Don't call Santi White an R&B artist: on her debut album Santogold
, this former music biz A&R and pop songwriter for hire is challenging race stereotypes and playing fast and loose with genre, mashing up dub, punk, and electronics to make an energetic, anger-fuelled music that blurs the lines between the dancefloor and the moshpit. Comparisons to MIA hold some water, especially on the bullish "Creator" (it's worth nothing that Santogold
features production turns from sometime MIA collaborators Diplo and Switch). For the most part, though, Santogold's debut follows a quite different path. "L.E.S Artists" is stirring new-wave pop that builds to grand, tearful choruses reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, while "You'll Find a Way" and "Say Aha" are propulsive ska-pop numbers that hark back to its creator's previous band, Bad Brains-influenced punks Stiffed. But it's not just skilful genre-skipping to recommend this record, though: White is the rare vocalist that can sound empowered and vulnerable within the space of the same song, and it's her force of character that places Santogold
ahead of the pack. --Louis Pattison
Santogold's life already reads like a Hollywood movie script. Born Santi White in Philadelphia, the producer-turned-songwriter's world turned upside down four years ago when her father fell ill and died shortly after he became embroiled in a federal corruption sting. It was a tough period for the singer whose private life was invaded by the paparazzi while her family endured crushing newspaper articles and her mother found her car bugged by the FBI.
Distraught and disillusioned, Santi split her then-punk project Stiffed, whisked the band's bass player off to New York and renamed herself Santogold. There she vented her anger and frustration at the system in the 10 songs that make up her self-titled debut which for the most part is as explosive and pop punching as the singer's life story. In fact the first three tracks alone will undoubtedly hog airwaves and dent dance floors in the coming months.
Take You'll Find A Way for instance. It's already been dubbed Bjork's favourite song of 2007 and going by the throat cutting guitar lines and Santi's Stefani-esque yelps, you can see why. The same goes for the dub infused Say A-Ha. Talk about chart hit, the chorus' catchy refrain alone is guaranteed to get festival goers singing in unison come Glastonbury.
To be fair Santogold could have easily taken the lazy option out and loaded her debut with pop hits. But she's much smarter than that. Instead she chooses to flirt with rap (Creator) reggae (Unstoppable) and even rock on I'm A Lady. Yet she still manages to remain undeniably catchy particularly on Unstoppable where she smatters dub beats with the infectious vocals: "I've got to be unstoppable/I've got to be unstoppable/Hey hey hey/ You don't like".
Lyrically too Santogold is both cutting and defiant. Opener L.E.S Artistes is a case in point where she viciously spits at Manhattan's hipsters, "I see you good you forced faker/Just make it easy/You're my enemy you fast talker" while You'll Find A Way is drenched in paranoia and pent up anger as she barks: "Don't fear your call/Can't pull us under/You better watch out, run for cover."
Name checked by everyone from Mark Ronson to Lily Allen, it's not surprising that Santogold has served up a debut this tantalising after the trauma she's been through. --Damian Jones
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