A Brief History of How Auto-Tune Has Ruined Music

I hate Auto-Tune for a couple of reasons. First, I hate how it’s used to make vocals completely perfect, devoid of any human error. Lack of talent can be covered up with a couple of tweaks. The result is an unreal performance that lacks soul. Second, I hate when producers and performers overuse Auto-Tune, turning singers into robots. I’m looking at you, T.I. and Cher.

How did we get here? Drowned in Sound has a history of this abomination.

Ed Ledsham explores the history of auto-tune… (Listen to Auto-tune Anthems on Spotify).

“Auto-Tune is great for fixing vocals, but we use Auto-Tune in a way it wasn’t designed to work. A lot of people complain about musicians using Auto-Tune. It reminds me of the late ’70s when musicians in France tried to ban the synthesizer. They said it was taking jobs away from musicians. What they didn’t see was that you could use those tools in a new way instead of just for replacing the instruments that came before. People are often afraid of things that sound new.” Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk)

Technology has long held an uncomfortable position in music. Part of this discomfort inevitably comes from trying to understand technology’s relationship to humanity and leads to an artificial separation of the two into dubiously separate spheres. From modern-day DJs exclusively using vinyl, to “March King” John Philip Sousa attacking recording technology, there has often been a mistrust of the supposedly new and technological in music. Auto-tune is just one of many examples of a technology being attacked for its supposed lack of authenticity, humanity or emotional content. Many fail to see either the increasingly creative uses of the technology or their own hypocrisy and elitism in attacking something as “technological”.

When producer and musician Steve Albini was asked by The AV Club to nominate a song he hated, he chose Cher’s “Believe”, the song best known for introducing the world to auto-tune.

Keep going.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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