The Sunday Listens: New Santigold

This week we're gonna talk about how brilliant Santigold is.

Ok, I'm not really gonna go on a diatribe about her artistic merit, but I will say that her newest album, 99¢, which came out 2 weeks ago, is a really fun descent into pop mutations.  Frankly, it's been my only jam for the past week.  Carribean dancehall meets 80's pop meets contemporary hip hop.  I hear everything from Siouxsie Sioux to Erykah Badu.  Intrigued?  Buy it here.

What I do want to talk about is how wonderfully Santigold uses the full range of her voice in this album.  In fact, she gives us clear examples of the spectrum of her registration.  

Let's talk registration for a moment.  Loosely, this refers to head voice and chest voice, high notes and low notes, respectively.  Oftentimes singers blend these registers, singing in neither register exclusively.  However, Santigold has sections where she fully lives in each register, letting us hear the unique colors each register has to offer.  It is this type of tonal play that makes pop music so infectious and interesting to listen to.

In her song "Chasing Shadows" she layers to separate vocal lines during the chorus.  The primary one is sung in a chest dominant register while a head voice only line is superimposed on top.  The contrast between the two registers happening simultaneously creates a dynamic sound and helps to heighten the song overall.  Then, she comes in on the second verse singing, again, in an exclusively head register.  Her voice sounds very pretty, for lack of a better adjective, and the vocal line has an opportunity to float over the bass and drums.  Check it out and let me know what you hear:

The track, "Before the Fire", opens with a darker sound than much of the rest of the album.  The lyrics hint at personal struggle, be it in romantic love or life's purpose.  To accentuate this, she sings in a full, heavy, chest voice registration.  On the chorus, with its held-out notes, it becomes almost a full belt.  This song has serious feels and it comes through because of the choice she made for vocal placement.  What do you think?

Conveying artistry and emotion as a singer is often about making smart choices in how we use our voice.  I appreciate vocalists who give us a wide range of vocal colors and textures, like Santigold.  Listening to how our favorite singers use their voice will help us to create dynamic, emotional music that reaches our audience.

Who are some dynamic singers that inspire you?  Let me know in the comments.