Who among us has not watched cable news and wondered if maybe, just maybe, they might try singing about tax policy instead of talking it through?
The Gregory Brothers, or “schmoyoho,” as they’re known on YouTube, are a group of musicians who do just that. Using autotuning technology and a knack for video editing, Michael Gregory, Andrew Gregory, Sarah Gregory, and Evan Gregory transform news into songs by a process they call “songification.” In case you’re wondering why you should care, their art is starting to be recognized by big names in media. They started uploading videos on YouTube in 2009; these days, their videos and directorial statement appear in the op-ed section of The New York Times’s website. Much of their music is based on political news, which means that this election season was ripe for songification. Enter “Songify the Election: 2016,” their latest full album, released just in time for election day.
The nature of making music out of real conversations means that not all of the tracks are hits lyrically. For example, “We Need Brain,” a songification of the GOP primary debate[comma] and “Me & Bernie, Bernie & Me,” their version of the Democratic National Convention, aren’t as lyrically complex or interesting as the other songs. They lack the same immediate appeal and, generally speaking, don’t have the same lyrical flow as the other tracks.
That said, the production on every song in the album is great without exception. The group credit various artists with “additional songification” and mixing but seem to write and perform the music themselves. In particular, “Bad Hombres, Nasty Women,” a songification of the final presidential debate, features a great complex backing track with a fabulous hook delivered in part by special guest “Weird Al” Yankovic. “Why should you run the show / Tell us ‘cuz we need to know” is both catchy as hell and the most salient question citizens could ask during the debates.
“Songify the Election: 2016” isn’t designed as a unified experience, though; the songs are grouped into this album by subject, not style. Whereas “Bad Hombres” most closely resembles a serious rap battle, TGB’s take on the presidential town hall, “Who’s Gonna Work it Out” (titled “TRUMP CLINTON FACE OFF” on YouTube), features guest Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the funky debate moderator and employs an upbeat backing track and lyrical tone, turning the second presidential debate into something you might expect to hear in a retro diner.
Coming in at a close third and fourth respectively for best tracks are “Call Sean Hannity” and “Feel the Bern Final.” The former demonstrates handily The Gregory Brothers’ ability to craft truly unique hooks from a few seconds of dialogue (in this case taken from the first presidential debate), while the latter demonstrates their truly incredible musical talent: The song is just under a minute and a half long, but the musical acrobatics of the electric guitar backing lines taken from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s debate would justify a much longer piece.
If you’re a first-time listener, however, I highly recommend you watch the videos on YouTube. The Gregory Brothers put a lot of work into their videos, and it shows. The songs are meant to be experienced as videos, and that’s how you should experience them if you can.
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