1. Santigold – 99¢
On Santigold’s third album — a bright, bubbly, and confident pop confection — she is clearly having fun. At times poking fun at current trends, puffing up her own feathers, or simply slamming an ex, 99¢ continues her genre-blending style of R&B, new wave, pop, and reggae through the shiny sheen of a cheap plastic commodity concept. Granted, this is no where near a concept album, but the music overall fits starting with the hilarious first track “Can’t Get Enough of Myself.” This perfect little pop song nails the selfie-obsessed culture from the first verse, “If I wasn’t me, I can be sure that I’d wanna be,” and continues with even better lines: “Ain’t a gambler, but, honey, I’d put money on myself,” “Got so much flavor put me on the buffet,” and “So hot they be wiping me down.” The thing is Santigold’s lyrics are key to her music.
Then there is the other book-end song. “Who I Thought You Were” is an outstanding new wave diss on an ex who let fame go to his head: “Hey now take a look at you/Hosed down in a million dollar suit/But I knew you when that wasn’t you/I knew you when you had a clue.” Ah, my favorite track “Rendezvous Girl” though. Hilariously frank and self-assured, this is also one of my favorite songs about being a high-class hooker, “I put a man in a casket/I got another thinkin’ he’s in love/I’ll break it to ’em with a velvet glove” and then the ultimate line: “Got more power/In my calendar/Than the Queen herself.”
However fun 99¢ is, it wouldn’t have any weight without some emotion. “Chasing Shadows” is a beautiful dissertation on the loneliness of fame (“Neon sign goes red/’You are here’ it says/Well, at least someone knows where I am”) and “All I Got” is part melancholy, part revenge tale of working hard for her fame and someone riding that work (“How you get something for nothing at all/Build an empire for yourself/Don’t take this personal, go to hell… Put all I got in your way”). While the rest of the album is not as accessible, it’s still worth the effort especially with tracks like “Big Boss Big Time Business” where she lets you know who’s in charge and “Outside the War” which is all creepy tones with Siouxsie-style cooing.
99¢ basically stayed on repeat this entire year. The fun and sass, the humor and attitude, all made this — for me — a perfect set of songs to get through the year that was 2016. The year overall may have sucked, but Santigold kept things light and grounded which is why it’s my favorite of the year.
Favorite songs: “Can’t Get Enough of Myself,” “Chasing Shadows,” “Rendezvous Girl,” “All I Got,” “Who I Thought You Were”