Santi White ’97 Expands Repertoire on Follow Up Album, for Better or Worse
After five years away from the music industry, Santigold returns to the pop scene with her newest album, Master of My Make Believe. Blending pop, tribal influences, hip-hop, and indie rock, Master of My Make Believe will leave everybody pleased by something, but perhaps nobody pleased by everything. The thematic expansiveness of the album is due to both an array of collaborators and the absurd amount of time Santi White ’97 spent in the studio tweaking the smallest details. Ultimately, the immense effort put into this album serves as both a blessing and a curse; it accounts for the diversity of the album, but also for its lack of cohesiveness, both musically and thematically.
Musically, the influences are wide-ranging and vary tremendously from song to song. “Go” blends alternative rock and reggae fluidly. The song goes from Santigold singing dub-style over a fast beat to an indie rock chorus with acoustic guitars and vocal contributions from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The song “Fame” combines the modern feel of synthesizers with horns that harken back to the era of funk. This diversity of music influences leaves the listener satisfied at times and outright confused at others. The lyrical content of this album follows a similarly convoluted path.
At some points in the album Santigold preaches social consciousness, while at others she sings vapid pop lyrics. The song “The Keepers” makes insightful social commentary by lamenting the worsening state of our union. Santigold sings, “We’re the keepers. While we sleep in America, the house is burning down.” On the other end of the spectrum, in “Freak like me,” Santigold’s lyrics and musical style lie somewhere between Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Maybe the best example of these diametrically opposed styles is the half-hearted satire “Look At These Hoes.” Here, Santigold provides excessively poor lyrics objectifying women and glorifying wealth, presumably to poke fun at the shallow side of hip hop culture. However, as she raps over the quick electronic beat, she seems to be embracing this culture as well.
Although this album has its pitfalls, it also has its moments of brilliance. My favorite song on the album, “Disparate Youth,” is one of these.
“Disparate Youth” embodies the fusion of disparate musical influences on this album seamlessly and espouses some of its more intelligent lyrics. It features a beautiful melody, an indie rock vibe, tribal rhythms, and chanting. An ode to following one’s dreams in the face of adversity, the song deals with both class and race struggles by documenting the uphill battle for those less well off. In the second verse, Stantigold sings, “So let them say we can’t do better / They have the rules that we can’t break / They want to sit and watch you wither / Their legacy’s too hard to take.” Musically, the verses express this difficulty, with a battle between ear-piercing staccato guitars and melodic croons. Santigold then sings the message over a more melodic chorus and repeats “Our lives worth fighting for.” This song shows off both Santigold’s social insights and songwriting ability.
While I personally enjoy Santigold’s more thoughtful musical compositions, others may enjoy her catchy, baggage-free pop hits. Ultimately, Santigold comes out of the album defining herself as neither a pop diva nor a diehard social protester, but somewhere in the middle. She stands in the middle of an identity crisis and is pulled by both pop culture and her socially conscious roots. These competing forces contribute to a lack of cohesiveness but no lack of interesting music. Choice tracks are “Disparate Youth,” “God from the Machine,” and “The Riot’s Gone,” but I encourage you to take a listen to the rest. You will find yourself on an oft-contradictory, multi-cultural odyssey.