Mashups are getting very popular. With the fluid iTunes playlist (usually set to shuffle) rapidly replacing traditional, fixed album listening, casual music listeners hop between downloaded MP3s and streamed songs as haphazardly as they skip from email to YouTube and Wikipedia while surfing the internet.
You can add Brooklyn’s Santogold to the growing list of artists who have (consciously or not) taken advantage of the Google generation’s predilection for sampling a little bit of everything. Danger Mouse seems to have started the latest wave of genre hopping with his Grey Album (a mix of Jay-Z and The Beatles), followed by his unclassifiable work in Gnarls Barkley. Sonic collage artist Girl Talk took things a step further with his pastiches material ranging from mainstream rap (Rick Ross) to the holiest of the holies in the indie canon (Neutral Milk Hotel).
The next step in this evolution comes with artists like Santogold, who stick tracks of pure dub next to pop-rock songs and hip-hop joints in an effort to keep listeners on their toes long enough to get them interested. The risk here is in creating a disjointed effort that won’t flow well, and this has certainly happened to an extent with Santogold, the project of songwriter, singer and sometime A&R girl Santi White.
The band’s effort to catch people off guard will leave some listeners stranded in a haze of sampled influences. Standout track Creator’s sampled screeches, tribal drums and Bucky Done Gun-style chorus unashamedly presents an homage to M.I.A.‘s catchy musical craft. The effort is a success, so much so that a casual fan might even mix up Santi with Maya.
Compared to Creator, the rest of Santogold eases by at a less interesting pace. The diversity of offerings belies the songs’ respective worth. Although it’s true that about a decade ago, each song could have the been the basis stylistically for an entire album in its own worth, it’s also true that the resulting full lengths would have been mediocre offerings.
You’ll Find A Way could appeal to fans of ’90s pop-ska groups such as No Doubt and 311; Shove It presents an updated dub sound; and Lights Out fits in nicely with The Killers‘ crowd. But the songs’ power lies in their positioning on the album, and on their own they wouldn’t make much of a splash.
The sounds are fresh, the hooks are often catchy, and collaborations include hot acts Spank Rock and Diplo. But ultimately the whole effort stands in the gargantuan shadow of M.I.A., despite White’s undeniable talent.