Music News

The T-Pain effect and what it means to you

Recall, if you will, Coyote McCloud's 1984 novelty hit "Where's the Beef?," based on the Wendy's commercial that employed the same catchphrase. Now multiply that song by several full-length albums. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Congratulations! You have mathematically solved T-Pain's entire career.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that T-Pain shocked everyone who still listens to T-Pain by announcing that he would never again use Auto-Tune, which, as everyone knows, is the only thing T-Pain has going for him: "You can't just stick with one thing forever," he observed. But then it turned out it was all a clever ruse that was in turn a product shill. T-Pain elucidates: "When everybody talks about [Auto-Tune], they pretty much say T-Pain. So what simpler thing to do? It's supply and demand. You want the T-Pain sound? I'm gonna give you the T-Pain effect."

The T-Pain effect, as it turns out, is basically T-Pain's own line of Auto-Tune-based merchandise rebranded with a different name — a distinguished list that includes the hilarious-for-thirty-seconds "I Am T-Pain" iPhone app and the upcoming "I Am T-Pain" microphone, which will presumably be awesome if you want to sound like a musician whose album sales are so poor (just incidentally, the release of his completed LP rEVOLVEr has been postponed until his singles start charting above "nobody cares" levels) that he has to rely on the product you're singing into for drank-buying money. Well, that and litigation.

See, T-Pain and Auto-Tune have been reverse-cowgirling it for some time; Auto-Tune maker Antares Audio Technologies and he had a long relationship of lucrative product endorsement — that is, until T-Pain went out on his own. Last week, T-Pain filed suit, alleging that Antares is still using his likeness to market its products, even though T-Pain now has competing products on the market. The lawsuit serves only to highlight the one-trick pony T-Pain has been and ever shall be riding like a, um, reverse cowgirl.

Because the last group of singers I can remember leaning so relentlessly on a vocal gimmick is Alvin and the Chipmunks — even Peter Frampton had that one other song. Of course, there are a few key differences between T-Pain and the Chipmunks, the first being that the Chipmunks sang about a variety of topics, whereas T-Pain's lyrical repertoire is seemingly limited to the merits of various sexual positions. Also, Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian at least pioneered the Chipmunks' vocal effect, which he created by singing the vocal lines over a playback at half-speed and then returning it to normal pace. The T-Pain effect, as it is now apparently called, was pioneered back in 1998 by none other than Cher, who at the time used it to question the veracity of life after love-related claims.

So there you have it: T-Pain, anthropomorphic cartoon animals that decline to wear pants, and a thirteen-year-old hit from a previously wholesome '60s sweetheart who now looks like a grotesque sex cyborg. Now, that shit's gangsta.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte