Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Santogold, “Santogold” (Downtown) [2.5 STARS]

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Rare is the scrap of press about Philadelphia-raised, Wesleyan-educated, Brooklyn-based singer and emerging hipster heroine Santi White that doesn’t draw connections to her friend and fellow genre-blurring globe-trotter Maya Arulpragasam, and not without reason; just listen to this album’s single, “Creator.” But the comparison that haunts me isn’t with M.I.A., but with Missing Persons—the disposable ’80s pop band fronted by Dale Bozzio—both for the annoying similarity to Santogold’s helium-tainted warble, and for the sheer contrivance of both acts’ bids for pop stardom.

Bozzio was a former Playboy model who linked up with a group of veteran L.A. sessions musicians and former sidemen for Frank Zappa in an effort to hit it big by riding the then-mighty New Wave gravy train. White is a former talent scout for Epic Records who previously fronted a ska-punk band, wrote songs for artists as diverse as Res, Lily Allen and Ashlee Simpson, pals around with producers Diplo, Mark Ronson and Switch and is making her assault on the pop charts with help from a big corporate marketing push. (A press release from the Chicago advertising agency DDB boasts that it “has the new beer of the summer in Bud Light Lime and Downtown Records has the new artist of the summer in Santogold. It only makes sense that we should collaborate to get the most reach for both our brands.”)

Antiquated notions of indie purism and outdated critical standards of authenticity aside, none of the above would matter a whit if the merger of sugary bubblegum hooks, reggae, dub, electronica and hip-hop rhythms and boastful lyrics (“Me, I'm a creator, thrill is to make it up/The rules I break got me a place up on the radar”; “We think you’re a joke/Shove your hope where it don’t shine”) didn’t sound as sterile at times as a corporate marketing session (“My Superman,” “Creator”), and if White’s vocals weren’t so fingernails-on-the-chalkboard annoying that they mar what could have otherwise been Gwen Stefani- if not Elastica-worthy neo-New Wave anthems (“L.E.S. Artistes,” “Say Aha”).

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I may be the only one NOT to draw the M.I.A. comparison ... I dig Santogold but her sound is SO early '80s and no one seems to notice that.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 6, 2008 4:51 PM.

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