Andy Warhol predicted that we’d all be famous for fifteen minutes.
The novelty of that prediction has been exploited to varying degrees of success over the years, and many people feel that MTV’s success in the 1980s was the harbinger of that statement’s possible truth. Now, with the popularity of YouTube and the ease of viewing on mobile communication devices it seems he overshot the length by about twelve minutes.
Antoine Johnson is the latest in a growing list of three-minute celebrities. That’s him right, there. The Gregory Brothers, who are better known to millions of YouTube surfers as Autotune the News, found a clip online of Antoine interviewed in his hometown of Huntsville, AL by NBC affiliate WAFF-48 following his disruption of a break-in and attempted assault on his sister Kelly Dodson. Antoine was extremely animated, and made a perfect candidate for Evan, Andrew, Michael and Sarah Gregory‘s signature satire.
I doubt that any of them was prepared for what followed. Seemingly overnight, the clip they posted, “Bed Intruder,” went viral, attracting over 6 million views, and it has since been watched in several edits under several different titles over 19 million times. Which begs the question: If two failed musicians from New York can take this unconventional character from the projects to the pop-charts, what can’t be done with Autotune?
The video, after the jump.
Even Andy Warhol would have to admit that it’s a damn catchy song –you know, in that R. Kelly, way-too-verbose kind of way. While the Autotuning has obviously boosted the spoken dialogue into a listenable (even likable) vocal track, this stuff doesn’t write itself. The Gregory Brothers have been able to find, in the daily speech of oddball regular folk, a perfect vessel for their song writing skills. If three city-slicker, white dudes had released this song themselves, they’d be lucky to top 3,000 views, and it’s unlikely that the majority of that 3,000 would sit and watch for the entire video.
The genius of this clip is that Antoine is made for this type of fame. I don’t know for sure but I’d wager a guess that everybody in Lincoln Park (the neighborhood in Huntsville where the Dodsons live) already knew Antoine. He’s got that lovable-but-not-overly-bright quality that seems to be the bread and butter of T-shirt fame. Of course in Antoine’s case he didn’t get semi-famous for doing something bad. Contrarily, he did something heroic in chasing away a would-be rapist, which puts him more in the C.B. Sullenberger crew than the Steven Slater camp. All are folk heroes now, for sure, but public opinion for Jet Blue flight attendant Slater could have gone either way, and in the not-too-distant future he’ll likely be a cautionary tale instead of an amusing late night punchline. How far Antoine gets to ride this wave of popularity remains to be seen, as does the longevity of autotuning.
Autotuning tends to take completely off the table any requirement of talent. The pop charts are full of autotuned vocal tracks leading popular music critics to lament the era when talent and perseverance were the key ingredients to starmaking. Even if many hitmakers from the past didn’t write the songs they made famous, they brought a talent by way of singing prowess to the mix. The ability to sing was a skill not found in many but respected by most. Nowadays any yokel with a laptop and pirated software can record, remix and upload. And nowadays most yokels are.
It’s a cheat. Like the live backing track was a few years ago. It’s probably only a matter of time before public opinion turns against the software, and things go back to normal, so to speak.
But I couldn’t help thinking how autotuning could become a useful tool in psychology: kids are acting up? Autotune them. Husband and wife arguing? Autotune them. Can you imagine if you were to record your spouse’s latest tirade, slap down a beat and autotune that nonsense? Goodbye argument! And if they played your kanipchen fit back to you? How could you stay angry? Autotune your boss. Autotune the cops. Autotune the autotuners.
No, wait. Scratch that last one. Literally!
Get out the old turntables and scratch that shit!
I might just be on to something here…