Brady Santoro, singer-songwriter and student at Julia R. Masterman School in Spring Garden, gives his response to the many frustrations of 2020 in his new album, B.S. 2020. Premiering on Spotify this past October, the 15-year-old folk artist released a 16-track LP of original songs, written in the past four years, plus covers relating to the album’s dark tone. The album explores themes unique to 2020, Philadelphia, and the years following the 2016 election in a topical and precise manner.
Overcoming the B.S.
It all began in October 2019. “My guitar teacher and now producer, Frank Velardo, asked if I wanted to record demos of my songs,” Santoro said. Santoro would go back and forth from his home in West Philadelphia to Kensington to record, eventually leading him to create an album out of the four songs he recorded. When the pandemic hit, the project went off the shelf with no clear answer for when the two could get back to work.
“Velardo hit me up and asked if I wanted to finish the album.” The duo finished the project in the less formal setting of Santoro’s living room and it was ready for release by the fall. B.S. 2020 contains both original songs and covers of folk songs from the mid-19th century, all fitting the somber tone of the album.
Politics is everything
B.S. 2020 alludes to several political and social issues last year, including the Trump administration, cancel culture, and issues regarding middle-class marginalization and police brutality, most of which Santoro tackles with subtlety. B.S. 2020’s lead single, “Abhorrent Man,” focuses on Donald Trump with no direct references to his name or his policies.
“I tried to avoid saying that Donald Trump sucks, but rather expand upon what makes him dangerous as he became visibly more abhorrent a few months before the album’s release,” Santoro said.
Santoro’s lyrics also tackle withdrawal, morality, and capitalism. The album relies on faith and how messages get distorted in American culture. “A lot of western politics go against what Jesus taught, so I referenced him as a moral rock in the middle of an immoral ocean,” Santoro says.
For songs with themes less subtle, Santoro contrasts the tone of the lyrics with upbeat instrumentals. “Anthem,” a song near the end of the album, focuses on “trampled workers” referring to the working class. The lyrics challenge their treatment by “the establishment [that] sends promises and never gives support.” Following “Anthem,” “Ballad of Atatiana Jefferson” is a protest piece addressing police brutality, with direct references to Atatiana Jefferson and the death of George Floyd.
Though melancholy, B.S. 2020 is real and relevant with an observational narrator, brought up by political and existential dread. Santoro keeps his politics and poetics close and his ear close to current events, with even his older songs still being relevant as time goes by.
What, When Where, and Accessibility:
Image Description: Brady Santoro appears twice in the same photo. The Santoro to the left is standing by a grey door and ivory wall, wearing a jacket, a top hat, and wearing a mask, a banjo leaning next to him. The Santoro to the right is sitting, his head lowered and his hands hanging over his crossed legs. "B.S. 2020" is written in the lower right corner of the wall.