Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

13May/090

I hope I die before I sing out of tune

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Editor's note: Say hello to the new guy here at Addicted to Vinyl, Kurt Torster. Who is this Kurt guy? Read more about that here!

So I guess I’m officially old. Not physically so much, but at 42 I’ve got a degenerative hip that will tell you otherwise. No, I guess I’m really talking about music (why else are we at this blog anyways?).

I’ve started to notice more and more that new music is just not cutting it for me. For a music junkie like myself, that started to bother me a bit. Though my tastes have always run to the more mainstream side of things, I always considered myself rather current and well rounded. I keep up with the charts on a weekly basis, always at least giving new things a try. But, lately? Things just are not cutting it.

I figured I would try and explore a little of why that is. I know it’s more than a culture/age divide. I’m still no fan of anything hippity hoppity, so we’ll leave all that aside, but I can just as easily listen to softer fare like Kyle Vincent as I can to something in your face like Seether.

The more I listen to newer music though, two things become start to pattern-ize themselves. And, they’re both subjects that have been well covered across the wires.

Music today is just too damned loud. I’m not talking “if it’s too loud, you’re too old,” type of stuff. No, I’m talking about what’s known as the “loudness wars.” Music has no life anymore. It doesn’t breathe. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, try and find an old CD (or even better, vinyl) and listen to it closely. You’ll hear highs, lows and everything in between. Now, pop on something current.

In an effort to stand out on the radio or television, music has had all the life sucked out of it by taking everything in the mix and pushing it all the way to the max (or compressed to remove all those highs and lows). Vocals are at the same volume as guitars or drums or even little plinky triangles. It’s this lack of space in the mix that eventually gives you ear fatigue. I know personally, I cannot listen to anything from the last 8 years or so for any length of time. My ears feel like they’ve been buzz-sawed and I just lose interest. I honestly can’t remember the last time I listened to a new album straight through without taking a few breaks in-between, and that’s even counting artists I love (yes, Rush, I’m talking about you and that piece of shit known as Vapor Trails).

You would think the easy answer is to live in the past. I sort of do actually as I’d say 90% of my listening is now pre-1995. But with re-mastering being a common way of sucking more money out of fans, even many of the classics are getting the loudness treatment.

You can read more about this subject over at Turn Me Up!, where you’ll find lots of great links and examples.

The other thing that just annoys me to no end is Auto-Tune. Oh how this drives me up the freaking wall! Once I heard exactly what it was, I cannot not hear it. It’s not so bad when it’s used for effect (think Cher’s “Believe”). But when it’s used to keep everyone in tune, like say Rascal Flatts, it’s just downright annoying and soul-less.

It’s a given that the music industry has always been filled with no talent hacks sold on their image, but now with the miracle of computers, we no longer need multiple takes or background singers pushed up in the mix to compensate for lack of vocal chops. Now we can just run it through a Pro Tools snap-in and make all the flats sharp, and visa versa. Eventually, it all sounds robotic and lifeless.

Maybe American Idol is to blame. Every time a contestant sings, judge Randy Jackson (he who rocked the Cameo afro when he was in Journey behind one of the most perfect vocalists ever, Steve Perry) knocks them all for being pitchy. But, isn’t being pitchy just being human?

Even more so than compression, this has killed the soul of rock and roll. Imagine Vince Neil or Stephen Pearcy without the grit and honestly, the charm of being out of key. Imagine what someone like Tom Keifer would sound like! [Note to self: run some Cinderella through Auto-tune for YouTube viral video.]

“What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?”…ah Ringo, you are a genius.