Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Sauti Sol – Suzanna

Sauti Sol do not appreciate your stories…


Olivia Rafferty: Pop-culture morsels criticising the Instagram influencer can often be trite and a little bit redundant, flexing a perspective that we’ve already been on board with since the dawn of Snapchat filters. But Sauti Sol take the trope and give it a delightful wryness, with the help of a guitar motif that wriggles constantly throughout the song. “Shaking what your doctor gave ya” is a brilliant lyric, delivered with enough smile in the mouth that you could almost forget it’s a song about someone trying to sell you hair vitamins from a Parisian balcony.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: An anachronistic piece through and through — its references to plastic surgery and Instagram are the only indications of modernity, but the sweetness of the rest hearkens back to a more compassionate era of songs where a male singer shames the choices of a women he once had a connection with. It’s a noxious message, but the love in the vocals almost, but doesn’t quite outweigh it. “Suzanna” still charms, though — it’s mostly in the warmth of the guitars and genial chug of the beat, in the harmonies but not the lyrics.

Nortey Dowuona: A slinking guitar one slips in the door, with a boisterous synth cloud and padding drums, with a sloppy bass and another swinging guitar flying through the window and all scrambling up and assembling behind Bien, Savara and Chimano, singing to Suzanna, who smiles tightly and teleports back to Sankofa Books and Cafe.

Kylo Nocom: Sauti Sol’s making-of video is absolutely worth watching just to see the absolute joy they have creating this song. The efforts of their labor are clear: this is a capital-P Pop statement, with well-deserved international ambitions as they prepare for their major label debut. I haven’t heard a track as refined as “Suzanna” all year, nothing with as lovely minutiae as their ad-libs, their sensuous guitar work, or their almost-communal chorus harmonies. Yet the lyrics deserve some scrutiny for what feels like misogynistic back-handed compliments and outright disses that would be inexcusable elsewhere. These concerns are somewhat assuaged by a cute response parody that flips around the dynamic of the song, but I’m left uncomfortable with how much I can’t stay away from the original’s gorgeous arrangements.

Alfred Soto: The melody’s country lilt should prove, if any proof were needed, of the cross-pollination between country music and the music of several African nations. Possibly I overrate “Suzanna” because I need some buoyancy.

Scott Mildenhall: There’s an obvious case to be made for this being massively sexist — every nation and every era gets its “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” But whereas Peter Sarstedt was playing with an unfortunate tall-poppy syndrome/superiority complex hybrid, Sauti Sol sound lovelorn. Their mocking isn’t quite toothless, but is concertedly undermined by the more pertinent desperation. They’re willing to put themselves on the back foot, and the result is winning.

Edward Okulicz: My first instinct was that the references to Instagram, silicon and “worst behaviour” were lightly condemning of an ex’s new best life, but that isn’t right — it’s a song about post-break-up denial and hopelessly, helplessly putting a smile on a situation, and you can hear it in every beat and every lick. The girl is gone, the narrator doesn’t realise she’s unfollowed him on Instagram, and the song is great fun.

Reader average: [3] (2 votes)

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