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‘Enough’ already

‘Enough’ already

Ubiquitous Auto-Tune mars Into the Spider-Verse and McCartney’s ‘Get Enough’

Republic Records’ various-artists soundtrack to Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does for state-of-the-art pop music what the film does for state-of-the-art pop cinema: prove that the hippest and coolest technological gimmickry can be put at the service of something other than low-balling tripe. Not one of its 13 cuts veers into profanity or celebrates greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, or sloth.

This accomplishment is especially impressive when one considers that the Who’s Who of contemporary hit-makers doing the rapping and the singing includes Post Malone (“Sunflower”), Nicki Minaj (“Familia”), Lil Wayne (“Scared of the Dark”), and Vince Staples (“Home”), each of whom has done more than his or her share to transform the streaming era’s lowest common denominator into a bottomless pit.

On Into the Spider-Verse, they extol heroism and laugh in the face of danger. They have the backs of their family, friends, and love interests and know that if “you sin and be on your high horse, we’re not so stable anymore.” In short—to quote the title of the DJ Khalil cut featuring Denzel Curry, YBN Cordae, SwaVay, and Trevor Rich—they “elevate.”

And the music keeps moving, from the busy and the dizzy to the ill and the chill. One can, in other words, tell the selections apart even though they’re all fracked from the same urban/hip-hop landscape. It turns out that there’s variety in them there hills.

There is, however, a problem, and it’s a big one: Every syllable, whether sung or rapped, is Auto-Tuned.

Yes, voice-altering technology is all the rage. And, yes, every era boasts a predominant sound. 

Lil Wayne: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images • Nicki Minaj: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP • Post Malone: Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP • Vince Staples: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

From left to right: Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone and Vince Staples (Lil Wayne: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images • Nicki Minaj: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP • Post Malone: Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP • Vince Staples: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

But unlike, say, the lead or background falsettos of the Bee Gees that saturated the Top 40 in the ’70s, Auto-Tune pulls the plug on one of pop music’s most attractive characteristics—namely, its capacity for showcasing the human voice in what Gerard Manley Hopkins might have called its counter, original, spare, and strange variety. Say what you will about “We Are the World,” there was something fascinating, maybe even inspirational, in hearing the heterogeneous likes of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Perry, and Dionne Warwick taking turns going for broke.

Auto-Tune would’ve taken the “We” out of “We Are the World” by shellacking its many voices with a broad brush and making them all sound the way that Spider-Man’s fellow Marvel hero the Silver Surfer looks: sleek and cold.

Practically every song on Billboard’s Hot 100 features the treatment. And now even Paul McCartney, who only possesses one of the most popular singing voices in the world, has succumbed.

On New Year’s Day, McCartney released the stand-alone, heavily Auto-Tuned single “Get Enough.” The ballad came as a surprise. Just 15 days earlier, he’d released “Who Cares,” the third single from his enthusiastically received, and Auto-Tune-free, Egypt Station.

Like the Egypt Station singles before it, “Who Cares” didn’t chart. So it’s easy to imagine McCartney racking his brains, wondering what a guy has to do these days to score a hit and being advised that anyone, even an ex-Beatle, who tries to enter the 21st-century Top 40 vocally naked had better abandon all hope.

He should’ve abandoned all hope.

Somewhere there are androids listening to “Get Enough” and, on discovering how bad they really sound, deciding to put their choral ambitions on permanent hold.

Their sole consolation? The synthetic relief that they experience on learning that “Get Enough” hasn’t charted either.