Santogold — “Lights Out”

Released: 8.11.08

Peak: Did not chart

When we last met Santi White, way back in 2001 (or March of last year, depending on how you measure these things), she was an A&R refugee helping Philly alt-R&B gal Res out with “Golden Boys,” a backstage indictment of the hip-hop industry. In the seven years following, White kept alive in a contracting industry, recorded a couple punk records, and developed no more respect for her peers. Her biggest hit as Santogold, “L.E.S. Artistes,” was a backstage indictment of the alt-rock industry.

“L.E.S. Artistes” took a less righteous stand than “Golden Boys” – everyone expects downtown hipsters to be full of it, after all, even if bitching about the Lower East Side in the age of Williamsburg was a nice retro touch – but its defiant spite was no less universal. Just as high school kids and rap umptillionaires’ alike feel beset by haters, we all feel superior enough to the phonies who surround us to identify with White’s standing up for “the things that I believe” in the face of the petty machinations of the music business.

That sour dynamic can be kind of a drag, though. Not so the more playful treachery of “Lights Out.” Here, Santi’s “the one you can’t account for,” a trickster insurgent assaulting the power supply, reinterpreting “Life During Wartime” as a giggle. The breadth of White’s taste compensates for the narrowness of her ingenuity – you know those slightly out of synch guitar and drums recall some almost-was haircuts of early MTV, but not quite which. And for once her vocals, which have too precisely echoed M.I.A. and Dale Bozzio elsewhere, are, if not original, kaleidoscopic enough in their influences that you can’t hyperlink every last inflection. Sounding like herself sure freshens up White’s shtick – retro new wave as a means of self-expression. So does the fact that she’s a black chick.

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  • jfredland  On August 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Such a great song. Why did it take me three years to hear it?

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