T-Pain feat. Akon — “Bartender”

Released: 6.5.07

Peak: #5

Complaining that T-Pain abuses Auto-Tune is like complaining that Gaga dresses funny, that Usher dances too much, that Jay-Z raps about money-cash-hoes. I mean, what type of facts are those? Every pop artist needs a shtick, and just because electronically pitch-mangled vocals have become as inescapable as irrelevant guest raps doesn’t mean the Tallahassee rapper-turned-singer hasn’t earned his trademark. I thought we pop fans were more discerning than all that.

To be fair, the ubiquity of Auto-Tune among the competition isn’t the only reason T-Pain’s gimmick has worn so fast. Like too many R&B singers, T-Pain did overtime voicing hooks for far too many the industry’s least talented scumbags. But taken one single at a time, T’s about as fun a guy you’d have to fend off at the club. And since he reveals more vulnerability when he’s confessing his crushes than when he’s practicing his pick-up techniques, I prefer “Bartender” to the bigger hit, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’).”

It helps that the club “Bartender” soundtracks (and to which T-Pain’s gal allows him free club admission — +3 no less) is uncharacteristically chill, all bubbling Fender Rhodes and muted synth whirr. And the lyric is light on machismo, following the playful economy of “She made us drinks/ To drink/ We drunk ’em/ (Got drunk)” with the downright cute “I think/ She thinks I’m cool.” (Granted, T-Pain’s benefactor, Akon, is a bit more dickish on his verse.) Still, while crushing out on bartenders is a step up from falling for strippers, at least the T-Pain of “I’m in Luv with a Stripper” understands that he’s a customer. The poor simp here never stops to wonder if the key to his appeal might just be that he’s a big tipper.

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