The Music Industry

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Description and Analysis of a Musical Text

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4everyoung at 11:57 pm on Sunday, October 3, 2010

They say music is a “universal language”.  So much so, that a person doesn’t even have to be fluent in the language that the song is being sung in, but still he or she can enjoy its lyrical and melodious content.  It sounds uncanny but it’s the truth.  Perhaps this is all possible since music has the magical ability to make people happy, make people cry, and even make people feel relaxed.  Essentially, the power and the influence music has on all walks of life never should be underestimated.  Maybe it’s not! Possibly, millions of music listeners will agree that music is a “language”, another form of art, which might not be tangible, but certainly is significant.  Music, with or without lyrical content, is beyond just a form of entertainment in which people listen to on their i-pods, on their radio, or watch on their television.  Music creates songs which then creates musical history.  One popular song deemed significant in the history of recorded popular music in the United States, is a song titled “I’m Sprung”, by platinum recording Rap artist T-Pain.  T-Pain’s lyrical delivery with Auto-Tune changed the way Rap musicians recorded music.

“I’m Sprung”, released in 2005 off of his debut album Rappa Ternt Sanga under recording label Konvict Muzik/Jive Records was one of the first hip/hop rap songs to use an Auto-Tune effect throughout the entire song.  “I’m Sprung”, a 3 minute and fifty-one second song, which consisted of first a chorus, then a refrain of “You do” 7 times, then back to the chorus, then back to “You Do” 4 times, another “You Do” for fifteen times, and then finally the first verse, is one interesting song that back then was considered “unusual” but today would be looked upon as being a “standard” song.

The main reason “I’m sprung” was such an unusual song was the fact that throughout the entire song an “Auto-tune” effect was played on top of T-pain’s vocals. When you listen to the song, it sounds robotic, engineered, and computerized. It’s clear that you can hear someone singing, but it’s almost a mystery if it’s indeed a human being singing. Although listeners will be able to identify the sounds of a high-hat, claps, and even some harmony at the end of the song, the “Auto-tune” effect is extremely piercing. So much so, you almost forget that “I’m Sprung” is actually a love song. T-pain is singing about being so much in love, he’s doing domesticated duties that we often hear men not doing. However, when the over powering effect of artificial music is being heard throughout the entire song, it’s rather easy for any listener to forget that “I’m Sprung” is a love song, and without any hesitation disregard the message T-pain is attempting to deliver.

In 2005 Faheem Rasheed Najm, better known as T-Pain, became famous, then despised, then loved, and then oddly enough a “trend setter” overnight with his first single “I’m Sprung”.  What does that mean? Well, when T-Pain first appeared on the scene many people questioned his talent abilities.  Several listeners immediately were predicting that he would become a “one hit wonder”.  Music executives, particularly A&R’s, were quick to write him off as being a fake rapper, wanting to be an R&B singer with no vocal abilities.  He was constantly being ridiculed for not having even a bit of talent. T-Pain was infamously known for giving his listeners an earful of music that was both recorded and played with an Auto-Tune effect on his vocals.   Many people found his music not creative at all.  Little did they know having Auto-Tune on a musician’s vocals would become the norm for almost every rapper and R&B singer either making their debut in the music industry or artists who were already in the music industry.

What is Auto-Tune?  According to Wikipedia, Auto Tune is a proprietary audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies. Auto-Tune uses a phase vocoder to correct pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. It is used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes, and has allowed singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without the need of singing in tune. While its main purpose is to slightly bend sung pitches to the nearest true semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal temperament), Auto-Tune can be used as an effect to distort the human voice when pitch is raised/lowered significantly.  In other words, Auto-Tune can make “bad” sound good, “good” sound great, and “great” sound extraordinary.

Someone musically inclined or not musically inclined, based on the definition above, might understand why a “singer” would opt-in for Auto-Tune.  However, one might not get grasp why a rapper would need Auto-Tune if a rapper doesn’t sing.  This is why T-Pain was initially frowned upon when he first appeared on the hip-hop/rap circuit.  Nonetheless, T-Pain did it his way, decided to step to the beat of his own drum, and made Auto-Tune a recognizable and an appealing commodity in the hip-hop/rap genre of music.  It’s now 2010 and when music lovers turn on their radio they are bound to hear almost every artist in the rap industry use Auto-Tune on their vocals.  T-Pain made Auto-Tune a standard concept and a much now acceptable sound in hip-hop/rap music.  He’s even won himself 2 Grammy’s with the help of Auto-Tune on his vocals. These days you can listen to Grammy award artist like Kanye West, Lil-Wayne, Drake and many, many more rappers using this effect on their voice as well.

It’s no secret that hip-hop/rap music has always been portrayed as being negative, violent, and not artistic. This is far from the truth, and this is more of a reason why T-Pain’s song “I’m Sprung” has “historical signification” in the world of hip-hop/rap music.  For the first time in a long time, a rapper has created a standard without any negative recourse.  Now, of course you’re going to have people who will forever criticize T-Pain for not being artistic; like Jay-Z. However, when you have established artists, Grammy Award winning artists, who are choosing to record with Auto-Tune, you must say to yourself, “Auto-Tune” is actually very creative – T-Pain really made a great contribution to hip-hop/rap music and has played a significant role in the history of how popular music in the United States is now recorded.”

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October 4, 2010 @ 2:36 am

I like T Pain as an artist personally but I never really thought of him as an artist who changed the industry. You brought to my attention that he was the first hip hop/rapper to use the autotuner in his music. I would definitely that most critics looked down on hip and wrote him off because is choice to use the autotune. However, he brought the technology to the eyes of the public, and for most including my self at the time did not really know what the autotuner was even though its name is pretty self explanatory. Looking forward to today, as you said artists like Kanye West (even though I do not like him as an artist) use this technology all the time, with their songs become hits for society. T Pain was able to bring this technology to the public and opened up the doors to more and more artists to use and creatively expand their music


   Lisa K

October 7, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

I find it really interesting how you see T-Pain in such a positive light — Basically how he pioneered the auto-tune that is now in almost every hip hop and r&b song today. I personally dislike auto-tune and agree with T-Pains critics that you’ve mentioned a bit up there. He has no talent. What was great about him though as I’ve read in your post is how he is a smart thinker. Someone with little talent made it big using his methods of (initializing) the auto-tune into mass media.



October 11, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

I like listening to T-Pain and auto tune really fits his “voice” and character. It’s amazing today how all these hip hop artists are over auto tuning their raps today. When T-pain first came out with it a lot of people was against calling him fake and so on. Even Jay-Z rapped a song about it-Death of a Autotune(DOA)but now everyone is using it. I don’t like it.It’s unoriginal and all the songs sound the same from rap to pop music. I think they are iverdoing with the autotune. You don’t need to have the talent of singing anymore becuase there are machines that will adjust your voice, just need to have stage presence.



October 12, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

I’m not a T-Pain fan because in my opinion, auto-tune is very gimmicky. It disguises the musician’s real voice. But for his sake, he made it work, and I give him props for taking something ‘unnatural’ to a ‘natural aesthetic’ that many fans enjoy.

I feel that his future will rely on his auto-tuned songs. If he decides to move away from the auto-tune and actually successfully sound like “Faheem”, then I will give him more praise.


   Amy Herzog

October 15, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

This is such a fantastic topic for us to discuss, and clearly one that will generate an enthusiastic debate. I’d love to hear you delve more deeply into the way AutoTune sounds, and the way TPain uses it. I see the roots of a great research paper here….

BTW, here is a recent article on the phenomenon from the New Yorker:

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The Music Industry » Description and Analysis of a Musical Text

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The Music Industry » Description and Analysis of a Musical Text

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