Fun.

Some Nights

Did you know that Cher’s record company wanted to remove the now-famous auto-tuning that producer Mark Taylor added to the vocals of her 1998 hit, “Believe“? Crazy, right? What do you think the world would be like nowadays if Warner Brothers had gotten their way? Would we have flying cars? Would Lehman Brothers still have collapsed? Would there be an independent Palestinian state? What would T-Pain be doing at this very moment? We’ll never know, because Cher responded to her label’s request by saying that the digital effect on her voice would be removed “over [her] dead body.” Well then. But with all due respect to “Believe,” it stands to reason that, much like a synthesized disease that squirms its way out of a top-secret government lab, setting in motion a zombie apocalypse that sweeps the entire planet, leaving nothing but horror, violence and destruction in its wake: auto-tune was bound to get out at some point. OK, maybe that’s a hyperbolic analogy. And in truth, I’m not campaigning against auto-tune at all. On the contrary, auto-tune is a fascinating phenomenon to think about, especially when you’re dealing with a group like Fun. and a singer like Nate Ruess.

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The Civil Wars

Barton Hollow

I’m usually a huge fan of ridiculous spectacles, pop music and making judgmental comments about celebrities, so the Grammys should be right in my wheelhouse. Nevertheless, I had a really tough time enjoying what I watched last night. Something just felt… off. Reading this stomach-turning Hello Giggles post about Chris Brown just a few hours before the ceremony certainly didn’t help. Seeing this collection of “I’d let Chris Brown beat me” tweets after the show didn’t help either. Nor did the ratio of performances to on-air award presentations, which seems to grow more disproportionate each year (only 10 of the 78 awards were given out on TV). Whatever it was, I walked away more than a little disappointed. But guess what? It’s a big Internet out there, and I’ll let someone else complain about how bad the show was. Besides, a few things happened that made me very happy that I did watch. I loved Justin Vernon’s acceptance speech, for one thing. The acknowledgment of his discomfort in winning showed equal measures of courage and integrity, given his earlier comments about how meaningless these awards are and how creativity should be its own reward. Adele winning everything in sight was heartwarming, as well. I find a tremendous amount of character in her voice, which is refreshing in a pop music paradigm that, as Dave Grohl pointed out in his (rudely truncated) acceptance speech, often favors tonal perfection over personality. But the thing that I’ll remember most about this year’s Grammys was the Civil Wars performing a quickie, one-minute version of “Barton Hollow,” the song that won the award for “Best Country Duo/Group Performance.” They were great. I’d listened to this tune a number of times, and I’ve always liked it, but their natural demeanor and strong, straightforward delivery really stood out from the glut of comically over-produced and awkwardly shoehorned collaborations. Not only did Civil Wars seem like they belonged on such a grand stage, it looked like they could teach a thing or two to some of the other, more well-known and brazenly bedazzled honorees. Their minute on screen was exactly what I needed to jump on the Civil Wars bandwagon with both feet, and I can’t wait to spend more time with their 2011 release Barton Hollow, which took home the award for “Best Folk Album.” Listen to the studio version of the title track below and click here to buy the album on iTunes. I have a feeling you won’t be the only one doing so this week.

The Civil Wars — “Barton Hollow