Autotune Magic

The Gregory Brothers, more popularly known as the people who Auto-Tune the News, are not only satirically cunning, but they use their musicianship in a particularly effective manner. If you don’t troll YouTube like I do, seeking out memes and delighting in double rainbows, Auto-Tune the News is when popular/recent news clips are set to music and the speech is altered to jive with the music. It’s pretty hip; here are some of their works.

Anywho, these guys are more than satirists, but pretty savvy musicians. It takes a creative mind to come up with compositions, then they splice-slice-dice live non-musical footage into the compositions. The rhythms need to be kept to some extent so the speech can still be understood, but there are snips and repetitions so it slides right into the musical groove. It also allows satiric emphasis- you hear what the creators want you to hear again and again. The visual element gets spiced up by having the creators green-screen themselves to provide musical/satiric foils to the actual news bits. The music makes it memorable and catchy, but the real point is the political satire.

While a lot of the messages are liberal in nature, the musical style is pretty standard pop music. The heavy electronics, the ubiquitous auto-tune, and the ostinato and repetitions are very “pop”. I think the music genre lends a topical aura to the source material: that which is literally topical. While it definitely makes a splash today, the musical workmanship in the future will probably only be admired for its innovation, rather than as a work of art. You don’t go listen to old episodes of Auto Tune the News because the news is out of date, therefore the video is out of date. Topical becomes stale, stale becomes history, history becomes retro, and retro churns out hipsters and thrift stores, and who really likes thrift stores? Really? You just want to admire old things for being old. “These dresses are so silly! Let’s go get a bubble tea.”

Out of date isn’t necessarily bad. Some choice phrases (“Very thin ice,” “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife”) make the music a little catchy, but you sing that on the streets and people will give you the crazy eye. [aside: I may have turned the auto-tune remix of the double rainbow clip above into my ringtone. Listen to the end, and you’ll see the whole troupe doing a live version. ] But still, there used to be lots of classical compositions that “quoted” other popular composers in their works…and nobody knows who those quoting composers are. They were topical. Now they’re forgotten (mostly).

Old clips of the Daily Show? Entertaining only because of the gags, not the news. There’s a huge difference between John Stewart making an impeachment joke about Clinton when Clinton is in office versus out of office for 8 years. It’s old. Yeah. Get with the times.

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