Sunday, September 13, 2015

What's wrong with pop music production

I love "Shake It Off." I think it is catchy, fun, and the lyrics are lightly empowering. I'm an unironic fan. The only problem: I don't really like Taylor Swift's version. It's almost an amazing song, but the pop production fucks it all up. It's a poster child for all that is wrong with pop music these days.

#1. Robo-vocals. Swift's voice has the metallic twinge of auto-tune. This is standard pop production - singer can't sing? Who cares, we'll fix it in post-production! The problem is it creates an uncanny valley effect where it is oddly inhuman. It lacks the warmth of an actual, unadulterated voice. It's a little like how women will get implants and plastic surgery to look like some idealized version of femininity, when in fact they just end up looking like someone who has had plastic surgery.

#2. Too much is never enough. What sustains the song in the beginning is its relative simplicity. It's mostly a beat with robo-Taylor singing over it. But then they gotta add all sorts of shit to it - can we get some high notes? What about a rap in the middle?

#3. It's too perfect. This relates to #1, but it sounds too clean, too perfect. Real life isn't like that. Real life has pimples and imperfections and cracks. And these are good things. This is like a supermarket apple, waxed to an artificial shine until it is flavorless.

Compare it to the Screaming Female's cover:

Like all things mass-produced, the Taylor Swift version loses a lot of its heart and soul in the over-production. It's like a Chef Boyardee of music. AKA not my thing.

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