The media seems enraptured with the story of three girls held captive in a Cleveland man’s home for about a decade before being rescued. The first witness to testify on the matter was Charles Ramsey, who provided a colourful interpretation, laden with product placements and highlighted by his frank language and big personality. As is the case when vibrant people make the news, Ramsey’s interviews soon went viral and were quickly autotuned. While entertaining to many, some see this as problematic. With both Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson also becoming sensations after flamboyant interviews on local news stations, and both having their narratives autotuned and watched by millions, some see this trend as a contemporary version of the minstrel as, in each of these instances, the person being interviewed was Black. This is certainly a conversation worth having. Though I don’t think the folks producing the autotune version of the interviews have any such intent, and while I would hope that most people find the works entertaining in part because of their catchy melodies and in part because of the humorous presentation of the interviews, I do believe that there are some who are laughing for the wrong reasons. That said, we cannot sensor ourselves because the ignorant in our society are laughing at stereotypes they falsely perceive. Roger Ratchet from Gossip On This suggests that it is Ramsey’s “ebonics-peppered speech that has everyone in stitches.” The problem here is that Ramsey wasn’t exactly using ebonics. “Dude” is not commonly a phrase employed in hip-hop songs. Ramsey’s speech was simply humorous. There are what some people would call “racial” elements, but the folks who did the autotune do not pick only people from one ethnicity. The Gregory Brothers, who created the autotune of Dodson and Ramsey, have autotuned a host of people, among them presidential candidate Mitt Romney and actor Charlie Sheen. As Milton said, a “fool will be a fool with the best book”, while “a wise man will make better use of an idle pamphlet, then a fool will do of sacred Scripture”. There is no need to suggest that the intent of these works is what some would deem as “racist” (though there are certain problematic with that phrase as I discuss here). It is important to note how some interpret the material and recognize the problems, but at the same time, there is no need to stop making it when the subjects are varied and don’t intend to play on stereotypes.
With that said, I think it is time to share my “Fav Five” autotune song. Here we go.
5. Katie Couric and Manti T’eo: ” Why, Why, Manti?” by The Gregory Brothers
T’eo’s fake girlfriend was a news sensation and his interview with Katie Couric got a lot of views. The autotune version of the interview by The Gregory Brothers is up to almost 2 million views (several of them were from me of course).
4. Charlie Sheen: “Winning” by The Gregory Brothers
For those who suggest that autotuning funny interviews is targeted to Black people haven’t seen the Charlie Sheen autotune. When Charlie Sheen says “bro”, nobody says it’s ebonics, but when Ramsey says “dude” that is apparently ebonics? Not sure how that works. The song is not as catchy as some others, but the content is priceless.
3. Charles Ramsey: “Dead Giveaway” by The Gregory Borther
This is the one that seemed to tip scales and inspired some to suggest there were “racist” elements to the trend, but the song is so catchy and the editing job done is smooth. Nice couplets are created via the editing process and the melody is contagious. The product placement is great. In the initial interview he said he was eating his McDonalds. I’m sure McDonalds was eager to promote that the hero of the hour was eating their product. Unfortunately for McDonalds, Ramsey also notes that the kidnapping rapist was picked up at their establishment. I can just picture the ad now: McDonalds: The Preferred Destination Of Rapists And Kidnappers. Not sure how that would work, but the autotune works great!
2. Sweet Brown: “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” (from the Bob Rivers Show?)
A soulful, bluesy rendition of the autotune. The chorus “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” became a meme almost instantly and sounds like a life-affirming platitude adopted by a classic blue hit. It’s hard not to listen to it only once. Sweet Brown though sued some folks for using her likeness.
1. Antoine Dodson: “Bedroom Intruder Song” by The Gregory Borthers
Sometimes the original is the best (though there were many autotunes before the “Bedroom Intruder Song”). The Gregory Brother did not make the same mistake as the Bob Rivers Show and did. They “songified” Dobson’s flamboyant interview and posted it on itunes, but were sure to include him in the royalties. The song has gotten over 100 million views, so I am clearly not the only person who enjoyed this one. While The Gregory Bothers may be over represented on this list, they are clearly the best at what they do.