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Santigold’s upbeat single Can’t Get Enough of Myself (feat. B.C) has a touch of the Frenchy’s. Grease’s Frenchy that is. We can imagine the 1978 film character and her beauty school-drop-out lipstick pals breaking into this tune at the local salon with brunchcoats and synchronised foot bops getting their beehives tended to. But, don’t be fooled by this first track, it most certainly is not representative of the sound of her Splendour set. In fact, nothing the 39-year-old has done in the past – think Disparate Youth and L.E.S. Artistes – is the same as her current album offering or the (very) strong messaging behind it.
Her current album 99 Cents, takes a (firm) swipe at selfie takers and filter makers. The album, released in February 2016, explores the commercial nature of our world and the ways in which we package ourselves and our lives for consumption. “I spend so much time trying to figure out how I’m supposed to make art when I’m supposed to be doing so much marketing on myself and of my life,” Santigold tells Grazia. “Like social media, you’re supposed to be on it all the time. I’m not. I’m not good at it.”
Today, Santigold (real name Santi White) is relaxing at her home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. Taking our phoner, she admits she’s exhausted. “I’m beat, I’m so tired.” And after a long-winded discussion about how she spends time with friends to relax, Santi stops. “You know what? That’s kind of the truth and kind of a lie at the same time. I don’t relax. I take Qigong on Tuesdays. It’s a practise of cultivating Chi within your body. Gosh, it took me a long time to come to that answer.”
But the Philadelphia-raised singer’s errant and all-over-the-place thoughts become more than warranted. Three albums into the music game, Santigold is frustrated at how much of trying to attract people to even listen to her music is reliant on social image.
“Even getting people’s attention and then holding it is hard because often people don’t pay for the music because it’s now considered almost disposable.”
And she’s right. How many times do we hear a song, stream it on Apple Music a couple of times only to never actually download it because, well, we’re distracted by the other hit that came out in the meantime? Or perhaps we didn’t follow that artist on Instagram and are therefore more invested in the one Kylie Jenner told us about. For artists, the struggle to get the first play is real. The struggle to hold that play is harder. “You’re making all this content, you’re making just anything to get your name up there and to do so, you spend so much time on marketing and not as much time on the art and it’s kind of a weird place to live as an artist.”
This sentiment extends to show time as well. “People come to the shows and they don’t come to watch. They come to capture the moments rather than experience the moments,” explains Santigold. “You know, they pick up their phone, turn their back to the show, take a picture of themselves in front of the stage, rather than watching the stage.We’re in a really narcissistic era of selfies.”
In a social world where someone’s worth is measured on a tally of likes, from whom are we seeking validation from and why? The argument is not a new one, but as the use of PhotoShop, filters and selects on our Insty feed increase, Santi draws light on another side of it: this is how it’s affecting music. And this is how it’s encouraging a culture so vain that the consumption of music is subsequently and sadly affected also.
But she’s not done. The disposable nature of a new single extends to females in the music industry as well, says Santigold. “I want people to think of me as a great musician rather than, ‘Oh she’s hot!’ and then when I’m not hot anymore – because no one is hot forever – then you’re forgotten about and tossed out. I just wish there was a wider spectrum of female artists in the pop world.”
This argument, I say, may have to wait for another day as we only have 15 minutes! Her point though is very real: today, because of social media, the pressures on artists has reached a new level of insane. “The hardest part is the pressure to uphold. It’s like, nowadays, it’s pressure to be the image rather than the real person,” she says. “Every performer is selling a brand. It’s selling, selling, selling.”
Santigold stops again. “So anyway, I just went on and on about that but obviously there’s a lot there and that’s kind of why I chose to write my record.”
Frenchy and her beehive friends never knew such stresses.
Santigold’s album 99 Cents is available now. See her at Splendour In The Grass in July. For ticketing information, head to splendourinthegrass.com
Cover Image: Warner Music
Title Image: Warner Music