Auto-Tune

Auto-Tune is computer software that actually adjusts vocals on the fly to a predetermined pitch. As a muscian, I’m equally terrified and intrigued by Auto-Tune. I appreciate when artists use it deliberately and openly. As a separate instrument. This is what Daft Punk did. This is what Kanye does. The gay fish doesn’t pretend to be a singer. He uses it because it sounds cool. And in turn, he’s seemingly created a readily copied style. At least from these indie rock fan’s eyes.

What terrifies me is when Auto-Tune is used subtly. When supposed pop stars use it to sing. When it’s used to touch up and fix certain parts of songs because the singer can’t stay in key. It’s Photohsop for vocals and it’s ubiquitousness is frightening. (Which, I guess is part of my intrigue too.) If these people can’t sing, why are we giving them record contracts? Either redo the vocal track or move aside and let someone come in here with real talent. My homegirl Susan Boyle doesn’t need Auto-Tune.

Regardless of where it fits into pop culture, it’s still an amazing piece of technology. Some people are finding fun and creative ways to exploit it. A Brooklyn artist named Michael Gregory (everything creative comes out of Brooklyn) has been remixing nightly newscasts using Auto-Tune and beats. The results of Auto-Tune The News are often times hilarious and catchy. However, his greatest achievement to date is his remix of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It’s pretty amazing and just as powerful as the original speech.

4 Comments

  1. Dennis May 5, 2009

    Greg – just a small quibble. Kanye did not create the style your referring to in the above post – T-Pain created and popularized using Auto Tone more than a just a corrective, elevating the software to an actual effect/instrument now ubiquitous in popular hip-hop. Then, Kanye took it to a new, ridiculous level w/ 808’s and Heartbreak. (And Cher probably deserves some credit too.)

  2. Greg May 5, 2009

    Thank you for keeping me honest Dennis. Actually I meant to cite Cher as an influencer but forgot to. T-Pain came up a lot during the few gooogle searches I did on the subject, but I never bothered to check my sources on that particular line. As evidenced by the line that follows it. So I stand corrected. Even though my Hip Hop IQ approaches “special” levels, 808’s is like, an amazing record.

  3. Dennis June 12, 2009

    Greg, you started the conversation, but Jay-Z drops the definitive statement:

    http://pitchfork.com/forkcast/12965-doa-death-of-auto-tune/

  4. Greg November 12, 2009

    Fun and informative dissection of Auto-Tune. With Weird Al!

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