Paul McCartney goes auto-tune on shocking new track
When I first heard ‘Get Enough’ come up on shuffle on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t give it much thought. It sounded like any other Top 40s ballad that I might add to my daily rotation, but could easily forget.
The tremulous vocals, the poor enunciation and the emotive opening line — “There was a time when we walked by the docks…” — had me thinking it was a gloomy indie rock band. Maybe Bastille or Mumford & Sons. Or maybe a singer-songwriter who sounds like an indie rock band, like James Blake.
There was something faintly Bob Dylan about the whole thing. A croaky and frayed quality to the performance that signalled age and experience, warmth and reassurance. And then it hit me. That voice could only ever belong to Paul McCartney.
Mystery temporarily solved. Until the chorus, of course, which I would later find out, has critics everywhere baffled. Here was a gummy, auto-tuned and catchy refrain (“Can’t get enough, get enough, get enough of you”) that could only come out of the mouth of a 20-something contemporary pop star. Except it was still McCartney singing.
Suddenly, the song felt more intriguing. Joyful. Sure, people were going to jump down Macca’s throat for experimenting with auto-tune and embracing a divisive modern soundscape, but the track felt reminiscent of Fab Four experimentation.
In a GQ interview published in September, McCartney predicted the reaction he would get from purists: “‘Oh no! Paul McCartney’s on [expletive] auto-tune! What have things come to?’… At the back of my mind I’ve got Elvis Costello saying, ‘[Expletive], Paul!’”
McCartney wasn’t too concerned: “You know what? If we’d had this in the Beatles, we’d have been — John, particularly — would be so all over it. All his freaking records would be…”
There’s something charmingly ‘Revolver’-like about ‘Get Enough’. It has the feeling of someone playing around in the studio, trying something new just for the giddiness of that first listen back. One might argue that The Beatles were known for creating trends, rather than reviving dated and derived ones. But doesn’t Macca have the right to have fun with shiny new toys? To reinvent himself? The song is catchy. It’s entertaining. It’s pop. And those are three things McCartney can’t resist.
The single — which released on January 1 without notice, as a non-album track (it’s not from 2018’s ‘Egypt Station’) — was co-written with contemporary hit-maker Ryan Tedder. The OneRepublic singer-songwriter, who has worked with McCartney before, loves bringing industry veterans up to speed. Last year, he co-wrote ‘Chances’ for the Backstreet Boys, which was another earworm ballad.
The sticklers will say that McCartney slapping on some auto-tune and repeating the same lyric over and over again is a disappointing move — a tragic indication of the standardisation of the current music scene. But why?
For the majority of McCartney’s 76 years, he has been committed to simply making enjoyable records and performing them for fans. Unlike a certain brotherly duo, he hasn’t let himself become cynical or sanctimonious — in fact, he’s welcoming of new age pop stars, with a Kanye West and Rihanna collaboration to boot.
So, it really comes as no surprise that McCartney would want to indulge in something a little mainstream — something everyone from Cher to Kanye has already taken for a ride.
‘Get Enough’ isn’t groundbreaking, but it is enchanting. It begins with untouched vocals from McCartney, crisp as they’ve ever been, and the auto-tune doesn’t hit until after the 30 second mark. It isn’t a cheap cover-up on his behalf — nor is it a desperate attempt at relevance. He’s obviously still got the goods. He just doesn’t have to make the same music he made six decades ago to prove it.