We spend most of our days trying to be virtually perfect, so why should we care what singers really sound like?
When we go to concerts, we don't bother looking at them. Instead, we hold up our cameras to create the perfect image of them. For our friends. For our self-image.
We don't really care what they sound like live so much either, because, well, all the selfies we'll take at the gig will make us feel better than any song ever could.
Our downloaded songs are mostly disposable. A new tune comes along almost every day. It gets old very quickly, except for the rare few.
T-Pain used to sound to me like someone who was singing with a large umbrella inserted into his behind and a barbed clothes peg wrapped around his nose (example below). It was a sound. It was a "sound" that influenced many, including the likes of Chris Brown. It was a "sound" that the innards of Auto-Tune had created.
However, this week he decided to project something frightfully new into the world, something that might have created fears of hitherto unimaginable, well, pain. Yes, he decided to sing. You know, without anything manipulating his voice. He did this for NPR's Tiny Desk Concert.
Sitting on a stool, with just one keyboardist for company, it was as if a Prius had decided to fight its Google Self-Driving Masters, vomited out its software and said: "Here, humans. You do the driving."
T-Pain has a beautiful voice. It pours itself all over you like soothing lava.
In explaining why he used Auto-Tune so much over the years, he insisted that he wasn't doing it to mask his voice, but just to think different. As it were.
Because this is an NPR presentation, it does, of course, have some NSFW moments. However, it's a small, instructive exhibition of what happens when we remove some of technology's virtual ease and reveal just ourselves. Some might suggest it also shows what happens when we remove the marketing and leave just the truth.
The video has already enjoyed well over 1 million views on YouTube and reactions of quasi-religious ecstasy from those who have grown up with T-Pain and are, hopefully, now grown up.
A man sits. A man sings. What a way to disrupt existing technology.