Various & Sundry VII

29 November, 2008
Rat Fink

Whoa, I slept in until 6:25! Half the day’s gone now. OK, what’s in my reptilian brain this morning? I have six tabs open in Firefox. What’ll it be? Ahh….

Kanye West. I remember the first time I heard the Auto-Tune vocal processor on a recording. It was ten years ago (I looked it up), on Cher’s “Do You Believe in Life After Love?” Kind of a cool effect.

This morning, I listened to four tracks from West’s new album, Heartless. I kept listening, thinking, “OK, there’s got to be an end to this effect; he’s going to revert to his real voice any second now.” Nothin’ doin’. There isn’t a single moment of those four songs when Auto-Tune is not (over)used.

For those who may not know, Auto-Tune is a device used in recording studios (and increasingly in live performances) to alter a voice. It corrects bad notes so it sounds as if the artist sang in tune. Engineers can also monkey with Auto-Tune to give a voice a robotic sound.

As with every other in-studio sweetening gimmick (delay, reverb, phase shift, doubling, and a hundred other effects I don’t know about), Auto-Tune should be used like salt; a little bit goes a long way. Too much of it and the whole dish is ruined. And so it went with my four-course Kanye meal. It is apparent that the boy can’t sing in tune, but at least has the wisdom to use technology to cover up the fact. Unfortunately, the “annoying” factor still comes through loud and clear.

“Paranoid” has a nice hook in the chorus, but cripes I can’t get away from the Auto-Tune that I know is coming on the next line and the next and the next. And regarding “Amazing” — props to Mr. West for being a mega-hitmaker, but son, it sounds like a couple of my middle school boys experimenting with a 4-track recorder and a sampler in their attic. The singing is so bad, not even Auto-Tune does a decent job of covering it up.

The lyrics weren’t especially ennobling, either:

Tawk & tawk & tawk & tawk ~ Why don’t we just knock it off ~ They don’t know what we been thoo ~ They don’t know ’bout me & you


But hey, to each his own, right? If the music speaks to you, it’s all good, because in my book, that’s what music is supposed to do. And here ends my foray into popular music criticism — an endeavor best left to those who know the business. But seriously, anyone can recognize delusions of grandeur/self-aggrandizement when they see it. Brother needs to be careful. It’s all fun & games, painting yourself as bigger than life and greater than everyone and everything, until you can’t back it up. Heartless didn’t help Kanye’s quest for world domination.

Fink out.

Photo credit: Time
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29 November, 2008 9:35 am

Fink! Ya hit dah-nail-on-duh-head! I couldn’t agree with you more on this. I HATE my generations “music”. Can you even really say its music?? I don’t know what it is, but it sure ain’t that. Half the time it sounds like they’re singin into a stinkin’ fan! Holy crap. And then when people (like Alex Uselton, Fran Martinez) spend buttloads-ah-dough to buy big ole speakers for their car so they can play this “music” even louder? To all of those people, you’re stupid. Travis Trimble…I can’t ride with that kid. I feel like my heart is gonna explode. You can’t… Read more »

29 November, 2008 11:34 am

I don’t think it’s necessarily all the music of our generation that’s terrible. Every generation has it’s mixture of good and bad music. Look at the 70’s. The 1970’s gave us some great rock music… but it also gave us disco. As for Kanye West’s new CD… I don’t hate it. I don’t think it’s nearly as good as Graduation or Late Registration, but at least he tried something new and different. Most rappers stick to there M.O. and end up fading away. Look at Eminem. You can only do the whole angry shtick for so long, before people become… Read more »

30 November, 2008 10:32 pm

3 words…