I often jokingly use my age as a crutch or a backdrop of context as to why I feel a certain way. With that in mind, I want to make a few things clear upfront. Every generation feels that they are doing things in a way that is new and unique. Every generation also seems to feel that the previous ones are a little pretentious in how much that value and romanticize their own experiences.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s. The 80s were my timeframe of musical experience. I remember acutely feeling that the Boomer generation was so annoying and pretentious in their assertion that the only good music ever to exist came out of the 60s. I appreciated classic rock and the warm and fuzzy feel of a mid-70s Steely Dan vinyl but at the same time, I had my own thing. U2, REM, The Replacements, Prince. Music that was scoffed at by our parents. What I learned though was that every generation goes through this change and pushes away from the previous. Elvis and the Beatles were feared because they were different…. but they meant just as much and evoked the same feelings for kids in the 50s and 60s as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra did for kids in the 40s. I try really hard to extend that benefit of the doubt to the current trend in music.
There is some current music that I like and appreciate. Taylor Swift’s new album is really good. Charlie Puth is a musical genius. He is a natural on the piano and has a deep understanding of music. Watch these videos of him on Howard Stern if you had any doubts. He is 29.
Here is where I need to make an argument. Charlie talks about the “science” of music and how music makes you feel by leading you along a push and pull of tension and release. You hear a note and you want it to go somewhere logical. A song and draw that out and then pay it off. But, it’s not just about notes. It is also about purposeful imperfections. Funk uses drummers’ feel and how he or she finds the pocket or uses blank spaces or the off-beat to create that tension. It’s the slowing down, speeding up, and sometimes off-key scream of punk. It is the slight singing behind the note or scooping up into the next note in the swing. Also, it is simply the kooky offbeat but strangely poetic sounds of voices that are not perfect you did not expect.
Why then does his music on the recorded versions of things sound like this?
Autotune is clear in this one and I would argue that it is part of the plan of the song. Not trying to hide anything. Additionally, with all the music done on computers, you have perfect time, perfect drums, perfect simulations of “feel” and perfect pitch.
Pitch correction is not always this noticeable. As technology improves, it is more and more commonly being used to “clean up” a recording and make it sound like your favorite pop star is hitting all the notes. It literally still sounds like them but pitch perfect.
Imagine a ubiquitous pop song from the 80s and run it through Pro tools to even all the drum hits and Pitch correction to “fix” singing. it would be a completely different song… and a boring one at that. We have been seduced to think that pop music has to be perfect.
Back to me not sounding like an old guy. I am not here to say that good music cant be made on a computer or that 100% synthesized music is bad simply because of the way it is made.
My point is this. Stop pretending that it IS human. Perfection is not human. If Bon Jovi cant make it through a TV performance, what good does it do anyone to run it through the machine and pretend? Just make AI music. Who cares if it is realy Taylor Swift? Might as well be a Roomba Vacuum. People still buy music from certain artists because they think they are buying something real. A real expression of a person. If music is not authentic then it is disingenuous, or even misleading to sell Michael Buble as an artist when you are getting the computer-aided perfect version of it. That is why we still don’t allow steroids in sports. Computer-produced music has a place and can be an art form. Just give us some transparency. Let us know that we are not buying someone’s actual voice and the drummer is not that talented, because many people think they still are.