How to Watch Television

By Ethan Thompson; Jason Mittell | Go to book overview

33
Auto-Tune the News

Remix Video

DAVID GURNEY

Abstract: Convergence culture has redefined television in many ways—from what
devices we use to watch TV, to who can make TV and how it can be made. In this
essay, David Gurney examines how The Gregory Brothers draw upon news cover-
age and other online videos as raw material for satirically remixed and reconfigured
takes on current events and Internet culture.

Amidst the sights and sounds of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” Usher’s “OMG,” and other bubbly hit songs of summer 2010, one unique single and its accompanying video experienced an unexpected moment in the spotlight with its AutoTuned chorus of lines including “Hide yo kids / Hide yo wife” and the repeated “We gon find you / We gon find you” becoming instant catchphrases in the pop lexicon. “Bed Intruder Song” by The Gregory Brothers and Antoine Dodson was not novel in terms of its use of synthesizers, drum machines, or even Auto-Tune pitch-correcting software, but rather because of the original source of its vocal tracks. Lifted from a recording of television news originally broadcast by a local NBC affiliate (WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama), the unintentional catchphrases began as statements from Antoine, whose family’s home had been broken into by a perpetrator intent on sexually assaulting one of its female members. Despite sampling’s long history in hip-hop, this peculiar source and the extended use of the sample made this a standout track. For The Gregory Brothers, however, repurposing television news was not so unusual even if it represented a shift from appropriating the words of the powerful to the words of the relatively powerless.

A media phenomenon like “Bed Intruder Song” underscores that when we talk about television in the twenty-first century, we are talking less about a specific media technology and a circumscribed set of behaviors surrounding it, than about an ever-expanding constellation of technologies associated with an increasingly less cohesive set of practices. Really, this has always been the case,

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