T-Pain: In Auto-Tune With His Audience

T-Pain's digitally processed style has spawned imitators.
T-Pain's digitally processed style has spawned imitators. "We were tryin' to count 'em but we don't got enough hands!" he told a Love nightclub crowd. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
By Chris Richards
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, November 26, 2007

The most influential pop singer of 2007? He croons like a horny, alcoholic android.

His name is T-Pain and if the moniker doesn't ring a bell, his gooey, robotic warble certainly should. With his digitally processed voice, the R&B singer has saturated the airwaves and the Internet with some incredibly pleasurable tunes about searching for love amid a stampede of pink elephants.

And although the Tallahassee native gave a quirky performance at Love nightclub Saturday, he was quick to pounce on his imitators: "We were tryin' to count 'em but we don't got enough hands!"

That's no idle boast. Since his recent sophomore disc, "Epiphany," scores of artists have been auto-tuning their voices into a similarly soothing, digital purr. It's a trend that provides cachet to singers who can already carry a melody (Chris Brown, Jordin Sparks) and sweet reprieve to those who can't (J-Lo, Britney).

Onstage at Love, T-Pain never used the effect as a crutch. "I'm the originator of this auto-tune [thing]," he bragged after bouncing through his cameo chorus to Kanye West's "Good Life." Despite such smooth singing, the proceedings soon mutated into a curiously jumbled set, the dreadlocked singer eschewing his songbook to dash through a highlight reel of his cameo verses and remix appearances.

Serving up quick jolts of hooky energy -- E-40's "U and Dat," Plies's "Shawty," DJ Khaled's "I'm So Hood (Remix)" -- he touched on these tunes (and plenty more) for less than a minute each, following them up with oodles of wandering stage banter. The stop-'n'-go-'n'-stop-again approach was good for short attention spans, bad for momentum. (Will all concerts be like this once the ring-tone generation comes of age?)

Regardless, the best song snippets came with some pretty exhilarating dance steps. Performing his hook to Brown's "Kiss, Kiss," 'Pain broke into his best pop-lock routine, pantomiming the choreography from Brown's recent TV appearances. During his guest verse to R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt (Remix)," the singer stomped the stage as if the soles of his sneakers had caught fire.

The idiosyncrasies culminated with the syrupy one-two-punch finale of "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" and "Bartender" -- the two frothiest singles from "Epiphany." Fans shrieked with delight, but instead of taking a bow, 'Pain stuck around to dance to Shop Boyz's "Party Like a Rock Star" and Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat."

Hard to believe that the ubiquitous singer hasn't appeared on a remix of either song. At least not yet.

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