I’ve been aware of the YouTube phenomenon “Auto-Tune The News” for some time – I think that maybe Sullivan linked to one of their videos a while back, or someone similar. I knew it was similar to the impressive, if somewhat annoying, Slap-Chop remix that got so much play a few months back. Take regular folks talking on the TV, run it through Antares Auto-Tuning software, and boom! Instant remix.
However, I hadn’t really watched one until just this week, when my buddy Brian sent me a link to the sixth edition, named, naturally, “Auto-Tune The News #6.” I took his recommendation and watched it, and thought it was great. Then, I watched it again, and thought it was really great. And then the addiction started to creep in… I found I couldn’t stop watching it, I’d finish it and then play it again, play it for friends, email it to other friends, unable to get over the hooks, the grooves, the ridiculous awesomeness of it all.
There’s really no point in talking more about this until you’ve seen it, so:
I mean, Holy. Crap. The strength of the writing, the jokes upon jokes, the tiny visual puns (The puppet! The Pelosi cowbell! “Junkie Einstein” attempting to light up a piece of (bread?) as “Olga Barth” drools ice cream all over herself, all while a re-tuned John Boehner gets gospel and testifies about Freedom!) …this is some seriously amazing stuff.
The videos are the work of The Gregory Brothers, a band made up of the three brothers Gregory – Evan, Andrew, and Michael, as well as vocalist/guitarist Sarah Fullen. They perform as their own pop/rock group (check out their Myspace Page for more info), and sound great. Fullen can really wail, and the few videos of them playing their own music show a solid, straight-ahead soul/pop sound. So, while I’m sure that was going just fine for them, I’m not sure where, along the line, they started to start doing news autotuning, but damn – I believe they have found their calling.
After listening to #6 several times, I went back and watched several of the other ATTN videos. The most successful one was ATTN #2, which has over a million views on YouTube, and it’s funny, to be sure – a Kanye-esque remix of Sean Hannity, Fox News Roundtables, and Katie Couric, loaded with bleeps, bloops, and “shawtayee’s.” But as cool as that one is, the newest video is an almost revolutionary step forward for a number of reasons.
For starters, the group has clearly gotten a lot better at using Autotune – the range of each “unintentional singer” has increased significantly, which allows for much greater freedom in how their words are put to music. In addition to that, whatever they’re using to rhythmically shift the vocals is doing more heavy lifting and being used more effectively, and the way that the speakers’ odd cadences have been “Beat Detectived” into the groove makes for some really left-handed, hip rhythms. I refer you again to John Boehner’s speech about the “Freedom to allow the American people to.. /live /their /lives.” Nice.
Due to those two technical advances, ATTN #6 allows the politicians and pundits themselves to sing most of the lead lines, as opposed to the green-screened musicians from the band – which makes a humongous difference. In previous versions of ATTN, a lot of the vocal parts were performed by the Gregorys and Sarah, relying heavily on comedy material written after the fact, rather than the actual dialogue of the TV show being auto-tuned. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is really funny and they’re great singers, but the hook has always been that the NEWS was the thing being auto-tuned, and previous editions made me want more of that. Maybe I’m spoiled by seeing #6 first, but the way that they coaxed some straight bitchin’ performances out of Michelle Bachmann and John Boehner was just amazing, and there’s no going back.
Which brings me to the last, and largest improvement made in ATTN #6 – the music. The track is a remixed version of the tune “100th Sight,” from brother Michael’s side project Kaplukus (you can download the tune on iTunes here), and man, it burns. The unending modulations and builds, the hilariously over-the-top hi-hat, the layered vocal harmonies, it all makes for a pretty beastly tune. You can actually download an MP3 of ATTN #6 here, and while with past editions, watching the news be auto-tuned was an integral part of the experience, this track is strong enough to stand on its own. Particularly a couple of the hooks – Boehner’s “Hell No” section is inspired, and the Michael Jackson-themed “Wake Up Dead” has been stuck in my head all day.
I think we may be looking at a rising force in satire here – much like Andy Samburg’s Lonely Island comedy group rose to prominence through their “Lazy Sunday” video, if SNL or some other major network show picks up “Auto-Tune the News,” (and I saw somewhere that Attack of the Show already played it), we’ll be hearing more and more from these guys, and on a grander stage.
Which would be just freakin’ fine by me – the incredible improvement that they’ve shown since their first edition speaks to The Gregory Brothers’ exceptional talent and hard work, and all but promises even funnier, crazier, catchier music in the future. Bravo.