Last night, as the lights dimmed, two back-up dancers took to the stage at the Ogden. Wearing oversized T-shirts and sporting some serious "What's good?" stares, they took seats on giant bean bags. One had a bag of Cheetos, the other had Gatorade. Then Santi White aka Santigold appeared and launched into her first song — and the two "dancers" just sat back and looked disinterested. It was bold and brilliant opening to a pop concert with a message.
See, Santigold is not a normal pop star, not even a normal performer. She's not aiming for a Top-40 hit encased in bubblegum beats and a Dr. Luke producing credit. Santigold has a mission: to expose and destroy the consumer culture that has all but killed any sense of art left in pop music.
Santigold's latest album is titled 99¢, a slogan her two bandmates wore on their shirts. The title is a reference to the current "value" of music, which is probably even less in our post-iTunes era. She sported a "gold for sale" dress, a reference to the fact that she herself is for sale, no matter how her audience or others may view her. She can be exchanged — gold isn't priceless.
The references were everywhere during her ninety-minute banger of a set. The back-up dancers doing choreographed moves with selfie sticks — perfectly mirroring the crowd that was Snapchatting and and taking selfies alongside them. The screen projections behind her, which showed tanning beds, grocery stores, fucking Egg McMuffins. Is this show anything more than a fiscal exchange? Do we consume music, art, cultural experience the same way we consume the bag of Doritos that Santigold stuffed into her clear jacket?
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SHOW ME HOW
The answer is no, we don't. As a culture we are starting to evolve past that, especially in music, where iTunes singles are no longer hoarded on our memory-expanding iPods. Where we choose to brave the sold-out after a blizzard instead of watching Youtube clips. But it doesn't always feel that way. In a world where pop stars compete for slots in the Billboard 100 and sacrifice individual expression for a paycheck, creating a song can feel as meaningless as swiping a credit card.
At the end, during the fantastic song "I Can't Get Enough (of Myself)," the screen flickered with images of Santigold's head on Pez dispensers, on store shelves — all while she sang "I want to bottle it to sell." Santigold knows that at the end of the day, she's for sale too, but goddamn if she isn't going to be the highest-quality product out there.