Last of the Auto-Tune
February 13, 2008
Now, I could have gone another week on Snoop's "Sensual Seduction", but I was a little under the weather, and as I understand it there is a rest of the world? Whatever. But here are some of the other key ideas we could have explored:
- Like "Cloverfield", "Sensual Seduction" features something of a motif of taping-over content as a framing device. In Cloverfield, it's not actually taping, but there is explicit recording over earlier material. In Seduction, it's explicitly a nod to VHS tape, but only the implicit suggestion of taping over something else. But as a common concept, there is something to be said about appropriation, shared recordings, and digital media. But what are Snoop and the Cloverfield monster trying to tell us?
- I alluded to the death of analog in the post about vocoder being replaced with Auto-Tune, but this seems like one of the underreported areas of the transition to digital. We talk about the analog hole in regard to DRM, but analog outputs also permit different kinds of manipulation for artist reasons -- techniques that exist in a different plane of consumption/creation than merely remixing.
- Do you think Billy Joel even knew what Auto-Tune was when he cranked that thing up to 11 before the Super Bowl?
- There's an outstanding remix of Sensual Seduction with the hook sung by Robyn, minus the vocoder manipulation. But really it's just another milestone in Robyn's march towards being the best pure-pop female performer in the world.
- Snoop seems to have singlehandedly snatched the is-he-or-isn't-he irony confusion crown from R. Kelly. Poor Robert's world-beating performance in "Trapped in the Closet" was undone by the fact that, by the time of the additions of Chapters 13 - 22, R. was in on the joke and therefore ruined the fun of watching the videos. Snoop is both ridiculous and completely sincere. Love it.
- Snoop name-checks Shawty Redd's "Drifter" as the song that inspired Sensual Seduction, and astoundingly even admits that his initial desire was to acquire the song outright. When rebuffed, Redd made a clone song, which wasn't even intended to feature Auto-Tune. And yet, despite having all the wrong instincts about marketing and producing this track, Redd's work still made its way into the lyrics of the song.
- And look ma, we made BuzzFeed for Auto-Tune Abuse! Actually, don't look, ma. (This week's topic actually inspired my mother to email me and tell me to stick to what I'm good at. Sorry, mom!)
- Finally, there's a whole slew of pop songs that are either completely or partially renamed for the commercial market when they are released as singles, as the result of the increasing willingness to use offensive terms in the titles of songs. Like 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake's "Ayo Pornography" becoming "Ayo Technology", "Sexual Eruption" became "Sensual Seduction". In addition to toning down the coarseness (We lose, for example, Snoop's explanatory declaration of "Orgasm." at the end of the song.), it changes the perception of the song, as Nelson ably noted in an email to me:
[W]hat amazed me is how the more explicit lyrics took a lot of charm out of the video for me. With the "Sensual Seduction" lyrics it had that charming goofy sexiness of the 70s pimp playa, a combination of sexy and yet a little harmless, like Smoove B. "Sexual Eruption", by contrast, felt harsh and crass to me, sort of unpleasant. Particularly when Snoop helpfully says the word "Orgasm", in case you were confused about by the "Eruption" metaphor.
They're saying the same thing, but a real lover seduces his girl, doesn't just slap his cock in.
I can add nothing to that.
Dedicated readers will recall me obsessing over and over-analyzing Auto-Tune in pop music earlier this year. It is, then, my pleasure to report that, thanks to the inestimable Sasha Frere-Jones, Auto-Tune analysis has gone legit. Behold, no less an aut... Read More