At the heart of my novel Wannabes, a sample of which you can read here, is a simple theory: that those fuming religious extremists who believe Rock (and any other kind of music with energy, passion and a bit of swagger) is the devil’s music have got it arse-for-tit.
The whole ethos of spirituality, of religion, is supposedly about aspiring to be somebody better, a being of pure love closer to God, and what better eases such an ascent than music that comes from the heart, music that is truly creative and makes the listener feel something?
If God does exist, I believe he is a massive Black Sabbath fan and is considering solving conflict on Earth by making every world leader and general listen to War Pigs five times a day. Jeff Buckley’s Grace is his most-listened-to album, even though Jeff comes to his den for a private concert once a month. He loves the early work of Daft Punk and, even though he thinks their latest stuff is a bit commercial, still respects them. He raps pretty well for a beardy white guy, except he isn’t so keen on the whole guns, drugs and bitches thing and prefers to rhyme along to Spearhead, A Tribe Called Quest and MC Solaar.
Gibson Les Pauls and Marshall stacks replaced all those chiming harps decades ago, although he did invest in a few of these bad boy electric harps so he could run them through his pedal board and make some interesting sounds. He has an old Moog stashed in his studio, and he isn’t afraid to experiment with 30-minute atonal dirges in the hope of stumbling across that one second of divine inspiration that may lead to a whole concept album.
Satan, on the other hand, is all about the bland. He wants your soul deadened. He wants you to sit slack-jawed at home feeling nothing, your senses and spirit dulled by the diet of malevolent muzak he is piping into your ears through televised talent shows and mainstream radio. He wants you to accept mediocrity as the pinnacle of musical creativity, so that your own perceptions of what the human imagination can do are eroded to point zero. He wants your soul to wither down to a blackened husk.
One of the cheeky chief imp’s greatest tools in this battle is Auto-Tune. For those who don’t know, Auto-Tune is an audio processing tool that corrects pitch. It first came to prominence as an effect on Cher’s big hit Believe, and you’ll have recognized that soulless digitized voice on other chart-topping pap down the years since.
So, no big deal right? It’s just a vocal effect. Alas, no. The creators of Auto-Tune, Antares Audio Technologies, say that it is used on almost every song you hear on the radio to correct for bum notes.
Now, the rationale given is that it allows small glitches to be fixed in the studio instead of forcing a great performer who has given a wonderful emotional performance to re-record the whole song again just because of the odd mistake. I could just about buy that argument if it were not far the fact that adjusting a voice by machine would rather seem to me to be a sure fire way to remove human emotion. I’d rather have the odd bum note, thank you.
The big problem is that Auto-Tune allows people who cannot sing, but just happen to be rather nice to look at, to become pop stars. If you want to hear it in action, the two links below give you Katie Price and Peter Andre’s vocal performance on their cover version of A Whole New World, before and after Auto-Tune and other studio tinkerings.
As I expect you can tell, those two should never have been allowed anywhere near a recording studio unless it was actually part of a trap to lure them in and remove their vocal cords with a set of rusty pliers. And yet, thanks to the magic of Auto-Tune, they managed to record a track that was a close enough approximation of music that they could trade on their white teeth and large chests (both of them) to sell records.
Of course, this misuse of Auto-Tune isn’t the cause of this culture. We’ve been overwhelmed by shit music and manufactured stars for decades now. But it allows the expansion of the trend in which good looks are more important that talent, in which image takes precedence over content, in which we are force-fed cover versions that are pale echoes of music that meant something.
Don’t you just feel your juicy plum of a soul shriveling up into a prune under the desiccating heat of Hell’s fires? The battle is going on right now, people. Which side are you on?