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“99¢”: Santigold’s satirical return to our consumerist society

| Thursday, March 17, 2016

99 cent webSusan Zhu | The Observer

We live in a world obsessed with mass-produced goods and rapidly changing technology. Economic advancement and monetary gain are top priorities as people advance forward in the pursuit of fame, fortune and recognition. With social media platforms dominating the formation of our popular culture, there is a clear infatuation with transforming oneself into a product that seems appealing to others and proves one’s “success” in life. Whether you admit to participating in this culture or not, its palpable presence has had an enormous influence on artistic creation through the past few years.

After a four-year hiatus, the eccentric and nonconformist Santigold is back with a satirically brilliant album that serves as a social observation on these very ideas of consumerism, capitalism and narcissism. “99¢,” the Philly-based artist’s third studio album, delivers an energetic and diverse approach to personal and societal reflection, overlapping various sonic textures and genres while providing a humorous yet intellectual commentary on the current state of our world (the album cover pointedly pictures her shrink-wrapped in a package containing random knick-knacks and sellable products, for goodness sake). Santi White, the woman behind the Santigold moniker, has reemerged with a keener sense of awareness and wit that shine through an upbeat sound that strays from her previous darker records, the critically acclaimed 2008 debut “Santogold” and 2012’s equally good follow-up “Master of My Make-Believe.”

The opener “Can’t Get Enough of Myself” sets the sarcastically egotistical and superficially self-empowering tone of the album, utilizing cheery pop and flute instrumentals to construct an overly positive ambiance. Santigold’s seemingly narcissistic lyrics immediately establish her social satire on vanity and consumerism, with the first line of the song boasting, “If I wasn’t me, I can be sure I’d wanna be.”

The very next song, “Banshee,” furthers her commentary, the singer describing a “banshee on [her] shoulder” that serves as a societal voice. The entity speaks to her, telling her how to act and how to portray herself in a consumerist culture filled with superficialities and useless products. An evident desire to let go of the voice and free herself of the social pressures resonates throughout the track, backed by fun and energetic sounds that contrast her relatively serious symbolism and contribute to her sarcastic message. Standout “Chasing Shadows” provides a peek into Santigold’s self-reflective process as she rap-sings about the challenge of staying true to herself in a competitive, money-obsessed industry. She is concerned about losing time and her ability to leave behind a music legacy, yet she exhibits a steady confidence in her fight to control her creative endeavors and overarching success.

Although the album, as a whole, is not as sonically intense nor grime-based as her previous records, it possesses just as much diversity between tracks, with contrasting beats and unique sounds. Incorporating elements of pop, new wave, trap, reggae and rock, Santigold maintains her signature sound while providing something that’s socially relevant and musically refreshing. “Rendezvous Girl,” for example, sounds like a “99¢” take on the incredibly popular “Disparate Youth” off her sophomore album, beginning with a similar introduction that transforms into a more airy and saccharine beat rather than the latter’s deeper and darker verses.

At times, “99¢” does become almost too sarcastic, bouncing between genuine satirical observations on society and cheesy, overly happy-go-lucky textures that detract from her distinct sound. However, Santigold’s creativity and musicality shine clearly throughout the record, reaffirming her thematic claims. With “99¢,” she forces listeners to consider her social commentary on consumerism while also allowing them to simply jam out in true Santigold fashion, showing that, indeed, her “brand of vainglory is much better for your health.”

Shamrocks: 3.5/5

Favorite Songs: Can’t Get Enough of Myself, Chasing Shadows, Run the Races

Similar Artists: M.I.A., Sleigh Bells, Azealia Banks

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