Recording information: Atlantic Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Atlantic Studios, NYC; Downtown Music Studios, NYC; Echo Park Backhouse Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Eldorado Recording Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Federal Prism Studio, Los Angeles, CA; House of Hit, Los Angeles, CA; Jungle City Studios, NYC; Patrick's House, Stockholm, Sweden; Paulie Sound Factory, Los Angeles, CA; Rodeo Recording, Santa Monica, CA; The Village Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
In the eight years between Santigold's self-titled debut and 99 Cents, artists who ignored the boundaries between genres -- as well as the mainstream and the underground -- became more fashionable and more commonplace, but Santi White remained in a class of her own. Her wide-ranging mix of new wave, reggae, R&B, synth pop, and more sounds fresher than ever on her third album, in large part because she lets the sense of fun that powered Santogold and the less overtly catchy Master of My Make-Believe come to the fore. From the album's artfully cheap-looking cover to its music, there's a self-aware playfulness on display; though White depicts herself as a commodity, 99 Cents' pop never feels like a concession or compromise (though she thoroughly dismantles a poseur ex on the excellent final track, "Who I Thought You Were"). Instead, White radiates confidence at every turn, whether balancing self-obsession and self-worth on the cheery album opener "Can't Get Enough of Myself" or valuing herself as a mogul as well as an artist on "Big Boss Big Time Business," which features brash production work from Rostam Batmanglij and Hit Boy. Indeed, White enlists an all-star cast of indie and pop artists and producers to bring 99 Cents' vision to fruition. The fiery, aptly named "Banshee" features songwriting by veteran hitmaker Cathy Dennis, production by White's longtime collaborator John Hill, and backing vocals by Charli XCX, while Swedish pop mastermind Patrik Berger helps "Rendezvous Girl" sound like a-ha's "Take on Me" several generations later. When White nods to 2010s trends, she does it in ways that feel natural; "Who Be Lovin' Me," a duet with iLoveMakonnen, fits her quirky but undeniably catchy style just as well as more typically Santigold tracks like "All I Got." Though 99 Cents is Santigold's most accessible work yet, it feels like the mainstream meeting White on her terms rather than vice versa, and the results are often irresistible. ~ Heather Phares
Rolling Stone - "[T]he smarts, confidence and versatility of 99? are undeniable."
Paste (magazine) - "'Chasing Shadows' is among the most forthright songs of her career. The verses are rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness, an inner monologue at its most intimate, hurtfully honest."
Pitchfork (Website) - "The moment on 99? where it all comes together is on 'Banshee,' an absolute firestorm of a track....'Banshee' sounds like the soundtrack to a military invasion by a chorus of anime schoolgirls."
Clash (magazine) - "The record is packed with great tunes....Santigold is at her best when the production behind her has plenty of Caribbean-inflected bounce..."