Thursday, April 29, 2010

Betty White takes on SNL; Glee takes on Auto-Tune.

Betty White on SNL

If anyone doesn't believe that May 8th episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Betty White is going to be the best episode in at least a year... you obviously haven't been watching SNL much this past year. :)  "Thanks to the Internet," or at least the 500,000 Facebook users who rallied around the "Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!" group, she will finally take the stage in Studio 8H for the one hosting gig she's never been asked to do before.  As far as I'm concerned, it's been way too long.


OK, I often become very unpopular (not to mention surprising a lot of people) when I criticize the FOX hit show Glee.  Being the music and musicals fan that I am, people expect me to be a die-hard fan, like seemingly half of the world is these days.  Truth be told, I think the music is generally good, catchy, and entertaining.  I just can't stand the stereotypical high-school situation comedy-drama storylines that they use to string it all together.  Not my genre of television.  (Not to mention, I don't think I've had any FOX series on my DVR list in years.)

But that should be irrelevant compared to the music.  Thanks to Pandora, I've had occasion to hear a large chunk of the various Glee soundtracks, and for the most part I am impressed with the catchy tunes.  Then something rubs me the wrong way... the rampant abuse of Auto-Tune, the late-90's software invention for computer-aided pitch correction.  The result is to music what airbrushing is to glamorous magazine cover:  obvious imperfection obviously over-corrected.

Joal Ryan of E! Online captures my sentiments almost exactly in his blog (if you read the comments, he gets much the same reaction from indifferent Glee fans as I do):
"For every too-brief moment of Lea Michele sounding raw—and lovely—on a "What a Girl Wants," or Monteith singing a perfectly credible REO Speedwagon in the shower, there's Michele and Monteith sounding like 1990s-era Cher on "No Air," or Monteith sounding like the Monteith XRZ-200 on the out-of-the-shower version of "Can't Fight This Feeling.""
As he mentions, one of the absolute most PAINFUL examples of the auto-tune is "Can't Fight This Feeling".  [Note especially the trailing ends of phrases, as that tends to be the most difficult part for any singer to keep in tune and thus gets the most pitch correction.]

Ugh!  If parts of this don't remind you of Cher's 1998 hit "Believe", you either need your ears cleaned out, or you're in denial.  Now don't get me wrong, these are obviously talented singers.  But as with most singers, they are imperfect.  I don't object to imperfection... I cringe at the use of auto-tune to try to correct it.  LET the songs stand on their own!  The show is about a group of talented high-school students in a glee club... NOBODY would expect perfection out of that, as amazing as they might be.  Stop the madness.

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