I really should write a follow-up on Joseph Stiglitz and ask what the heck happened to his report to Nicolas Sarkozy on redefined GDP measurement. But no, I got distracted by
Punky Meadows Justin Bieber arriving in New Zealand this week.
Now I’ve got nothing against Justin Bieber in particular or teenage pop sensations in general. As music critic Graham Reid expressed on his blog today, the kids are going to scream at whatever they want to scream at. too. (Although this footage reaffirms why 13 year-old girls are still the scariest thing on the planet).
No, my point is about Auto-Tune. It’s clear that Mr Bieber can actually sing quite nicely in a radio-friendly monochrome fashion, and even plays the guitar – you can check out all the original YouTube videos if you want, but here’s JB on ITV in the UK back in January:
Auto-Tune’s been around for a while now. I wonder if in ten years’ time we’ll regard it as a hopelessly outmoded sonic token of the current decade. Just like all song titles at the moment must include the letters “ft.”, (as if artists are afraid to be heard performing without at least one celebrity friend), singers must warble through Auto-Tune’s digital downpipe in order to satisfy 2010’s well-tempered-robot aesthetic.
“Auto-Tune”, with its Bryl-Creem hyphen and teen-snaring smoothness, is like fins on a Studebaker: the fins serves no practical purpose, but made the car look cooler. Similarly Auto-Tune has become the indispensable appendage to modern pop.
In many ways, not a lot has changed since that shiny atomic age when asbestos was futuristic. In the first 8 bars of Baby compulsorily ft. Ludacris, Justin’s Ooooh-Aaaah resembles the same shoo-wop-doo-widdy nonsense as Da Doo Ron Ron in 1963.
And the rest of the song is based around the same I-VI-IV-V progression that has served so many chart-toppers well – 1964’s Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-Las, and 1961’s Stand By Me by Ben E. King…
I hope Justin Bieber survives the screaming hordes and that he grows up to be happy and fulfilled in whatever he does. Time will tell if his musical career will be durable and interesting.
Maybe one day Justin’ll make an album without Auto-Tune.
And maybe one day I’ll write that follow-up post about Joseph Stiglitz.