Today, the Philadelphia-bred Santigold released her excellent sophomore album, Master of My Make-Believe. The collection of low-key anthems genre-hops like Madonna at her most informed and tasteful. You hear bits of punk, rave, dubstep, as well as some Knife-derived spookiness, some rapping that sounds inspired by Peaches and some drum programming that rips off/pays homage to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." The whole thing is sprinkled with a dubbish, reggae sensibility. Master goes to so many different places in such a brief period of time (11 tracks in less than 40 minutes) while remaining so user-friendly that it feels like it's holding up Gwen Stefani's 2004 album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. as an ideal. That release was a major player in converting the event pop album into a style-juggling, wide-cast sonic net — an ingenious strategy to cater to the then-burgeoning iTunes market. Why make a coherent statement when you can be all things to all people?
There is no "Hollaback Girl" on Master of My Make-Believe, but the lovely, stringy ballad above, boasting an alternately cranky and Chrissie Hynde-conjuring vocal from Santigold strikes me as a potential crossover, should the stars and/or placements align. If we can look at Gotye's ability to dominate the Billboard Hot 100 with something weirdly minimal that sounds like the unholy union of the Zombies and Sting, it seems like all of the conscious/manufactured oddness of the likes of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj that's been crammed into our ears is producing a market for actual oddness. I wouldn't expect "The Riot's Gone" to hit No. 1 or anything, but I wouldn't be surprised if it popped up repeatedly in multiple places this summer. It sounds like a hit, thanks to producer Greg Kurstin (who has helmed virtually everything, including Kelly Clarkson's recent No. 1 "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"). (Also note the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner on guitar — he plays on several of Master's tracks.)
Santigold's own drive may have something to do with that, too: in Master's dubby "Fame," she sings, "How low, low / Are we gon' go / For fame fame." She's bemoaning mainstream success while clearing her own path for it. If she keeps releasing gems like Master of My Make-Believe, she'll never have to answer that question.