T-Pain: Epiphany

Gentry Boeckel

T-Pain, Teddy Penderazdoun, Teddy Pain, Teddy Verseti, whatever you call him, don’t forget the “hit machine”.



Label: Jive
US Release Date: 2007-06-05
UK Release Date: 2007-06-04

How seriously should we take this music? By “we” I mean both listeners and critics. Some, like Sean Fennessy understand its silliness, but still deem T-Pain’s sparse, two records worth of material worthy of paragraphical critique. But why T-Pain? Of all the popular artists on the airwaves he initially seems the most prone to novelty -- the most likely to fade into the same collected bin of forgotten R&B artists such as Case, Ginuine, Jagged Edge, Joe, Kci & JoJo, Maxwell and Tyrese. His main claim to fame is the ubiquitous vocoder/talk box/Pro Tools effect (henceforth referred to as “talk box”, ‘cuz it sounds the most sexually appropriate). If you’ve only heard T-Pain’s radio hits, you’ll be led to believe he’s a one-trick pony, using this trademark effect as a cheap substitute to actual talent or as a cloying attempt to separate himself from the aforementioned forgottens.

This is what Jody Rosen, supposes in a recent Slate article -- that T-Pain is another in a long line of R&B sex-addicts but with a slight vocal-tic twist. What most fail to notice, or admit, is that T-Pain is a consummate, at times quite innovative, producer (Kanye recently said he was the next R. Kelly). The Slate article wonders aloud why T-Pain is such a popular radio staple and Rosen’s “simplest” answer -- that gullible consumers will snatch up any pop novelty record, especially one that “speaks to the [current technological] zeitgeist” -- is downright insulting.

On Epiphany, the Florida-born, Tallahassee-repping singer, slightly expands upon his body-part obsessed persona with a strangely-placed AIDS track (“Suicide”) with T-Pain considering suicide after learning he might have contracted HIV by not wearing a rubber. Important context: before this he’s trying to get a chick just a little bit inebriated, ‘cause, in his words: “I know you wouldn’t do what you do unless your tipsy.” After that he’s channeling his Bang Bus fantasies by taking his girl onto the highway to have sex (“I done cleared out the backseat”, he assures). Like R. Kelly, T-Pain relishes in that fine line between in-on-the-joke ridiculousness and the borderline criminal (like the date-rape-ish “I know you ain’t feelin’ me / I promise that you take a sip of this you’ll be right here hearin’ me”). And like R. Kelly, and most of today’s most interesting hip-hop and R&B, it’s easy to ignore the insipidity of it all when the arrangements are so good. Epiphany is full of bright, vibrant and downright exciting production: “Church” is a fast-paced, vigorous club track with bongos, spikey guitars, rolling organs, and handclaps all arranged into a meticulous whole; “Put it Down” is little more than minimal, echoey synth notes reminiscent of a more restrained Timbaland; and the drums on “Backseat Action” sound like primal electro-techno sputtering beneath quiet wah-wah synths.

But as increasingly great as T-Pain is as a producer, don’t expect his lyrical priorities to change much. Clubbing, drinking, and admiring women are still his main obsessions, and his newest single, “Bartender”, with Akon (a hook-man’s dream), features all these in one. “69” is a strangely ebullient ode to the reciprocal sex position but seems almost anti-climatic after “Yo Stomach”, where T-Pain lavishes his attention on a six-packed-out abdomen. It’s so singularly focused, with T-Pain admitting, “it’s the reason that I’m singing this song / ‘cause I ain’t got nothing else to bust a nut on” that you kinda have to step back and admire the carnal tenacity of it all -- which is what makes Epiphany one of the more exciting pop releases this year.

One of the frequently ignored aspects of Epiphany is T-Pain’s use of different aliases for his different vocals styles. Teddy Penderazdoun is the rapper, Teddy Verseti, the rocker, Teddy Pain the loverman, and good 'ol T-Pain the talk-box wielding chorus man. It’s really odd, especially when T-Pain features himself, and in some caes, more than one version of himself, on one song. But what’s most surprising about Epiphany is that it really isn’t all that reliant on T-Pain’s too-often-mentioned signature talk-box. Almost half the album vocals are recorded with T-Pain’s not-all-that-otherworldly voice intact. The album only really falters on “Time Machine”, where “Tebunan Pedalofogus” turns the box up to 12 and sings about a past where “this music shit was more than business.” But business it is, and with two of the best singles of the year (“Buy U a Drank” and “Bartender”), and a prominent feature on the best single of the year, R. Kelly’s “I’m a Flirt (Remix)”, T-Pain does seem posed for more success than those other guys. He may even be worth the verbiage, too.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.