Monday, 17 December 2012

Album Review: My Teenage Dream Ended by Farrah Abraham

Farrah Abraham My Teenage Dream Ended (MTV Press)

Imagine a world wherein music is artless. You turn on your radio, you hear the exact same thing over and over again. There's no joy to be had in listening to music, and no joy in producing it either. It's product. You are a market.

Many people seem to assert this dystopian existence as our present, and they point to a number of examples - Rebecca Black and Katie Price are among those - to suggest that music is dead. I would disagree with this notion entirely; crap music has always existed, and as long as there is a market for it, it will continue to exist. The rest of us will have been pleased with the last 12 months, as they have yielded some exceptional works, whatever your musical persuasion may be. Artful music, shockingly enough, still exists. And, as with crap music, it always has done. And most likely always will.

I'm sitting here listening to My Teenage Dream Ended with a solitary thought: WTF. This is the album released by Farrah Abraham, a "star" of the MTV reality programme Teen Mom. My knowledge of her existence prior to listening to this album was extraordinarily vague, but from what I gather having read a few articles, she has had a pretty tough time throughout her life. My Teenage Dream Ended is the musical accompaniment to the book of the same name, but the thing about this piece of music is just how divisive it has become, and how finely it treads the line between crap and artful.

There are two distinct viewpoints when approaching My Teenage Dream Ended. There is the, "what the hell is this shit turn it off NOW" approach, and the "this is actually kinda meaningful" approach. Let me explain; the former is justifiable by how little musicianship is on display here. Abraham's vocals have been crushed and discombobulated by the Auto-Tune software, to the point where her lyrics are practically indecipherable amidst the backdrop of hastily composed brostep and electropop nonsense. You wonder whether it's all a joke, or if Abraham actually meant this for serious digestion.

Conversely, the latter approach is also understandable. For a reality show "star" (there's those inverted commas again), My Teenage Dream Ended is a shockingly abrasive piece of art, and far beyond what is to be expected of a trashy product of consumerism. The music, on paper, sounds far too contemporary to have such an effect, but in practice, the wobble-bass and programmed drums are disjointed and ill-fitting, especially when they are set against the grating extremity of the vocals.

The lyrics are, on surface level, teeny bop cannon fodder, but closer examination reveals something a lot more sinister than initially expected. On opener The Phone Call That Changed My Life, Abraham admits that, "I can only put so much in a song," as if there is something she is hiding behind the crescendo of disjointed clatter and the inhumane Auto-Tuned smush. Further reading reveals that the song was written after Abraham was informed about the death of her baby's father, Derek Underwood. Haunting indeed.

My Teenage Dream Ended is an undeniably shocking album, and should you put yourself through its half-hour of music, I can guarantee that you will not have heard anything of its like before. I would err on the side of classifying this album as outsider art (think The Shaggs for a musical reference point), but I would totally understand anybody who finds the album to be an obnoxious waste of 30 minutes. As such, I don't feel I can really rate this album, so I won't; I shall instead leave it to you to decide.

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