told NPR in 2021. “I mean, one, it is, yes, my literal father was released from prison after 10 years [in] the fall of 2019… so there’s, you know, that. But then also, ‘Daddy’s Home’ to me is really marking my own transition into very comfortably taking up space. Like, I’m daddy now. And just literally—like, I have responsibilities, you know? I’m taking care of my parents now. So in a funny way, those tables have turned.”

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Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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