Years ago, Cher came out with a new song, Believe (“Do you believe in life after love?”), that contained a conservative, but pronounced, use of the Auto-Tune effect. This song was probably the first time I was aware of the effect and I thought it was kind of cool sounding.
Believe, by Cher:
However, at the time, I remember thinking that too much of that effect would be torturous to listen to. Fortunately, when Auto-Tune was used in the years following, it was mainly employed as a device to correct mis-sung notes – even in live concerts. While it was a a little obnoxious that artists received recognition for singing better than they actually could, at least its use was subtle and mostly unnoticeable – especially to people like me who were uninterested in listening to music by people that cared so much about perfect pitch, as opposed to making remarkable music, no matter how rough and chaotic. (I’m thinking Tom Waits here.)
One of it’s most tacky and disgraceful performances was when Billy Joel used it while singing The National Anthem during the Super Bowl in 2007.
As much respect as I’ve had for Billy Joel and his music, I must say that I was very disappointed in this performance; and I share the face of Tony Dungy, at 1:02 in the video, when I think about it.
Electronic musicians used it loudly and proudly, which was at least more honest than using it to disguise mistakes. (Some of my favorites that used it: Blue by Eiffel 65 and Daft Punk’s, One More Time.)
Blue, by Eiffel 65:
One More Time, by Daft Punk:
However, R & B had to go and take it entirely too far. Kanye West used it in the entirety of his album, 808’s and Heartbreak, which signaled for many, the downfall of his career. In fact, artists such as T-Pain used it, not to correct a mistake in a sung pitch, but to completely alter their sound altogether. T-Pain doesn’t use Auto-Tune, he is Auto-Tune.
Aside from techno music, Auto-Tune needs to go. Artists that can’t always hit a perfect pitch need to deal with the reality of being human; fans might actually appreciate knowing that the artists they’re enamored with are the same species of animal as themselves. Imperfection can be beautiful. Mistakes can be perfect. And losing your mind in laughter and not being able to recover for the rest of the song can be golden, as proven by Elvis Presley.
Let’s have 2010 go down in history as the year Auto-Tune goes away, and people become just a little more like they used to be: human.