On the album cover for 99¢, Santigold is vacuum packed with a range of fun accessories (A mouth organ! Golden Crocs!? A universal remote control!!??), carded and ready to be displayed on the toy rack of your local discount store, alongside all those knock off Avengers toys featuring Captain America and Batman as team-mates.
Perhaps Santigold is commenting on how we all sell ourselves cheaply by being too open and revealing far too much across our favoured digital channels (speak for yourself, I’m Cary Grant-like when it comes to keeping my affairs private). Or perhaps she’s commenting on how we wrap up our personalities in perfectly controlled, attractive packaging, so that our friends and followers only see the best of us. Santigold herself stated recently, “People’s lives, persona, everything, is deliberate, and mediated.” Tell that to Kanye West.
Or maybe, Santigold is trying to deflect any possible criticism that her latest album is a much fluffier, poppier affair than 2012’s harder-edged Master of My Make-Believe, by saying “look at me all crassly commercialised, ready for your mass-market consumption. It’s pop, but I damn well know it is.”
If it’s the third option, that would be a shame, because Santigold really is selling herself too cheaply, as 99¢ is 99% terrific.
If music is meant to make you feel something, then Santigold’s third album is perhaps the most direct way to cheer you the fuck up released in recent memory (bearing in mind my recent memory stops at Blackstar). 99¢ contains more joy per-minute than anything by her contemporaries, it’s the musical equivalent of someone telling you that you look amazing and that they love you and you should go dancing with them immediately and afterwards they’ll take you for an ice-cream float.
Lead track ‘Can’t Get Enough of Myself’ is the anti-narcissism anthem we’ve been waiting for, all wrapped up in a gorgeous, slow-rocking rhythm and triumphant production that’s totally seductive and lovely and deserves to be 100 times the hit that Lily Allen’s ‘Smile’ was. ‘Banshee’ has a cheerleader chanting and playground-clapping rhythm that totally betrays its sophisticated make-up, and oh my gosh the way it launches into the chorus is my favourite thing on the album. Exhilarating.
Bringing things down-tempo slightly is the beautiful ‘Chasing Shadows’ and its simple piano lines and Santigold’s deeply affecting delivery. ‘Walking in a Circle’ is a great moody-electro gem, and ‘Who Be Lovin’ Me’ is a fantastic mixture of chip-tune and ILoveMakonnen’s laconic rapping-style that makes Biggie Smalls sound like Busta Rhymes. ‘Rendezvous Girl’ is slightly more in keeping with the frenetic dark-edged pop of previous Santigold albums, but it definitely has a warmer 80s synth sound than before.
Santigold closes the album with ‘Who I Thought You Were’ and it’s perhaps fittingly the most straightforward pop track on 99¢, sounding like recent Tegan and Sara or Grimes at her most accessible. Its central lyric, “I like you more when you’re poorer” is also a reminder that Santigold hasn’t really spent much time here deliberating on her proposed subject of commercialism beyond the cover and title, which will be a letdown for some.
For other people who are less difficult to please, 99¢ is an album that convinces you that summer is just around the corner. That if you feel like shit right now, it’ll be okay by the end of three-minutes of awesome pop. That life’s pretty brilliant if you stop being so wrapped up in yourself all the time. And that’s worth 99¢ of anybody’s money. Maybe even a quid.