The Big Hurt: Pop 3000!

At the dawn of a new millennium, pop cries out for innovation
By DAVID THORPE  |  December 29, 2008

I'm sometimes pigeonholed as some kind of Negative Nelly: a pessimist, a cynic, a grouch, even. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm totally optimistic that pop music will rise to new heights of artistic excellence; the only reason it hasn't yet is because everything always sucks and everyone's an idiot but me. If we sort that stuff out, 2009 just might be a turning point in pop history.

It feels like innovation has been a little slow for the past few years, and it's time for musicians to step their game up. They've got precious little time left to make their mark — just one year from now, they'll be at some fancy musician New Year's Eve shindig, watching the date roll over from 12/31/2009 to 01/01/3000 in silent contemplation. Will they be proud of their achievements, or will they be hanging their heads in shame for accomplishing so little in their millennium? (Although, to be fair, it did seem weirdly shorter than the last one.) If they listen to me, for goddamned once, maybe they'll have something to be proud of.

A few months ago, I wrote a brilliant list of suggestions for how music could be improved: new instruments, like a piano-banjo combo or some kind of a whistle that causes orgasms; new vocal styles to replace rapping, like maybe coughing or making really slow croaking noises; increased holiday-related content in pop songs to prevent having to listen to a whole different set of songs at Christmastime; et cetera. I guess I was just casting pearls before swine — artists totally failed to take my constructive criticism seriously, and we were stuck with another year of mostly boring music.

There were a few bright spots, though: as Richard Beck's recent column detailed, something called Auto-Tune recently became the future of vocals, supplanting singing and rapping as the pinnacle of musical utterance. Considering my suggestion to advance vocal techniques, I think it's fair to say that I'm responsible for the whole Auto-Tune thing (in case you're wondering who to thank). I listened to a few Kenny West tracks showcasing the technology, and I was pretty impressed. It's some kind of machine that takes imperfect, off-key vocals and automatically transforms them into smooth, pitch-perfect campy disco robot burbling. I applaud the efforts of Kenny, Little Wayne, and T-Pain, but technology has actually been around for years — I'm pretty sure Peter Frampton somehow did it with a guitar and a weird spit-tube — but these guys have found new ways to abuse it. Well, not new ways, but they're abusing it more often, and hey, that's kind of a thing.

If you want to add some real innovation, though, I've got another million-dollar idea: how about a reverse-Auto-Tune, where you sing into it with actual notes and it translates those into normal speech, making your lyrics easier to understand? Then you could get that baby and a regular Auto-Tune going at the same time and it'll probably create a crazy psychedelic feedback loop. I have no idea what it would sound like (I'm not a musician), but as a critic I can speculate that it would be pretty fuckin' far out.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Big Hurt , Entertainment, Music, Music,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY DAVID THORPE
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   THE BIG HURT: LUPE’S CAREER CHANGE  |  March 19, 2013
    You may have already had a big luxurious eye roll at celebrities as "creative directors" of companies ...
  •   WHO CHARTED: SMOOTH JAZZ SONGS  |  March 12, 2013
    If you dig deep enough into Billboard.com's genre charts, past the foreign hits, past the Latin and Christian stuff and the MySpace streaming charts, you'll find one last afterthought: Smooth Jazz.
  •   THE BIG HURT: THIS WEEK IN OFFENSIVE CONTENT  |  March 08, 2013
    In her long career of pushing boundaries, Madonna has run afoul of some of the world's most powerful institutions.
  •   THE BIG HURT: DIVING IN THE PR DUMPSTER  |  February 26, 2013
    I've been dumpster diving in the PR bin, the rankest receptacle of music industry waste, and I've come up with a dripping fistful of the month's hottest garbage.
  •   THE BIG HURT: LEANIN' WITH BIEBS  |  February 20, 2013
    Bieber was allegedly photographed sipping something from a double Styrofoam cup, in close proximity to a big bottle of codeine cough syrup. This can only add up to one thing: lean . That purple drank, the laudanum of Screw, the deadly nectar of Pimp C.

 See all articles by: DAVID THORPE