Like country, R&B has fallen on some tough times. When R. Kelly and his Trapped in a Closet odyssey is carrying the torch with future (current?) lounge singer John Legend for your entire genre you might be in serious trouble. Sure Alicia Keys is capable of one or two decent songs per album (No One? Great stuff) and Beyonce occasionally shows signs of life but more often than not, modern R&B sucks for the same reason lots of modern country sucks, it is largely derivative of everything else in the genre and it's just boring... really boring.
While we're holding out hope for the possible return of D'Angelo and Lauryn Hill, we officially have a place holder in the form of Santogold. Song #25 L.E.S. Artistes puts a modern, far from conventional spin on the "I'm starting to get over you" formula perfected by Gloria Gaynor back in the day, only this song isn't quite certain enough to say, I WILL Survive, this is more of an I Might Survive and it's that lack of bravado that allows this track to enter that seemingly rarefied R&B air where acts like Dusty Springfield and hell even Madonna dwell. I think there's something far more vulnerable and less self-assured about the way Santogold writes and delivers her lyrics than much of the current R&B canon. Even the guitar riff that starts the track seems tentative, like it isn't quite sure it's sold on the fact that it's time to start. This minimal beginning blooms into a full aural assault as hand claps and HUGE synth hooks compliment the cool world play of the lyrics, "You don't know me I am an introvert an excavator, I'm duckin' out for now a face in dodgy elevators." while understated beats bring the whole thing home. My favorite part though comes at the end and does a great job of projecting that sense of uncertainty that blankets the, on first blush, empowering lyrics.
" Change, change, change
I want to get up out of my skin
tell you what
if I can shake it
I'm 'a make this
something worth dreaming of"
That final verse finds our hero still living in a world of ifs, not whens, and damned if it doesn't make you root for her.