Auto-tune, a revolutionary piece of recording equipment gone horribly wrong. We all know the key offenders, Ke$ha, Jay-Z, Jessie J, Justin Beiber, Beyonc, Mary J Blige, Chris Brown, Lady Gaga, Rhianna. The list of famous names goes on and on. It' just an unfortunate fact of life that auto-tune has rapidly take over the recording industry and is seeming to replace the talented musicians that shapes the world of music with mediocre acts relying their career on auto-tune. So where did this equipment come from? How was it developed? What was even its original purpose? Well it certainly wasn't created as a short cut for talent.
Lets quickly look at the history of auto-tune. It was created in the late 90s as a way of covering up and altering off-key notes and slightly altering the pitch to make a piece of recorded music perfect. This essentially would have saved time and money in studios which at the time were a lot more expensive and time consuming. This was of course way before home recording equipment took off and digital recording studios were only just starting to really take off. Unfortunately one artist, the well-known Cher used auto tune in her 1998 hit "Believe" paving the way for many more artists. Towards the late 2000s auto-tune was again picked up, this time by R&B artist T-Pain. Soon after auto-tune took off big time in the world f R&B, hip-hop and pop music.
So what did this mean for popular music? The emphasis turned away from how good a singer or an instrument player was to how good you were at navigating a computer. Record labels were swarming towards hip-hop, R&B and modern pop music and quickly dropping many loyal bands and musicians out onto the streets and shaping what we see as modern music today. Even talent' shows such as "X-Factor" have been caught out using auto-tune for contestants until in 2010 Simon Cowell was pressured into banning it from the show. Although, now there is some protest against the use of auto-tune. For example Death Cab For Cutie attending the 51st Grammy Awards wearing ribbons protesting auto-tune and Christina Aguilera wearing a t-shirt reading "auto-tune is for pussies". Times Magazine voted auto-tune as number 15 in their "50 Worst Inventions" list stating.
"It's a technology that can make bad singers sound good and really bad singers sound like robots. And it gives singers who sound like Kanye West or Cher the misplaced confidence that they too can croon. Thanks a lot, computers."
Strangely enough though, there are some artists you wouldn't realise who use auto-tune. Alice Cooper for one was known to use auto-tune on his latest album, Chris Cornell ring a bell? Many pop punk artists too have been known to use this effect, bands such as Fall Out Boy and New Found Glory. Difference is, these bands use auto-tune for its intended purpose; in the studio. So is auto-tune really so bad? If it can create a great album, maybe having used an effect but only in the same way a guitar part could use effects to create a better sound. Yet if the artist still performs live without auto-tuned assistance then is it really such a bad thing? If it can be used for its original use and not simply to shortcut artists from making music in their bedroom to being top of the charts then is their any real harm? A stand needs to be made against using auto-tune as a cheat method or a short cut not in using at as a useful even valuable tool. Maybe one day we will see talent make a real come back in the mainstream charts for now at least we just sit and wait.