It’s your fault America. Your the ones who like hyper-produced “cute” boys and girls performing your music. You’re the ones who want all real emotion and authentic humanity taken out of your music. You are the ones who have elevated just the right reverb on the digital snare drum above songwriting craft and inspiration. And above all, you’re the ones who have allowed auto-tune distortion to soil every mainstream hit for the last decade to the point where you think its a singing style and not an algorithm for fixing inaccurate singing. So it’s your fault and I want you to shut up about it.
The issue at hand is Britney Spears’ new single, “Alien,” which someone got released with the lead vocal track un-processed. Many are saying that the problem is that it hasn’t been auto-tuned. The producer claims it was just a test track, and so shouldn’t be judged as the kind of work that Ms Spears is capable of. I’m sure both of these claims are true. And there’s one more thing: Spears, like all the other purveyors of children’s music, does not have loads of other effects put on her voice here. But before listening to this track, bear in mind that her pitch problems are not primarily on those high notes that most people are freaking out about. I suspect that if it weren’t for those high notes, few would even have noticed. So again, America: it’s your fault because you have no taste, no maturity, and very little musical sense.
My take on the song is different. I think it’s the best thing she’s ever done. I just wish all the background music were taken away. With that vocal and an acoustic guitar, it would be terrible. But that would be a major step up from what most of my fellow Americans think passes for good music.
Now I’m going to present to you some good simple music. No, I’m not going to go back to Robert Johnson. Here is Camper Van Beethoven doing Take the Skinheads Bowling. It’s simple; it’s fun; and it’s pretty well in tune (not that it is critical):
Here is Devotchka with “The Clockwise Witness”:
Here is Jules Shear doing “The Trap Door”:
And here is the greatest punk band ever, Minutemen with “Two Beads at the End”:
I don’t care if you like any of that, America. But when you demand music that is created like television commercials, don’t be surprised when all the pieces aren’t perfect on their own. What you hear on “Alien” is an actual human voice. If you don’t like it, admit that it’s the technology you care about. Embrace your dehumanization.