Playing Against Stripe: Santogold isn?t the dance-pop diva the hype suggested.

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When Santogold’s “Creator” recently wound up playing in a TV ad for Bud Light Lime, the song’s sampled rhythms and slick production made the swampy beverage seem not just potable but downright exotic. But now that the Brooklyn-based singer’s self-titled debut has arrived, it’s clear that any company hoping to license one of the record’s other 11 tracks will probably have to be selling soft drinks, fizzy and confectionary as the music is. There wasn’t a strong sense of what Santogold would actually sound like, despite an ocean of advance hype, the beer ad, and a guest appearance on producer Mark Ronson’s 2007 solo record, singing a hooky cover of the Jam’s “Pretty Green.” Those two songs portrayed Santogold (aka Santi White) as a hip-grinding purveyor of ambitious mutant-pop, somebody who could adeptly splice hip-hop with club rhythms and dub echoes. In other words, an M.I.A. who could sing. So it’s a little shocking that Santogold is so sugary. Rather than launching with the sweaty growl of a clubby sub-bass track, “L.E.S. Artistes” kicks off the album with the buzz of staccato guitars. Similarly, “You’ll Find a Way” is only a few Harajuku girls short of a Gwen Stefani tune. So the record is more likely to blast out of a water-park PA than a club system, but White can write narcotic ’80s-tinged alterna-pop tunes that would make Linda Perry jealous. In the past she’s been hired as a songwriting partner for Ashlee Simpson and Lily Allen, and “Lights Out” explains why: In just over 30 seconds the song elevates from a chugging Pixies-style bass hook to a chorus breathy enough to inflate 99 luftballons, adeptly inspiring nostalgia for two separate decades simultaneously. On the other hand, “Creator” and its kin seem to be the inventions of White’s writing partners. Producers like Switch and Diplo (both of whom contributed extensively to M.I.A.’s Kala) have their hands all over songs like “My Superman” and “Unstoppable.” The album’s final track, “You’ll Find a Way (Switch and Sinden Remix)” exposes the divorce in sensibilities; the song is not so much a remix as the photo-negative version of the chipper original. Here White’s voice is suspended over an abyss of negative space and menacing sawtooth synth bass. It’s the record’s hippest-sounding moment, but it’s hard to imagine White’s nervous and stuttering sampled vocals as the soundtrack to your personal summertime montage—that’s a job for the effervescent “Lights Out,” which pretty much turns life into Sixteen Candles. Santogold is a little sweeter than expected, but that just makes it more refreshing.