By Elizabeth Crea
Auto-Tune is the invention that has many musicians, music lovers, and critics cringing. It’s an audio processor that corrects pitch for vocal and instrumental performances, covering up off-key mistakes by matching sung pitches to the nearest tone. This produces flawless vocal soundtracks for many popular singers.
Sounds like the perfect invention? Not quite. A controversial issue for this technology is its overuse in the music business. TIME magazine quoted a Grammy-winning recording engineer as saying “…every singer now presumes that you’ll just run their voice through the box.”
If you’ve never heard Auto-Tune in action, think again. Mechanically altered voices have been sneaking their way into pop songs for more than a decade. And if you’re one of the 39,000,000 million viewers of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video, you’re definitely no stranger to it.
One of the first songs to use Auto-Tune was Cher’s “Believe” in 1998. TIME refers to this song as a “creative abuse of Auto-Tune [which] quickly went out of fashion, although it continued to be an indispensable… part of the engineer’s toolbox.” Then came T-Pain. In 2003, the little-known rapper revived this abuse and notoriously began to use Auto-Tune to enhance his vocals and further his music career. “I know [Auto-Tune] better than anyone,” he has boasted.
The overuse of Auto-Tune is harmful to the music industry because it’s blatantly fake and damn proud of it. While many artists confess to using Auto-Tune once or twice for the sake of not re-recording their tracks, the constant reliance on it can become exhausting to the ears and can also belittle the singer’s talent. It also serves as a talent inventor, which discredits a lot of true singers and musicians.
So, can a troupe of obnoxious high school glee clubbers really sound like they’ve been raised on Broadway? Perhaps. But it’s important to realize that you’re not always hearing the real thing. Not that we have much control over Auto-Tune usage, but holding artists to a higher esteem after technology alters their “talents” is unfair to singers who do not rely on this robotic device.