Crossing Cinematic and Sonic Bar Lines: T-Pain's "Can't Believe It"

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In cinematic history, black bodies have been represented as inhuman, super-human, and sub-human. T-Pain’s work enacts strategic resistance to these discursive formations. T-Pain’s “Can’t Believe It” music video resonates with wider practices of how black bodies are represented in visual media. After an analysis of T-Pain’s use of Auto-Tune as a technology that represents the human voice via machine, I articulate how T-Pain’s earlier radical improvisational work with Auto-Tune and his subsequent cinematic strategies in his widely popular video represent the radical black imagination. T-Pain’s “Can’t Believe It” music video resonates with historical practices of how black bodies are represented in visual media. I analyze T-Pain’s transformation of Auto-Tune into a subversive technology that represents the black voice via machine. I connect that sonic analysis to signifiers in the video, which are representations that deploy constructions of race, class, gender, and sexuality as they relate to notions of blackness. Crossing bar lines, the semiotics of T-Pain’s trademark Auto-Tune sound, raises questions about what is at stake in the music through the generative force of sonic propulsion and the simultaneously old and novel articulation of a freedom drive propelling black performance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages19
JournalEthnomusicology Review
Volume19
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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