I really like the collaboration between Paul McCartney, Kanye West, and Rihanna. It’s nothing more than a pop song, but it is a really good one. I’ve always liked Paul McCartney, and have long thought Kanye West to be brilliant, especially his Yeezus album. I haven’t payed much attention to Rihanna, largely because the music she makes seems really generic, although one can see with this song that she can really sing. I wish pop music would take a hint from this song, that with a great singer and melody you don’t need all of the gimmicks and tricks that reduce artists so often to mere minor characters in their own hits. I’m not even necessarily talking about big productions vs. the acoustic guitar simplicity of this song. I love epic productions as much as I love folk songs. What I mean is that a great pop song should have a strong melody, and that the singer should also be represented in some kind of way where their humanity gets across. That is so important, that the singer’s voice in a pop song should be allowed to express emotionally what the singer is feeling, and not be covered up in either the production or the mix in a way that makes it seem less human. I didn’t like the last collaboration with Kanye West and Paul McCartney very much, though I haven’t listened to it a great deal, because the excessive use of autotune bugged me. I also didn’t think the melody was as strong as this song. Now I know that West used autotune extensively on his album 808s and Heartbreak, and I actually like that record, but that is because the use of that technique there was specifically to make his singing sound emotionally distant. I like Daft Punk too, but again what they are doing with autotune is part of their concept and not just part of a trend or to cover up the fact that someone can’t sing. Autotune is fine if it is used in a way that fits conceptually, but a real human voice, naked in its emotions, will win almost every time.
P.S. It is a common production trick now to use autotune on a lot of pop songs in a subtle way that is harder to detect to fix flat notes. I have no idea if this is the case on this song. I haven’t listened to it on headphones yet, but at least Rhianna’s vocals sound natural. She has great phrasing on this song as well.