cul­ture shock

Singer Santigold talks the dif­fer­ence be­tween per­for­mance and re­al­ity.

ELLE (Canada) - - Radar -

On the day we caught up with Brook­lyn-based Santi White, bet­ter known as genre-bend­ing in­die mu­si­cian Santigold, NYC was in the bull’s eye of a mas­sive snow­storm, but the 39-year-old singer was “easy ridin’” on her way into Man­hat­tan, jok­ing about how her sur­vival plan in­volved get­ting a satel­lite phone “like the one I had when I climbed Mount Kil­i­man­jaro.” (Santigold was part of Sum­mit on the Sum­mit in 2010, when celebri­ties like Lupe Fi­asco and Jes­sica Biel tack­led the moun­tain to raise aware­ness about clean-wa­ter ini­tia­tives.) As we dis­cussed the “mo­ment of still­ness” that that climb rep­re­sented in her ca­reer, the con­ver­sa­tion turned to so­cial me­dia, at­ten­tion spans and #goals, all punc­tu­ated by the oc­ca­sional sound of her car’s turn­ing in­di­ca­tor as she made her way through traf­fic. Your third al­bum, out now, is called 99¢. Why? “Mak­ing this record was about mak­ing art out of the re­al­ity that I’m a brand and a prod­uct. I have to fig­ure out ways to con­stantly sell my­self and put up this fa­cade of a per­fect life, a per­fect artist. It’s tak­ing a snap­shot of where we are as a cul­ture and talk­ing about it in a satir­i­cal and play­ful way.” It’s like we’re at a place with so­cial me­dia where ev­ery­one—not just celebri­ties and artists—feels like they have to present a per­fect ver­sion of them­selves to the world. “Ev­ery­body is view­ing them­selves as a prod­uct for sale. You’re mar­ket­ing a re­touched ver­sion of your life on Face­book. Peo­ple’s self-worth and iden­tity are mea­sured by how many likes they get, and they’re see­ing all th­ese pic­tures that are Face­tuned and Photo Won­dered and they’re like, ‘I don’t look like that.’ There is no dis­tinc­tion be­tween the vir­tual and the real any­more.” Where do you think we go from here? “That’s what I’m try­ing to fig­ure out! That’s the job of art: to be a mir­ror and hold up the cur­rent re­al­ity of cul­ture so we can take a step back. I don’t think there’s that much re­flec­tion hap­pen­ing any­more in so­ci­ety—even artists aren’t sit­ting and think­ing, be­cause we spend 70 per­cent of our time mar­ket­ing our art so we can make a liv­ing. What if I had more time to spend on my mu­sic and my art and my writ­ing? In­stead, I’m fight­ing for at­ten­tion be­cause of this ADD cul­ture. I just think there needs to be a mo­ment of ‘Where are we headed when peo­ple don’t know how to com­mu­ni­cate in a real space and where val­ues are shift­ing so much?’ Peo­ple on YouTube are mak­ing $10 mil­lion a year open­ing toys—it’s ab­surd.” Does your al­bum of­fer any so­lu­tions? “I re­ally be­lieve in the power of the in­di­vid­ual. I also just want to point out that there is some­thing very wrong with where we are. I’m not try­ing to be su­per-political, but in Amer­ica we’re at this place where it’s very real that we might be elect­ing a TV star [Don­ald Trump] to be pres­i­dent. And I think that’s from peo­ple not know­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween a per­for­mance and what would re­ally hap­pen if that per­son is run­ning the coun­try. I don’t think peo­ple are mak­ing a dis­tinc­tion be­tween vir­tual and real any­more, and that’s a scary place.” sarah laing n

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