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Are You Ready for the Country: How to tune a turd

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Here ya go. Ten ways I'd put the hurt on Kanye West.

One. I'd steal his vocal vocoder.

Thought I was gonna say I'd kick his ass, didn't you? Naw. I'm not gonna turn this into a rant about Kanye, though if any of y'all know me at all you know I'm none too happy about this Kanye West stompin' all over Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards business. I was at karaoke when it happened, likely singing either Dwight Yoakam ("Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose," precisely) or Waylon Jennings ("I've Always Been Crazy," clearly) when I was apprised of the VMA hubbub via Facebook. If she was my little sister why I'd... I'd... I'd... I'd take away his vocal vocoder. Jerkface.

I'm not the only one who's pissed. Facebook feeds were going nuts with up-to-the-minute commentary. Local country station K102, when requesting followers' thoughts on the matter, had one respondent sharing her mildly racist two cents: That "boy" needs to learn some manners! Grow up Kayne! (sic). I shudder at that, before adding that even Stephen Colbert took a stab at Kanye in defense of Taylor, poking fun at his excessive use of auto-tune.

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But hey, I know this news is overdone, so let's stick a fork in it, take a moment to stop poking fun at "Kayne," terrible sunglasses, neon sneakers, bad hair, freaknasty girlfriend, dead mother and all... and consider the use of auto-tune in country music.

Auto-tune, which uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch, can be in its most subtle function used to disguise mistakes, or alternately, to do, well, this.

Country stars including Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Sara Evans, John Michael Montgomery and Rascal Flatts have admitted to using it (Garth, my friends, does not).

So what does it sound like?

Wander on here for Hometracked's 10 Examples of Auto-Tune Abuse in Pop Music.

And does it make a difference if you are, in fact, a talentless, out-of-tune warbler? Syndicated radio DJs Big D & Bubba tested it out.

Nashville's long been home to a mix of artists with voices that may not be perfect but are nonetheless chock full of character--George Jones, Johnnys Paycheck and Cash, Willie Nelson--mixed with session musicians comprising the cream of the crop where musicianship is concerned. Why tune to perfection (or polish a turd til it's good 'n shiny)?

Long ago when spurning the practice to an ex-boyfriend, a recording engineer, he defended its prudent use to clean up rough spots in the interest of conserving studio time, explaining it would do you no good if the bottom line was that you truly sucked. In other words, it made the already talented sound all that more perfect.

But goddamn--Patsy Cline recorded "Crazy" in one take, fresh out of the hospital, following her car accident and with a broken rib, without its aid.

And to loop it all back to the VMAs, check out auto-tune king T-Pain's recent partnership with Taylor Swift for the CMT Music Awards.

In any case, while the technology may bastardize the integrity of music, it sure does make for some funny videos to watch around the fire while my roommates and I are drinkin'.

Oh, and Kanye needs to learn some manners, or I will personally see to it that lessons no. 2-10 become promise not threat. WATCH OUT, KAYNE. I may not be very big but my German immigrant blood makes me a scrappy little 'f-er. (Thanks, Grandma Steinleitner, for my scrappy German immigrant blood, at the ready to fill up on beer then defend the honor of bullied underdogs everywhere.) I'll steal your vocoder, and then I'll steal your sunglasses, number eight involves me stealing your 808, and then where will that leave you? Back in college, my friend.

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