Driving Miss GaGa

I’ve been listening to a lot of Lady GaGa lately.

Wait. Let me back up for a moment.

I’m not much of a music person. I don’t have music playing all day like most other working geeks seem to. I find the lyrics too distracting, especially when I’m coding.

(Sometimes I listen to instrumentals: John Williams; Blue Man Group; Juno Reactor. But usually I work in silence. It fits my largely spartan, minimalist working style.)

As a result, most of my music listening happens in the car. My wife occasionally burns a CD of whatever she and the kids like at the time. The current CD, playing nearly any time we’re in the car, is a slightly eclectic mix including The Beatles, They Might Be Giants, and yes, Lady GaGa.

These three tracks form the sum total of what I have heard from Lady GaGa.

  • So Happy I Could Die
  • Bad Romance
  • Paparazzi

I like her voice. I don’t know the music terminology necessary to explain why I like it; I just like how it sounds. But I noticed that over time, I decided that it sounded significantly better in “Paparazzi.” Why is that? I wondered. It didn’t make that much sense—the lyrics aren’t especially deep or meaningful, and the general range of her voice between the songs isn’t very different. It seemed like they ought to be roughly equal, but they weren’t.

I finally figured it out today: she recorded “Paparazzi” without auto-tune.

I’ve never paid much attention to auto-tune. I’ve heard people complain about it, and I eventually googled it, but not being a music person, I moved on to something else quickly. But I find that now that I’ve noticed it, I can’t ignore it. It pisses me off.

It creates jarring, stepping transitions in the audio. It sounds like a computer from the 80s trying to synthesize speech. It sounds unnatural.

But it’s worse than that, if you ask me. Remember, I’m talking about three songs from the same artist. Comparing the auto-tuned tracks to what I’ll call the “natural voice” track, the latter is clearly superior. Meaning she doesn’t need the damned thing and it just makes everything sound worse. One has to wonder if some arrogant dick producer insisted on auto-tuning everybody he recorded because it cost him a mint to buy it. Even if it’s a net lose in terms of quality.

I find myself eagerly awaiting auto-tune’s demise. Partly because I find it to be something of a dishonest representation of the art it purports to improve, but mostly because it makes me think of Stephen Hawking. Wearing a meat bikini, in this case.

It’s going to take you all day to scrub that image out of your mind.