And we’re BACK! With GOSPEL!…
Katherine St Asaph: I guess it was only a matter of time before we got a Christian substitute for T-Pain. Earns more points than the previous sentence would suggest for the ending, where the autotune warps itself into something that really does sound, well, fresh.
Jer Fairall: What would Jesus Auto-Tune?
Jonathan Bogart: Well, no, I haven’t been listening closely to modern gospel lately. But surely it doesn’t all sound like this — it’s hard for me to associate it with the floral prints and Dockers that make up the uniform of modern Christianity.
Anthony Easton: My friend Pat: “That is the heaviest auto-tune I have ever heard, and I’ve heard Ke$ha and Jimmy Fallon parodying auto-tune.”
Martin Skidmore: I assume as a former top gospel singer, he can sing, so presumably the very heavy use of autotune is a repositioning move – I guess the title and lyric about wanting to move forward is that too. I find the extremely robotic sound as unlistenable as I did in the ’70s, and the funky music isn’t a lot more modern than that.
Josh Langhoff: The parts of “Fresh” that make it gospel — addressing God, quoting the Bible — feel like afterthoughts; this is really a song about Tye discovering the joys of Auto-Tune, or whatever voice-manipulator he used (apparently you can use it “straight out the box”!) He seems blissfully unaware that secular R&B has been doing the same thing for many years now, and that blatant Auto-Tune isn’t even unheard of in Christian circles — Marvin Sapp, a more traditional gospel singer, used it on a couple songs earlier this year, and the icky tobyMac has had a big A-T hit. So CCM’s lagging behind secular music again, what else is new? But apart from the synth-arpeggios and strutting beat and chord changes, all great, I love this song because Tye uses his new toy with such unbridled enthusiasm, mutating his voice in a variety of ways I don’t think I’ve heard outside Ke$ha. During the choruses he sounds like a whole P-Funk army. And if it weren’t for their chronology, Tye’s coda could be a minimalist riposte to Kanye’s overwrought Vocoder solo.
Chuck Eddy: I often wonder whether current urban gospel might be doing something I’d love in R&B terms that current R&B (at least the mainstream hit kind) rarely pulls off anymore, and then I never get around to checking to find out. But unless this is an absolute anomaly (possible — couldn’t make it through the album), the ain’t-no-stopping-us-now optimism and extremely convincing early-to- mid ’80s electro-funk approximations (synth-wise, singing-wise, melody-wise, old-school graffiti throwup on CD-cover-wise) here suggest my theory just might be right. Fresh in more ways than one.
Michaelangelo Matos: I like the way he goes for it vocally. Those filliping little “yeah!”s on the way out of the chorus and back to the verse make him sound like a cartoon, even more than the insane amount of vocal processing. When all the singing converges there’s a disorienting glossolalic effect that recalls a dozen things but doesn’t quite sound like any of them.
Mallory O’Donnell: So this is pretty seriously optimistic, and that’s a trait associated with gospel, in both traditional and pop spheres. But it’s also wildly prevalent in those underground and regional disco, funk and electro oddities (Jefferson Ink, Videeo and X-25 Band come to mind here in Houston) that appeared at random points during the 80’s to no initial fanfare but serious posthumous eBay cachet, all performed by musicians who probably knew the gospel artists in town as well as they knew the funk and electro &c ones. Which is to say, intimately. Which is really just how it should be, since we’re all so beyond such considerations as genre now, right? There’s still the bit here about Lord, and God, and new starts and all, and that’s certainly not something I remember a lot from 80’s vocoder-driven electro-funk jams. But then I don’t remember the kick-ass a cappella fade being this distinctly kick-ass a fade before, either. Hey, “out with the old, in with the new.”
David Moore: My only other experience with Tye Tribbett is a live track of “Victory” I stuck on a mix based on suggestions from kids in a summer program — I belatedly noticed an interlude in which Tye, without a trace of irony, yells, “God says to come out! Come out of depression! Come out of poverty! Come out of homosexuality! Come out of lesbianism!” That was standard pop-gospel, but like Mary Mary’s “God in Me” I’m surprised, given what I do know of his music, by how seamlessly “Fresh” might fit into a secular pop playlist. Except there’s something a little alien about how Tye slathers the Autotune on here — it’s somewhere between disguise-as-personality (a la T-Pain) and total facelessness, a conscious attempt to destroy a strong voice rather than support a weak one. The rationale seems to be that Autotune signifies “cool” to The Kids and therefore should be used amply to spruce up an otherwise bland message about God giving him a makeover. There’s a one-minute coda that’s about as weird as Kanye’s outro to “Runaway,” and I can imagine Tye subconsciously daring will.i.am to steal it so that everyone is crystal clear that this song could also be about clothes.
Zach Lyon: Drenching a song in this much autotune (to the point of at times being indecipherable) only works when the track’s content is equally superficial or inorganic or… forced? And Tye brings it all. His enthusiasm over fresh is more than a little creepy and sad, to a point where you’re only left considering what he’s leaving behind rather than where he’s going. The full-on-android coda understandably follows his apparent fainting spell from the heat of exhaustion. It works.
Frank Kogan: Despite what the words claim, this is basically an Autotuned up combination of the soul and the electro side of disco. But it sure brings a smile to my face, as if the guy just found these sounds, thinks they inherently sparkle – which they do here. I also get a kick out of gospel fans having a cow on comment threads. Not everyone wants a God of surprise, I guess.