Santigold is one of those artists who is difficult to put in a box (at least a box marked anything other than ‘type-Santi’). And yet. The cover image of her new album 99¢ depicts her not only boxed but packaged–literally shrink-wrapped–and prostrate among a field of candy-colored keychain commodities, as if she is just one more consumable that might pop into your inbox when you drop a quarter into the endless vending machine of random baubles and distractions that is the internet.
Although her distinctive visual persona has always been bold and brightly patterned–her music as catchy as it is fierce–the pastel tones of pop art still seem like a new sort of statement for Santi. Right from her breakout EP there’s always been a note (or ten) of fuck-the-world anger in Santigold’s music (let’s not forget the song that put her on the map as a solo artist was called “Shove It”) as well as strong-strain of anti-materialism. Whether it was “We think you’re a joke /Shove your hope where it don’t shine” or “Taint my mind but not my soul/Tell you I got fire /I won’t sell it for no payroll” her voice has been characterized from jump by–not rage, exactly–but a “spread my wings/ don’t care who fall” attitude of zero fucks given, an unapologetic sonic assault on your consumerism, your pop conventions and your low expectations.
Certainly, her sophomore LP Master Of My Make Believe embodied a transformation from rebel to a more regal ferocity. But in both voice and visuals, she was still an outlaw queen, a bandit queen. The video for the lead single “Disparate Youth” (watch above) found Santi making a dreamlike quest to an alternate-Jamaica where a troop of lost boys (or children of the corn) in warpaint and military surplus have carved out their own space, seemingly off the grid of the market economy entirely. By the time the tracks’ call-to-arms guitar riffs have carried it to a crescendo, the chorus of child soldiers has joined Santi in chanting: “Now here we come, can’t stop, nothing in the way…We know now we want more / A life worth fighting for.” If she was now Mistress, she was still a sovereign ready (as she chats on “Go!”) to throw down in defense of her power station and her winter palace at a moment’s notice.
Which makes the 99¢ stickers and Barbie Doll colors all the more jarring. From it’s first track “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself,” 99 flirts more with pop–doo-wop even, then her previous sound. If “Lights Out” and “Girls” successfully brought that rebel energy to arenas (beer ads and sitcoms, respectively) where lesser pop would’ve fizzled, this is Santi’s first legit morning drive time, radio-ready, feel good POP hit. In case this be mistaken for a sonic fluke, the video for the track inserts Santi’s face–and yours, if your webcam is enabled–into a surreal feedback loop of narcissism that feels something like John Malkovich possessing himself in Being John Malkovich. Musically the album–as the cover image suggests–is a thoroughly enjoyable grab bag of sounds. “Banshee” comes harder, a more logical extension of “Go!” or “Say Aha” in energy. “Who’s Lovin’ Me” recruits ILoveMakonnen to take the idea of auto-croon to a new, lo-fi direction. But “Chasing Shadows” keeps us in the realm of post-millennial doo-wop (sonically) and vaguely chilling pop art (visually) highlighting a thread that runs through the entire set…
>>>Click Through to Watch Chasing Shadows Video On Page 2