Santigold’s self-titled debut Santogold (her prior stage name) treaded the precarious line between fringe artist and pop accessibility. Sophomore Master of My Make-Believe is still very much the same balancing act as that, and Santi is still as big of an underdog as she was back then. Consider the fact how ignored she was despite the critical acclaim of Santogold, or how her prominence as an alternative pop savant isn’t recognised while Lady Gaga’s consistent odd ball mediocrity is worshipped to iconic status.
It’s not a surprise then that same underdog, anti-establishmentarian mantra is maintained here. But the authenticity pronouncements and righteous declarations of cred are replaced with something more laudable – socio-political fervour. Listeners only need to hear single ‘Disparate Youth’ to understand the album’s ethos. The Nick Zinner-co-written anthemic track, whose title is a double entendre, is a catchy sing-along ode to all the differently desperate youths out there. A call to action that is vaguely contextual just as pop as a genre is vaguely genre-specific – call it protest pop.
This same display of defiance to an unclear figure or concept is displayed in all of the tracks. Look at the names; ‘The Riot’s Gone’, ‘This isn’t Our Parade’, and ‘God from the Machine’ to name a few. And from just the track titles, one can surmise Santi’s song writing seems to be based off big immediately provocative words; fame, riot, pirate, parade, god, make-belief. There’s a seeming patchwork quality to the album, just like the cover art’s depiction of Santi as numerous figures that range from Yeezy’s ‘Power’-esque sceptre-holding female guards, French revolution-era general to an androgynous don.
If you recognised the aforementioned co-writer some sentences back (Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs), then you’d have a good idea of the sonic mix of the album. Working with regular dub and dancehall partners Switch and Diplo as much indie rock favourites like David Sitek and Karen O, Master of My Make-Believe encompasses pop by genres – rock, rap, ‘80s synth revival, dub, ragga, and world music.
Consider how far removed sound-wise ‘Big Mouth’, the single before ‘Disparate Youth’, is to the track succeeding it. The former had a renowned music site mistaking it for an M.I.A track while the latter could easily be an indie pop number with less obnoxious guitars (here’s looking at you Sleigh Bells). Lyrically these two songs represent the clearest form of antagonists the album is against; popular pop and indefinite oppression.
But it is the former that is most stinging and incisive – we didn’t mention Gaga earlier as a throwaway bias remark. Whether intentional or not Santi referenced her on the song. “Gagaga, all slight off, not me I’ll take the loss,” she sung, and it’s hard to blame her for the bitterness. Current pop is what she has been doing before, just more manufactured and overblown in their “oddity”. This might just be a more accurate representation of protest pop – pop protesting pop.
LISTEN TO: ‘Disparate Youth’, ‘The Keepers’, ‘The Riot’s Gone’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Gerri and the Holograms, Sleigh Bells, Lily Allen
1. Go! (feat. Karen O)
2. Disparate Youth
3. God From The Machine
5. Freak Like Me
6. This Isn’t Our Parade
7. The Riot’s Gone
8. Pirate in the Water
9. The Keepers
10. Look at These Hoes
11. Big Mouth