Elevate Difference

Keyboard City

Welcome to Keyboard City, a place where the sun is shining, the people are friendly, and everything is going to work out just fine. It’s a place created by Salvador Santana (son of ten-time Grammy winner Carlos), a young man determined to make his own mark on music. After a lilting introduction, Keyboard City jumps straight into the party atmosphere of “We Got Somethin’,” a bouncy number that sets the tone for the rest of the album. There are a few thoughtful moments, such as the dream-like title track, but, for the most part, the focus is on fun.

After a glance at the album’s liner notes, one question immediately springs to mind: What instrument can’t this guy play? Santana is credited on every track with various combinations of vocals, drums, bass, keyboards, organ, and even something called a clavinet. While there’s no denying Santana’s abilities as an instrumentalist, his lyrical efforts are less reliable. A track like “Under the Sun” has everything a hit single needs, but it’s sometimes difficult to sing along with the lackluster lyrics: “I see so many faces up on the Internet, some like to keep in touch, and some I never met.”

“Salaboutmoney” strays into similar territory. It aims for biting political commentary, but ends up here: “Corrupt politicians drunk off the power. Face it, you’re all over the Internet browser.” What’s telling is that the album’s gorgeous packaging—a jungle-themed pop-up complete with poster and intricate artwork—doesn’t provide us with any of the words. It’s when Santana puts his vocals in the background that Keyboard City really shines. “Video Game, Save My Life” makes you want to invite all your friends for a round of cocktails to nod along to the infectious percussion.

So, what do women do in Keyboard City? Well, they back Santana up by playing some of the instruments and providing additional vocals. The album’s only love song, “Keep Smiling,” puts a gentle, positive spin on a relationship between a woman and man separated by distance. But ultimately, this isn’t an album about anything as complicated as gender; it’s about keeping it real, and enjoying the moment.

“With the last record I was very passive and insecure, only because I wasn’t listening to my gut, allowing my second opinions to get to me,” Santana explains on his website. Even if he’s not completely on top of the lyrical side of the equation, he has clearly found buckets of confidence and plenty of sunshine in Keyboard City.

Written by: Alice Allan, April 11th 2010