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DJ/Rupture – A Definitive Piece on the Auto-Tune Phenomenon.

May 13, 2009

I’ve been listening to DJ/Rupture, aka Jace Clayton’s WFMU show “Mudd Up!” for over a year now every week (via podcast) and have kept  up with his mixes and production since at least the late 90’s.  His (and his guests’) selections on Mudd Up! extend from Arabic Roots and Pop to UK Garage … and he’s increasingly the English language specialist in all things Cumbia. So, you probably already know who he is (seen him in The Fader and other publications) and he doesn’t really need my introduction – but if you don’t (and have the slightest interest in dance and roots music worldwide) – check out his work immediately.

Well, in the latest issue of Freize Magazine, he’s written a remarkably definitive piece on Auto-Tune; it’s place in Pop history, and its place in the Pop present. He notes that, as sick as many of us are of US Pop over-using it with no end in sight – the Moroccans have it much worse (or better, depending on your taste) as it’s been going strong for 9 years! He cites the below song as the one that started it all – think of it as Morocco’s “I’m Sprung“.

For the record, I’m not one of the haters, although I understand them. My perspective is this: I don’t really care if T-Pain can actually sing or not, I enjoy the multi-layered end result. Of course, like everyone else, I’m baffled as to why this hasn’t run it’s course and actually seems to be gaining steam. Hell, Bloc Party used it on their last album!

From his piece:

From the US to Mexico, Jamaica, Africa, and beyond – Auto-Tune usage has splintered, with different approaches from scene to scene and artist to artist. (It remains the most sonically extreme in Berber Morocco.) The plug-in creates a different relation of voice to machine than ever before. Rather than novelty or some warped mimetic response to computers, Auto-Tune is a contemporary strategy for intimacy with the digital. As such, it becomes quite humanizing. Auto-Tune operates as a duet between the electronics and the personal. A reconciliation with technology. This development was sparked by a sexagenarian pop star and spread like wildfire across genre, language, and geography.

Absolutely lovely.

If you can’t get enough, another great music writer, Sasha Frere Jones, wrote a piece on Auto-Tune for The New Yorker last year.

UPDATE: The Times recommended Rupture’s piece.

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