September 17, 2008

T-Pain, Kanye, Lil’ Wayne & The Vocoder

Everyone’s either hating or loving the fact that T-Pain and the folks at AutoTune have brought back that classic vocoder sound. At first I thought it was just to compensate for lack of singing skills. I felt it was annoying and took away from the musicians that have real talent yet don’t get exposure. Especially when the man using it was only talking about being “In Love With A Stripper”. Soon enough I heard it spreading around to other R&B artists like Chris Brown, and knew it wasn’t going to end from there.

Now we have Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West using AutoTune unapologetically in every one of their latest releases. Even when they perform live, somehow the technicians are able to put the AutoTune effect through their microphones. When Lil’ Wayne performed on SNL the other weekend I thought he did a great job but, personally, would have rather heard him do it without any vocal manipulation. Kanye’s newest song “Love Lockdown” also features him utilizing the AutoTune effects in order to express his deepest pains about love.

Now, even though I’m 23 I have a vivid memory of first hearing the vocoder used by Stevie Wonder on his “Music Of My Mind” album. I thought it was such a cool idea as a child and never saw it resurface until years later when the “California Love” video came out with Roger Troutman using the Talk Box to achieve the same sound. The more I hear it used by rappers and R&B singers the more I’m starting to think that if they’re going to use it, then they better be good. Sometimes Kanye is too over the top with it, same with Wayne, but other times it doesn’t sound that bad. I think that for now, it should remain with T-Pain and maybe Chris Brown and everyone else should probably just let it go. But who am I to say what any other artist should do with their music?

- Steve Tyson Jr.

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