By Margeaux Watson
Updated December 22, 2008 at 12:00 PM EST

Today kicks off my countdown of music’s biggest hits and misses of 2008. First up, I present…

Santogold: Breakthrough Artist of the Year
Santi White, the Philadelphia singer-songwriter better known as Santogold, spent years paying her dues behind the scenes of the music business. She not only penned the bulk of the lyrics on Res‘ 2001 CD, How I Do, but she also fronted an indie rock band called Stiffed before striking out on her own and reinventing herself as Santogold. With the release of her flawless eponymous solo debut album, White finally reaped the critical and commercial fruits of her labor, as tracks like “Creator,” “Lights Out,” and “L.E.S. Artistes” became highly sought-after by music supervisors for TV, film, and ad campaigns. Her distinctive mix of sounds–including new wave, dub, punk, and reggae–is as edgy as it is infectious. And though her CD was unjustly snubbed for a Grammy nod, it is without a doubt one of the year’s finest releases.