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This article is from Issue 58: Jul/Aug 2012


This eclectic icon is here to prove pop music isn’t a genre beyond saving.

Is there any less cool form of music than pop? It’s usually spat out of our mouths as a way to dismiss indie artists who've become "too mainstream" or as shorthand for what's wrong with music today. People love to hate pop radio, pop stars and pop records.

Which is why it’s perhaps surprising to hear that Santi White, better known by her stage name, Santigold, and widely acknowledged as being very, very cool, takes pop music seriously.

“I’ve always loved pop music,” White says. “I love the accessibility, the catchy melodies that immediately find their way into your head. I love a good hook. But mostly, there’s something so special about music that can appeal to so many people at once. I’ve witnessed over and over on such a large scale the power of music to create community. Not only does it bring people together, it gets them to feel things together, and that’s magical. That is a beautiful power—a power that shouldn’t be abused.”

That abuse of power is a topic White tackles often (and well) on her sophomore album, Master of My Make-Believe— which, of course, also happens to be a pop record. It just happens to be a pop record dripping with themes of empowerment, love for creativity and an obvious disdain for the artless.

“I just naturally use writing as my platform for things I need to say out loud, whether to myself or to the world beyond,” White says. “Music is that outlet for me. I guess it’s simultaneously a very personal space and a powerfully communal space. My songs are like my journal, where whatever is weighing on me gets worked out.”

Despite the intensely personal nature of her lyrics, White seems to realize that part of being an artist intent on cultivating a broad appeal means many of her lyrics will be dissected and interpreted in ways she never intended. On Master of My Make-Believe, many observers believe that “Big Mouth,” with its lyrics of Big mouth / big mouth / quiet now / you said enough, might be a direct reference to Lady Gaga. While White has said in interviews that allusion wasn’t intentional, she’s also not afraid of being taken out of context.

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