The year is 1998, France has just won the World Cup, the Spice Girls are on top of the world and its ten years before Justin Bieber finds international stardom. Cher prepares to exit the music industry but has one final trick up her sleeve before her curtain call, a track well known today as “Believe”. Little did she know that this pop club anthem would drastically change the face of the music industry, because this was the birth of Autotune. This little plug in device has become the most important piece of musical equipment of the last two decades. Auto-Tune is plastic surgery for the voice and it has enabled countless performers to successfully con millions of people into thinking they can sing, only to deliver disappointment at live shows. One can only imagine the thousands of people about to be grossly let down by the countless nineties reunions on the cards at the moment.
The problem with Auto-Tune is the sheer loss of soul from the majority of popular music. Gone are the impassioned cries of Otis Redding or Al Green, replaced with the mechanized laughs and nonsense phrases of Lil Wayne or Lil John, or anyone ‘lil’ for that matter. Auto-Tune advocates would argue throughout musical history artists have been using implements to change or improve sound; examples such as reverb, echoes and loop pedals spring to mind. The difference however is that these implements still require some level of human skill to utilize to their full potential. Auto-Tune skips that process and actively responds to human inadequacies and pitch subtleties. Ari Raskin of the Manhattan recording studio Chung King explains that “if you sing really on key, the effects are a lot less drastic”. Raskin has worked with some of top names in the music industry including Lil Wayne, T pain and many others, and has stated that he wouldn’t be surprised if 99% of recording artists used Auto-Tune in one way or another. It’s unsurprising after all in the highly computerised and electronic world we live in that at some point a symbiosis of human gift and the electronic revolution will join hand in hand. It’s only sad when the world of yesterday is critiqued by the world of today. President of the Audio Engineering Society Jim Anderson recollects “Someone the other day was telling me how Areretha Franklin was a bit pitchy at Obama’s Inauguration. I said back to them, that’s because she was singing!’
Auto-Tune is the musical equivalent of taking steroids at the Olympic Games, and should be treated in the same manner. I implore you dear reader to listen to a clip of KE$HA singing her delightful number “Your Love Is My Drug” without the steroid-like substance. Afterwards please help explain to me why this woman gets to wake up feeling like P Diddy every morning, and not like me; bitter, tired and desperately not wanting to work my entire student summer in Tescos.