Tuesday, July 11, 2017

paradigm shifty

over at Dissensus, Sadmanbarty recently posed the question: Who's the Best Artist Since 2000?

interesting answers in the thread (Kanye versus Gaga versus Gucci Mane versus Wiley versus..)

but none more interesting than Sadmanbarty's own comment, in which he averred that grime was the best music of the period (only up to mid-2000s though, after that didn't evolve - co-sign that!), and then mentions T Pain as influential-for-the-good (but not actually good, or lastingly good himself as music-generator) through his popularisation of Auto-Tune:

"The novel use of autotune has lead to some of the most paradigm shifty music of the last 17 years; late-00's dancehall, afrobeats, chicago bop and the post-Future wave of Atlanta rap."

He then picks Vybz Kartel as his #1 Best Artist Since 2000 (partly cos of his "alien autotune tracks") with Young Thug, another language-liquidizer, at #2.

That comment about "most paradigm shifty music of the last 17 years - late-00's dancehall" caught me by surprise, because, well - perhaps ignorantly - I had thought that after its early 2000s burst of ideas-packed excitement (and mainstream penetration) Jamaican music had pretty much dropped off the face of the Earth.  Certainly hadn't got the sense that any paradigms were being shifted there, at any rate.

So I asked Man like Sadmanbarty for some recommendations and he kindly obliged - not just for recent-ish dancehall, but for Chicago bop and Afrobeats too. You can listen to them all in a continuous flow at this YouTube playlist I've assembled. There are also below in the post.

What they all have in common - and it's almost a generic global-ghetto-beatz gloss that covers the surface of all music now - is the crinkled sheen of grievously over-done AutoTune. Standardized bizniz seen. AutoTune and similar devices / apps (e.g Melodyne) have established global dominion, audio hegemony. They're inescapable, and seemingly even more so in the non-West such as Middle East and North Africa.

Found it a bit wearing on the dancehall to be honest (even though there's quite extreme and inventive things being done here and there by the singers who doubtless record in the studio with AutoTune in their headphones affecting their vocals in real-time, so they work out how to push the effect). Similarly with the Chicago bop (liked the MBE stuff marginally more than Sicko Mob for some reason).

Partly the finding-it-wearing has to do with how rhythmically I can't hear anything really new going on in the dancehall - just that bashment big-beat style, often with a kind of digital smear to the drums. Perhaps that's the overall maxed-out sound quality. The end result is that everything in the tracks feels like it's made out of the same denatured stuff, it's like there's this flat plane of hypergloss. The tracks are so toppy that they feel imbalanced (one wonders how they sound in the dance). Still that reflects the fact that the treble sector is where all the innovation, or extremism, is taking place maybe, and has been for much of the 21st Century so far.

Where it sounds most appealing to me - most ecstatic - is the African stuff, especially where the rhythms are more lilting and sinuous than big 'n' bashy. The AutoTune pleasingly exacerbates the frothy fluidity of the singing and the snaking shapes of the melody-lines.

AutoTune dancehall

Chicago bop


As to that original Q - who's the Best Artist Since 2000....

no overall single figures springs to mind, i'd have to divide it up into categories and with multiple contenders jostling for the top spot

* Pop Star as Public Figure -  Kanye West versus Ke$ha (with Gaga not far behind on sheer zeitgeist points and with the proviso I've little appetite for the audio bar "Bad Romance". i suppose you would also have to honestly mention Drake somewhere here)

* Performer / Vocal Presence-  Future versus  Ke$ha versus Dizzee

* Beat-maker  - Terror Danjah versus Metro Boomin versus Mustard (aka Dijon McFarlane - no really that is his actual  name).

* Pop Group in the Bygone and Obsolete Sense - Vampire Weekend versus Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti.

* Endless personal pleasure tinged with awareness of marginality in the scheme of things - Ghost Box versus Moon Wiring Club versus Ariel Pink

* A Compelling Case to Be Made although somehow i don't quite feel it fully myself - Burial versus Radiohead versus Daft Punk

i feel i''m forgetting things from the first half of the 2000s but it all feels quite long ago and hazy

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