Priya Ragu is a pop musician unlike any other. Her 2021 mixtape damnshestamil is an incredible body of work that fuses together alternative R&B and soul, with the musically diverse sounds of Tamil music. And now, on her debut studio album Santhosam, meaning ‘happiness’ in Tamil, she transcends that unique style and creates a record that is drenched in positive vibes and beautiful music. It’s safe to say that she’s truly outdone herself on it, and then some!
The lead single Adalam Va! was my favourite song of last year, with a chorus so infectiously catchy that it’s frankly impossible to sit still throughout. And the fact that it’s only 2 and a half minutes long is criminal, as it could easily be extended and still not lose its flair. Black Goose is an arrestingly important and powerful track – written in the wake of George Floyd’s 2020 murder, it’s a rhythmic and, at times, somewhat anxiety-inducing song, what with its shifts in dynamics and gang vocals. It’s one of the album’s standout tracks, and it transitions elegantly into the more graceful Let Me Breathe (Reprise), which acts like the calm after the storm, with its chorus of “God, let them breathe” flowing dreamily out over the string section and clean guitar.
Yet on tracks like One Way Ticket, Priya isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun and create some dancefloor bangers. With lines like “Switch off, one option / Let’s dance like nobody’s watching”, you can’t help but tap your feet along to that insatiable rhythm, and bop your head to its house beat. You’ve also got to hand it to her brother, known as Japhna Gold, for taking the reins of production on this record and lending a hand in making this album sound the way that it does.
The final track, Mani Osai, is a truly gorgeous and gentle piece that is incredibly pleasing to the ears, as we get a classic Tamil track, complete with instrumentation as well as language too. By the time the song ends, it leaves the listener begging to hit repeat and enjoy the album all over again. It definitely did for me! And I’m left thinking that, if this is just her first album, what else lies ahead for the self-proclaimed Raguwavy sound? This record is proof that whatever comes next will be nothing short of genius.
Listen to: Hit the Bucket, Adalam Va!, Black Goose