The Youtube auto-tune remix is a phenomenon that allows people to take extraordinary moments, often viral home videos or news clips, and turn them into a spectacularly hilarious form of accessible media.
Initially called “Auto-tune the news”, The Gregory Brothers were the first official “band” to curate this new digital culture often targeting political and social issues within mainstream media and re-imagining them in an entertaining musical form starting in 2007. Auto-tune itself was actually first used in the music industry by Cher in her 1998 song “Believe”, using a machine called the vocoder, which was also used in WWII to disguise radio transmissions.
The Gregory Brothers only recently found themselves with a large cult following on Youtube when they covered a seemingly ordinary news story that was hilarious enough on its own without the auto-tune. They made “The Bed Intruder Song” about Antoine Dodson, a break-and-enter victim whose comical and dramatic interview on a local news channel went viral. Watch below:
Since then, they have continued to make comedy videos under the Youtube channel Schmoyoho and one of their main claims is to interestingly enough, make the news “tolerable”. One reason why I really love these remixes is because they are means of political satire and reclaiming the media, as well as developing an authoritative voice in news coverage.
Sometimes these remixes are accused of perpetuating stereotypes as in the following video, Dead Giveaway, covering Ohio woman Amanda Berry’s kidnapping and escape. I would like to suggest a different interpretation: these videos expose the problematic ways in which the mainstream media presents black people and visible minorities living in low SES neighbourhoods throughout North America in a reflexive manner.
And there are songs, like the following, that use controversial municipal scandals as a lighthearted form of protest to more easily and humorously engage a younger audience in politics, this video made by DJ Steve Porter:
Tom Ford Crack Mayor Remix
Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That is another favourite of mine, again illuminating the struggles of poverty in public housing.
The Best Cry Ever takes a clip from the TV show Intervention to make a hip-hop remix of a funny cry…although I don’t think there’s really any social lesson to take from this other than the fact that you might go to hell for laughing at somebody who’s crying, no matter how hilarious.
And finally, my most recent favourite, Thumbs Up. This little kid is just too proud of his ability to ride a bike, and the fact that he is “so happy of himself” is entirely too much.