UPDATE IV: Grammy Awards: And The Winner Is … Auto-Tune (Quality Vs. Longevity)



The tartlets I watched “sing” at the Grammys would have been even more inaudible and tuneless were it not for the Auto-Tune: the “holy grail of recording,” that “corrects intonation problems in vocals or solo instruments, in real time, without distortion or artifacts.” (See “Antares.com”) With the exception of Lady Antebellum, a group that was passable compared to the rest, the In Memoriam segment featured the event’s better talent (all passed, sadly). (I missed the classical section.) I had never before heard Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Gaga, who with all her pretentious Yoko Onanisms, actually proved, surprisingly, more hard-working and polished than the first two. This is not saying much, I know. But, as a studio musician explained to me, this T & A line-up (to which you can generally add Talor Swift, the Britney Spears of country music) would be reduced to embarrassing grunts, out-of-tune yelps, and bedroom whispers, if not for the Auto-Tune. As to “The Suburbs”/Arcade Fire as Album of the Year: For once, I’m without words to describe their sheer ineptness.

I did not catch the entire thing, but Iron Maiden are good.

UPDATE I (Feb. 16): TRY TRUE TALENT. Mike D: You might like “Arcade Fire,” but they are G-d-awful as musicians. They sustain one or two pitches and exhibit zero proficiency on any of the instruments they belabor. The guitarist strums wildly, producing a cacophony with almost no melodic momentum or variation. One of his guitar strings was broken, but it made no difference. Not only are their songs lacking any chord progression, but, again, they cannot play their instruments. Why learn to play like virtuoso Tony MacAlpine plays guitar (and piano), when you can get a contract and sell your crap without it?

Standards are dead. To those who wish to reclaim a feel for such an unhip concept, here’s a start:

Here’s the same chap, who’ll never get honored for artistic achievement at the Grammys or the Trash House, playing Chopin, no less (bloody difficult):

UPDATE II: WOW: Thanks to Graham who sent a clip of Gaga “before she went gaga.” Not half bad. I knew my instincts for music were good (was brought up listening critically to music—everything from the Beatles to chamber music from a tender age), when I wrote above that “Gaga, with all her pretentious Yoko Onanisms, actually proved, surprisingly hard-working and polished.” Stephanie Germanotta was okay, at least far better than Madonna (although I thoroughly dislike the wailing and the agonized style of singing, in general).

UPDATE III (Feb. 17): QUALITY VS. LONGEVITY. Robert, you too seem to confuse the immutable quality of art with its longevity. Most young people can’t tell you who Bach is. If the Idiocracy has the upper hand, in 100 years or so, he too will have been forgotten despite his unparalleled genius.

“Arcade Fire” are categorically horrid as far as music goes. But they were sweet. Quebecers are nice. Very un-American. Regular folks. Not arrogant, and without airs and graces. Perhaps there is an art to being pleasant?

UPDATE IV (Feb. 18): Michel, thanks for the invite to Montreal. I adore that city; spent time there in 2003. What food! What sweet people. So beautiful too; good-looking and thin folks; what’s not to like? However, I was not prepared for the cold.

18 thoughts on “UPDATE IV: Grammy Awards: And The Winner Is … Auto-Tune (Quality Vs. Longevity)

  1. Ben

    I guess that’s the best my generation can produce. They might as well bring back old acts like 38 special. If these new “musicians” can’t sing without a technology crutch they shouldn’t be allowed on the stage. You say Iron Maden, bring the real Iron Maiden on stage and they’ll blow the place away.

  2. Mike D

    Arcade Fire are a true talent. They started as nobodies producing their debut album on their own, taking the indie music scene by storm with it. More than a slicked live performance, theyre known for driving the crowd with their intense energetic shows. Sure, the singers voice may be unconventional, even lackluster, but thats part of their aesthetic. Their music is more about the emotion and interesting, moving arrangement of their instrumentals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b_IHjWXbuM Sorry, I suppose its only something suburban-raised kids would understand. Those kids feeling marginalized, sickened by the trite commercialism of “alternative” music like Limp Bizkit and unrelatable, insincere hip-hop of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, until the explosion of indie music that spread around the internet like wildfire (circa 2002-4), made possible by cheap DIY digital equipment and mp3 filesharing(thank you free market!). Arcade Fire are one of the bands that have been able to maintain a strong output of material over the last few years. The independent music scene and aesthetic is where todays musical innovation comes from, whether its blissful pop (Beach House, Vampire Weekend), expansive complex post-rock (Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor), or wild ADD-electronic (Crystal Castles). Sure some of it is crap flavor of the week (Dirty Projectors comes to mind), but you cannot deny that this is where todays talent is, and there is an abundance of it.
    Sorry, awareness of this scene is still quite hidden from anyone over the age of 30.

  3. michel cloutier

    Arcade Fire is one of our ‘local’ bands here in Quebec. They have little impact, and not much of a following.

    They are not very talented, but they do make a lot of noise, adhere faithfully to the ‘hipster’ dress code, and exude lots of attitude.

    They were thus good ‘material’ with which the Grammys could earn some ‘street cred’, or so I presume.

  4. Robert Glisson

    I’m over thirty so my opinion doesn’t count; but, I would match Tarja Turunen’s “I walk alone” against anything of Lady Gaga’s. Nightwish against Arcade Fire any day. They are on You Tube. I didn’t link because I’m only stating an opinion. I’m probably the only fan of Corvus Corax outside the asylum, you might take my opinion with a grain of salt.

  5. john tapp

    I highly recommend the California Guitar Trio and the Trey Gunn Band (both connected to maestro Robert Fripp’s progressive rock monster King Crimson). For pure guitar virtuosity there are few that can compare.

  6. Nebojsa Malic

    On the other hand, they did give Christopher Tin a “Best Classic Crossover Album” Grammy, and “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” for “Baba Yetu” (Our Father). I wonder if they knew they were rewarding a song based on the principal Christian prayer, or if they just thought of it as the “intro to Civ 4” (which admittedly, it was)…

  7. Myron Hopeless Reactionary Pauli

    I am just a CLASSICAL LIBERAL whose mind is stuck in 1773 when the Tea Party was an original idea, not some Sarah Palin promo device. After a You Tube survey, it appears that what passes muster in modern Grammy Land is 95% visual and 5% auditory. I guess one can always mute the sound and enjoy watching Katy Perry’s breasts, Taylor Swift’s legs, and Lady Gaga’s booty while listening to some real music for the ears – like my main man Mozart:


    and here is my answer to Rap Music:


    (especially the last 30 seconds)

  8. Mike D

    Not trying to prove Arcade Fire is a great band as it does come down to subjectivity, but I do take issue with some comments made by M.Cloutier.

    via The Suburbs/Arcade Fire wikipedia: The album debuted at #1 on the Irish Albums Chart on August 5, the UK Albums Chart on August 8, the U.S. Billboard 200 chart on August 11,and the Canadian Albums Chart on August 11, 2010.”

    From Metacritic.com (an entertainment aggregator of all other critic ratings), the album has an 87% (their previous two albums have 87% and 90% ratings). Compare that to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream 55%, and Justin Bieber’s latest 68% (and nearly all of America’s vapid 10-25 y.o. youth listen to them).

    Not to mention the phenomena of their instantly-sold out shows at large venues.

    Theyre no Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, but to say Arcade Fire has “little impact” and “not much of a following” shows just how oblivious you are of today’s significant musical developments. Throw an iPod at any NYC college campus(or any campus internationally with a serious art scene) and you’re bound to hit an Arcade Fire fan in the head.

  9. michel cloutier

    With all due respect to M.Mike D, who is obviously quite knowledgeable of contemporary music, I must point out their lack of fan appeal in their ‘home turf’, i.e. the 80% of Francophones who compose Quebec’s population. It is emphatically not a ‘language’ thing, especially when one has felt the enthusiasm with which the ‘second British invasion’ of the early 80’s was welcomed here. I will agree to disagree with you by saying in closing that Arcade Fire’s fate is to be remembered in one of those ‘whatever happened to’ anthologies.

  10. Mike Marks

    Thanks for the link to Antares.com. Things in the music world make a whole lot more sense to me now.


  11. Robert Glisson

    MIKE D, you seem to miss the point. It is not popularity that is the point here. They may do well in selling albums to thirteen year old kids and concerts are sold out because young people like to go to concerts. What Michel is saying is that in their home area, they are not considered good by their peers. Quality lasts and that is what everyone is trying to point out. I like Tarja, I think she will have a place in music years from now. Roy (another Okie) likes established country musicians like Tracy Byrd, Myron goes for the classics that are timeless. The question is, will anyone remember Arcade Fire in ten years. My guess is that unless they make some serious changes, probably not.

  12. Robert Glisson

    “I will agree to disagree with you by saying in closing that Arcade Fire’s fate is to be remembered in one of those ‘whatever happened to’ anthologies.” and “will anyone remember Arcade Fire in ten years. My guess is that unless they make some serious changes, probably not.” sounds pretty similar to me and it was Michel I was referencing. The three music groups I mentioned will probably never have the memory power that Elvis had despite more talent, so much for history.

  13. Mari Tyers

    I disagree that Arcade Fire deserved the Grammy win. They are not terrible, but they remind me of decent sounding local bands, not something that would get a major award. The arrangements really aren’t that good. It’s mostly 3 chords and uncomplicated note patterns.

    While longevity does not equal quality, I believe it is an indicator of it. Many Grammy winners have been a flash in the pan, while other groups that were never nominated were extremely influential. Judas Priest and Iron Maiden come to mind; they finally won in the last two years, but their heydey was 20 years ago.

    PS-I’m also under 30 and grew up in suburbia. I still like quality.

  14. Jake Venter

    To demonstrate the decline in music this last century, refelct on this: When Handel had completed “Hallelujah”, his assistant found him clutching the music and crying. When asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score and said, “I thought I saw the face of God.”. They just don’t make’em that way anymore.

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