it’s all cher’s fault.
back in 1998, a new technology, called auto-tune, was employed on cher’s hit single believe to ensure that her vocals were perfect. (if you’re brave, you can give it a listen. i’ll wait.)
did you hear those notes where it almost sounds like her voice has become like a synthesizer? where she sounds more like a machine than a human? welcome to the magic of auto-tune. and over the past 10 years, it has become a huge tool in the world of pop and R&B. people in country have admitted to using it, too, like shania twain, tim mcgraw, and faith hill. it appears that everybody want to rule their pitch.
music, to those of you who know me or who have paid any attention whatsoever to my blog over the past 9 years, takes up a lot of space in my brain. to me, it is an art that clutches at all that is human inside me and which expresses frailties and strengths about our experiences in life and love and spirit and everything in between. auto-tune removes all that is human and imperfect from music. it distances the artist from the craft. and it creates a gap between the artist and me. there is this computer that sanitizes and perfects the experience.
if you are really all about the music, and if you are really all about creating a real experience, a real moment between yourself and others, then you need not use auto-tune. i cannot imagine bob dylan auto-tuned, or bruce springsteen, or aimee mann, or anyone whose work i respect. i don’t expect them to have perfect performances, and i don’t want their voices synthesized into electronic nirvana. i want to hear them raw and real and regular. i don’t expect vocal pyrotechnics; i expect emotional truth and warmth.
can you imagine john lennon auto-tuned? nope. me, neither.
sometimes, especially in pop and R&B, there is this need to embellish vocal embellishments. it’s like artists are not so much interested in the emotion of the song but rather in proving they can glide around 16 notes in a second. their vocal chords are superior, apparently. but doing so is fraught with easy failure. auto-tune to the rescue! just because whitney houston could do it without doesn’t mean you need to, and you, too, can sound like a diva! the tv show glee is rife with it. i wonder whether broadway is now, too.
nope. not for me. maybe it’s the aural equivalent of telling those damn kids to get off my lawn, but i don’t want any auto-tune in my music. and if they want to keep it real, then artists ought to demand that their imperfections remain for us fans to love or not love. i know music is a business, but if the product actually becomes 100% manufactured for our listening pleasure, then there’s no art left.
i like the illusion that there’s something honest going on there, but auto-tune completely pulls back the curtain and let’s you see that the wizard is truly bankrupt, false, and neurotic.
quite possibly, talentless as well.