Release Date: Feb 26, 2016
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
Santigold has always been in conversation with pop. From top to bottom, in choruses, asides verses and entire songs, her first album overflowed with militant statements about artistic integrity and authenticity. Master of My Make-Believe, her moody second album, was more fixated on the roiling world that artists live in, but it wasn’t a departure from form.
When Santigold made her return last year at Latitude - wearing an outfit loosely modeled on a fried breakfast, no less - there were inklings everywhere that she meant business. As it turns out, Santigold goes several steps further on ‘99¢’ . With the help of shrink-wrapping, discount price stickers, and an album that wittily dissects consumer culture, she turns herself into a satirical business venture, too.
In the eight years between Santigold's self-titled debut and 99 Cents, artists who ignored the boundaries between genres -- as well as the mainstream and the underground -- became more fashionable and more commonplace, but Santi White remained in a class of her own. Her wide-ranging mix of new wave, reggae, R&B, synth pop, and more sounds fresher than ever on her third album, in large part because she lets the sense of fun that powered Santogold and the less overtly catchy Master of My Make-Believe come to the fore. From the album's artfully cheap-looking cover to its music, there's a self-aware playfulness on display; though White depicts herself as a commodity, 99 Cents' pop never feels like a concession or compromise (though she thoroughly dismantles a poseur ex on the excellent final track, "Who I Thought You Were").
Santi 'Santigold' White should have been massive. For a while it seemed every female pop star owed her a debt, yet she remained too pop for cult and too cult for pop. Everyone knows 'Disparate Youth', yet few realise they do. With the right push, her third album should set the record straight.For starters, 'Banshee' is a 24-carat shout-along and potential chart-topper, a girl-pop cousin to Groove Armada's 'Superstylin'.
You remember that ugly Beck vs. Beyoncé debate back in 2014? You know, where 'real music lovers' argued that the former was more of a 'real musician' because he played instruments and only worked with one producer? Right. You try telling Santi White that - with two kaleidoscopic albums and a wide spectrum of collabs under her belt, AND some production chops of her own, she’s made a name for herself by juggling through soundscapes.
It’s difficult to forget that Santi White was once in A&R and a wordsmith for hire: her music has always had a knowing and studious quality. As Santigold she has specialised in pop world exposés like L.E.S Artists and Freak like Me, and her music’s genre hopping style hints at her deep understanding of popular music. On her début, Santogold, these elements seemed like a fresh and vibrant approach but on her follow up, Master of My Make Believe, the formula had become a little tired and it lacked the punch of her earlier material.
In retrospect, Santigold's debut album was something of a miracle. Freshly split from her massively underrated Philly ska-punk/new wave band Stiffed, she found her way to a fresher, grimier rock-pop sound. Eight years later, Santogold pretty much stands as filler-free document of its time, and it maintains its integrity no matter how many Bud Light Limes it sold.
Santigold burst onto 2008's indie scene (back when those words still meant something) with a self-titled album of genre-bending pop-rock, folding in dub, reggae, and a hint of hip-hop. Associated with similarly forward-thinking artists like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and M.I.A., she has frequently demonstrated a chameleonic ability to fit into a multitude of styles. Her new album 99¢ is once again impossible to define in generic terms, but it confirms a standing truth: Santigold is a master of the vibe.
"All I want to do is bottle it to sell," Santigold tells us on the smiling, reggae-inflected tune that opens her third record. It's a fitting boast from an artist whose stylish mix of dubby hip-hop and neon-tinged New Wave has been used to hawk cars, insurance and Bud Light Lime. But the smarts, confidence and versatility of 99¢ are undeniable. She and her collaborators – who include platinum hip-hop producer Hit-Boy, Swedish dance-pop maestro Patrick Berger, TV on the Radio's Dav Sitek and ex-Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij – create a sound that's immaculately haute but also playful and warm.
Few pop stars know more about the trials of consumerism than Santi White, a.k.a. Santigold. She began her career in the ’90s as an A&R rep for major-label behemoth Epic but jumped across the aisle in the early ’00s to perform in indie-punk outfit Stiffed. Her genre-bending 2008 debut heavily addressed the creative underclass (“L.E.S.
Splayed on a pink backdrop cluttered with tawdry trinkets, Santigold lies like a doll on the cover of 99¢, literally packaged in plastic. It’s an artistic statement, of course, one that she punctuates with a yellow sunburst displaying the diminutive title of her third album. 99¢ decks itself out with promises—a promise to invest every track with effortless electronic profundities, a promise to be as eclectic sonically as the array of objects on the cover.
The cover of Santi White’s third album features the Philadelphia singer shrinkwrapped alongside consumer desirables and reduced to a product. The commodification of art is a theme she picks up inside, too, most notably on Chasing Shadows, but her political statements are always sugarcoated by big pop choruses. Throughout, she displays a lighter touch than on 2012’s Master of My Make-Believe, with Banshee and the gorgeous Rendezvous Girl working particularly well.
Genre is dead in the Spotify age, when we’re all switching from Parisian deep house to grime battles to slacker-punk with barely a crunch in the gears. So it’s about time we had pop stars that reflect it, and Santigold makes a pretty good stab on her third LP. Rendezvous Girl channels Twin Shadow’s 80s glamour, while elsewhere there’s Sky Ferreira-style angsty powerpop, lean-quaffing sad rap, plus a fairly annoying bit of digi-dub in Big Boss Big Time Business.
Don't be confused by its title: 99¢, Santigold's third album, still sells for the standard $9. 99 price point on services like iTunes. But that colourful artwork — designed in collaboration with vacuum-pack artist Haruhiko Kawaguchi, overflowing with trinkets both musical and mundane and slapped with a bargain-bin sticker — does suggest the commoditization and devaluing of recorded music in an era now dominated by low-cost (or no-cost) streaming.
“Artistry” is often synonymous with bleakness and self-involved introspection in pop, but 99¢ is springy, bright, and almost flippant with regard to issues of identity and authenticity, as Santigold riffs on the commercialization of her sound throughout her third album. She's joked that 99 cents is a fair price for her efforts, and the album's cover art, a knowing wink that she's never been packaged for the masses because she doesn't fit into any one box, finds her shrink-wrapped, stoic, and seemingly suffocating. Opener “Can't Get Enough of Myself” combines bouncy, bendy synth lines and coy flutes with the kind of self-aggrandizing lyrics that have become second nature to Santigold: “If I wasn't me, I can be sure I'd wanna be.
If there’s one thing the world can gather from America, it’s that we’re shopaholics. We consume products in mass quantities with one intent: to better ourselves in the eyes of our neighbors. On her third full-length, Santigold tackles commercialization as a whole, from corporate schemes to #personalbrand and everything in between. The cover of 99¢ sees her shrink-wrapped, alongside her life.
Ithink it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans enjoy eating meat, but barely anyone wants to think about how it’s made. Closer to the point, it often seems like the more people know about the means of production, the weaker their appetite gets. Meat is a metaphor — for pop music, but also for pop criticism itself. Am I reaching here? Santigold’s third commercial release, 99¢, aspires to be both a collection of pop songs and a critique of the entire pop music process, and as such, it’s poised between two nearly oppositional poles; Santigold wants you to know how her meat is made, but she wants you to purchase it, consume it, and cherish it anyhow; suffice to say, she doesn’t exactly succeed.
Santigold might not be a household name, but her music has a substantial cultural presence: Her fizzy, hooky pop has been featured in commericals and on TV as a way to add cool to any campaign. Her third album blends styles in a way that thrillingly recalls the kitchen-sink endeavors of the early new wave era; the pugilistic “Rendezvous Girl” allows her to show off her voice’s higher range, while the thumping “All I Got” is a boastful track that reveals its playful side with buried-in-the-mix bells. So much of Santigold’s appeal comes from her exerting absolute control over a world where post-punk jitters and pop ecstasy commingle, which is why the album’s only real misstep comes when she cedes the floor to the enervated Atlanta MC ILoveMakonnen on the spaced-out “Who Be Lovin’ Me.
Just like the summer Olympics and U.S. presidential elections, every four years the public is gifted with a brand new collection of music from Philadelphia-born electrodub wizard Santigold. Her nearly self-titled album Santogold arrived in 2008, followed by her superb sophomore release Master Of My Make Believe in 2012. This year, 99¢ continues the singer’s trend of building infectious, body-shaking beats and mixing them with a syrupy set of affected lyrics.
WHEN SANTI WHITE first exploded onto the music scene in 2008 as an independent artist, her success seemed anything but assured. She was a black woman making music that didn’t fall neatly within the confines of hip-hop, soul, or R&B. Instead, she courted a new-wave, left-field sound that flirted with alt-rock at pivotal moments, a sonic realm long monopolized by white artists.
On Santi White’s third album as Santigold, the Philadelphia singer continues her commitment to day-glo eclecticism and self-aware mutant pop. But what sounded startlingly unique when she burst on the scene in 2007 has now become relatively common on the mainstream pop charts. Still, even though Santigold’s new-wave references and nods to dancehall fit into commercial radio formats much more smoothly now, her approach to pop is defiantly odd.