Is Auto-Tune turning singers into zombie cyborgs?
It's been called Photoshop for the human voice, and it's also become shorthand for "the singer who can't really sing." It's used in practically all songs recorded today.
Auto-Tune is software that can alter a singer's voice so that slightly off-pitch singing can sound perfectly on-pitch. It can overtly change the quality of a voice, or it can be a more subtle way to make sure a performer is perfectly on-pitch, which is what is was designed to do. It first gained popularity with the singer Cher:
Cher’s late ‘90s comeback and makeover as a gay icon can entirely be attributed to Auto-Tune, though the song's producers claimed for years that it was a Digitech Talker vocoder pedal effect. In 1998, she released the single, “Believe,” which featured a strange, robotic vocal effect on the chorus that felt fresh. It was created with Auto-Tune.Cher - Do You Believe?
The technology, which debuted in 1997 as a plug-in for Pro Tools (the industry standard recording software), works like this: you select the key the song is in, and then Auto-Tune analyzes the singer’s vocal line, moving “wrong” notes up or down to what it guesses is the intended pitch. You can control the time it takes for the program to move the pitch: slower is more natural, faster makes the jump sudden and inhuman sounding. Cher’s producers chose the fastest possible setting, the so-called “zero” setting, for maximum pop.
“Believe” was a huge hit, but among music nerds, it was polarizing. Indie rock producer Steve Albini, who’s recorded bands like the Pixies and Nirvana, has said he thought the song was mind-numbingly awful, and was aghast to see people he respected seduced by Auto-Tune.
“One by one, I could see that my friends had gone zombie. This horrible piece of music with this ugly soon-to-be cliché was now being discussed as something that was awesome. It made my heart fall,” he told the Onion AV Club in November of 2012.
The Auto-Tune effect spread like a slow burn through the industry, especially within the R&B and dance music communities. T-Pain began Cher-style Auto-Tuning all his vocals, and a decade later, he’s still doing it.
“It’s makin’ me money, so I ain’t about to stop!” T-Pain told DJ Skee in 2008.
Read more: Seduced by ‘perfect’ pitch: how Auto-Tune conquered pop music, The Verge>>
Of course, technology is just a tool, and if tools can be used to destroy the integrity of music and hasten the death of Western Civilization, they can also be used for fun. Since Auto-Tune can also change normal speaking voices into singing voices, comedians such as the Gregory Brothers have auto-tuned the news. Their first big hit was their Bed Intruder song, where they took a news interview with Antoine Dodson about the attempted sexual assault of his sister and created a song. (They also shared half the song profits with he and his family.)
Bed Intruder Song
Read even more: How Auto-Tune Works, How Stuff Works>>
- Auto-Tune the News, Wikipedia>>
- Auto-Tune, Wikipedia>>