Second Take is an attempt to refrain from knee-jerk reaction-reviews to concerts & albums.
I’ll admit it right now: when I first listened to Santigold’s latest album, 99 Cents, I didn’t like it. I’ve been a Santigold fan for years (back when she spelled it Santogold) and saw her for the first time in 2012 at Bonnaroo. Disparate Youth was my anthem song for 2012 and I remember showing it to every single person in earshot (sorry, not sorry).
So what was it that threw me off of the Santigold trail this time? I think most will agree that most of her songs aren’t readily likable on their first listen. There are so many layers to her production and her sound is definitely not traditional pop. I listened to the album from start to finish then hadn’t listened again. Until I decided to see her live.
After having a lengthy discussion in the photo pit with another Santi-lover, the lights finally dimmed and out came two stone-faced dancers. I remembered these girls, they flanked either side of the stage last time I saw Santi. This time they sat on inflatable chairs eating Cheetos. Hmm. Next came the lady of the hour, singing from off stage until stopping dead center with a powerful shoulder pad-heavy blazer.
This is why I fell in love with her. She’s easily one of the most innovative voices and creators in pop music. Had I gotten so caught up in what I expected her “product” to be when I first listened to 99 Cents? While Cents pokes fun at our product-focused culture (Santi went as far as creating a marvelously tech-savy video for “Can’t Get Enough of Myself” using your webcam to place you all over the video) she reminded me during her performance that a well-polished product does not equal perfection.
The show was filled with coordinated dance moves, wardrobe changes, and interludes. It was truly a performance in every aspect of the word. She reminded me that what I had been sold as a “concert experience” wasn’t the flavor on the shelf. After a solid 45 minutes and a bubble-filled rendition of crowd-favorite “Disparate Youth,” Santi stepped to the crowd and asked, “Are y’all warmed up yet?” She then proceeded to invite 100+ fans onto the stage for a massive dance party with only one rule: no pictures on stage.
After re-experiencing a Santigold concert, I felt almost ashamed for not instantly falling in love with the album. As I sat on the train ride home, I then realized that I hadn’t in fact fallen into a trap. I did what Santi would’ve wanted from her listeners and discerned for myself what makes a solid album/artist. I didn’t accept it as gold (no pun intended) just because I loved her past two albums. If you were like me and wrote 99 Cents off when you first heard it, you’re not alone, but I implore you to give it another go and rethink what it means to be given a “product.”