Auto-Tune the News: Political Power Ballads

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you’ve probably caught one of the Auto-Tune the News videos.

Originally a viral sensation, they were quickly snapped up by the website BarelyPolitical. They’ve been spotlighted on NPR, and clips are often used as drops on ESPN Radio’s Scott Van Pelt Show.

So before the concept becomes completely stale, it’s high time for an overview of the series, highlighting its finest moments thus far.

The series is what its name says it is: an artful assemblage of clips from news channels, masterfully edited and turned into one hip-hop song after another with use of the ubiquitous Auto-Tune software.

ATTN is primarily the work of Michael Gregory, one of the talented siblings that make up the band The Gregory Brothers. The series also features his two older brothers, Andrew and Evan; Andrew’s primary role has been to perform romantic duets with Katie Couric, while Evan has played an increasingly vital role as the series has gone on, and may have stolen Katie away from his younger bro.

I’d be remiss to ignore the contributions of Evan’s really attractive and talented wife Sarah Fullen, who’s the secret weapon of the series. The most recent video also featured a non-related contributor, Aaron Steele, which makes us wonder what other guest stars might be in store…

The first video we’ll feature is the third in the series, which is the best of the early editions. This clip features a great performance by Ron Paul singing about freedom and liberty and the joys of “third-partying,” but I really love the joyous and racy duet between Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan while Hillary Clinton tries to get a word in edgewise.

“Hatching plans with you…invade Tajikistan with you” is a truly inspired piece of internationally-related lyricism. But for pure giggles it can’t touch “Making memories at the pottery wheel…rubbing clay on you all afternoon! HO!”

As good as #3 was, the fourth video was a huge step forward. To this day, we can’t think of Justice Sonia Sotomayor without thinking of the song that opens this video, in which the Gregorys sing about the loneliness of the lone female, Judge Ginsberg, and how the Court needs a “shorty…qualified to get low in the Apple Bottom row” – a role perfectly filled by the “jurisprudent” Sotomayor.

In the most respectful possible way, of course!

Joe Biden, a mainstay of the series, delivers an impassioned number that “goes out to the Serbians…also the ladies, but mostly the Serbians.” The video ends with a performance by the Angry Gorilla, a somewhat puzzling figure (played by Michael) who nonetheless sings a pretty awesome number that tells us of the woes that ensue “when an Angry Gorilla cries.”

Auto-Tune the News #5 might not be the strongest of the series, but it contains a duet between Katie Couric and Evan Gregory that is quite simply magnificent. It’s really unbelievable (a) how musical Couric’s anchor voice is even before being autotuned and (b) the cheesy things she says on the air. I never watch her newscast, so I had no idea. But the refrain “You can be Lady Gaga / I can be T-Pain / We can be bringin’ on the boogie, droppin’ rhymes like rain” is a work of sublime inspiration.

Oh yeah, and Joe Biden sings about AMERICA from space!

I find the the sixth video gets better and better every time I watch it. The video opens with a House debate on the climate change bill, featuring several Gregories along with brilliant performances by Michelle Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, and an incandescent John Boehner. The minority leader’s refrain of “Hell No!” is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard.

The video also features solid segments with Sarah Palin and an amusing discussion of the death of Michael Jackson, who Jackson family attorney Brian Oxman described as “waking up dead.”

The reason these videos work is not the skillful video editing or the funny lyrics – although both elements are executed very effectively. These videos are awesome because the Gregory Brothers are musicians first, and the songs are all catchy as hell.

Seriously, I can’t get these songs out of my head.

Does anyone know of professional help for this? I would really like to be able to discuss politics without lapsing into R&B crooning of the most ridiculous nature.

If you would like to fall prey to the same condition, check out the entire series at Michael Gregory’s “Schmoyoho” Youtube channel. You can also take a look at the Gregory Brothers Myspace page or enjoy the soulful crooning of the really quite attractive Sarah Fullen as well…

Bravo, Gregorys. You’ve created a viral video series that will stand the test of time.

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