In Praise Of Auto-Tune

Frieze Magazine has published a article that takes a contrarian look at the musicality of Auto-Tune.

Author Jace Clayton first recognizes the fact that many musicians hate AutoTuned vocals:

Vocal purists hate Auto-Tune. They hear in its robotic modulations some combination of sugar-rush novelty, bulldozed nuance, jejune synthetics, loss of ‘soul’, disdain for innate vocal talent, teen-optimized histrionics, emotional anemia, and/or widespread musical decline. It’s ugly.

Discussing US R&B singer T-Pain’s Auto-Tune-aided hits in 2007, music critic Jody Rosen declared that, ‘T-Pain represents a kind of symbolic severing of African-American music from its traditional emotionalism […] the impassioned melismas that have powered black popular singing for decades are smoothed into synthetic gasps.’

Clayton goes on, though, to suggest that Auto-Tune is leading to a Man-Machine hybrid vocal style:

In an era of powerful computers that allow one to audition all manner of effects on vocals after the recording session, recording direct with Auto-Tune means full commitment. There is no longer an original ‘naked’ version. This is a cyborg embrace. In Cyborg Manifesto (1991), Donna Haraway notes that ‘the relation between organism and machine has been a border war.’ Auto-Tune’s creative deployment is fully compatible with her ‘argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.’

What do you think? Are there artists that you think are using Auto-Tune to create cyborg art?

19 thoughts on “In Praise Of Auto-Tune

  1. Auto-tune was also used in the fab ending credits to the game Portal, "Still Alive" via the mechanized voice of the computer GladOs.
    Auto-tune is good. I can't wait for the 1st fully virtual singer.

  2. Auto-Tune can't be any more overused than chorus can be overused. So bizarre when some people complain that certain synth sounds are overused and don't apply that same logic to a piano, or even a "classic" like the TB-303 — it's inconsistent and doesn't make sense for everyone, and is hence limited to an individual's frame of reference.

    On Antares' part, brilliant marketing: http://torley.com/anti-auto-tune-whiners-shut-up-

  3. Auto-Tune can't be any more overused than chorus can be overused. So bizarre when some people complain that certain synth sounds are overused and don't apply that same logic to a piano, or even a "classic" like the TB-303 — it's inconsistent and doesn't make sense for everyone, and is hence limited to an individual's frame of reference.

    On Antares' part, brilliant marketing: http://torley.com/anti-auto-tune-whiners-shut-up-

  4. Auto-Tune can't be any more overused than chorus can be overused. So bizarre when some people complain that certain synth sounds are overused and don't apply that same logic to a piano, or even a "classic" like the TB-303 — it's inconsistent and doesn't make sense for everyone, and is hence limited to an individual's frame of reference.

    On Antares' part, brilliant marketing: http://torley.com/anti-auto-tune-whiners-shut-up-

  5. Auto-Tune can't be any more overused than chorus can be overused. So bizarre when some people complain that certain synth sounds are overused and don't apply that same logic to a piano, or even a "classic" like the TB-303 — it's inconsistent and doesn't make sense for everyone, and is hence limited to an individual's frame of reference.

    On Antares' part, brilliant marketing: http://torley.com/anti-auto-tune-whiners-shut-up-

  6. Auto-Tune can't be any more overused than chorus can be overused. So bizarre when some people complain that certain synth sounds are overused and don't apply that same logic to a piano, or even a "classic" like the TB-303 — it's inconsistent and doesn't make sense for everyone, and is hence limited to an individual's frame of reference.

    On Antares' part, brilliant marketing: http://torley.com/anti-auto-tune-whiners-shut-up-

  7. Auto-Tune can't be any more overused than chorus can be overused. So bizarre when some people complain that certain synth sounds are overused and don't apply that same logic to a piano, or even a "classic" like the TB-303 — it's inconsistent and doesn't make sense for everyone, and is hence limited to an individual's frame of reference.

    On Antares' part, brilliant marketing: http://torley.com/anti-auto-tune-whiners-shut-up-

  8. Chorus is typically used in a more subtle fashion than Auto-Tune is currently being used, and chorus is used to emulate a natural effect, where Auto-Tune is being used to remove natural imperfections.

  9. Not currently — a lot of rap and pop vocals use chorus to beef up vocals in a massive way that has a glammy, unnatural sheen. But like Auto-Tune, the effect started subtle but then creative tweakers found by pushing the extremes and making it SO evident what was altered, they'd get reactions like this.

  10. Not currently — a lot of rap and pop vocals use chorus to beef up vocals in a massive way that has a glammy, unnatural sheen. But like Auto-Tune, the effect started subtle; then creative tweakers found by pushing the extremes and making it SO evident what was altered, they'd get reactions like this.

  11. i agree with Torley- Auto Tune is just another tool. it can be over-used, or it can be subtle. or maybe it can even become its own style. i have to admit i kind of like t-pain's robot vocals, as cheesy as they often are. his style goes beyond just covering up mistakes- he was able to take the sound and make it his own. i wouldnt call it high art, but its a style- some will like it, some will not.

  12. I can't stand T-Pain – but somebody tell me about the vocalist in the YouTube clip?

    I like the bizarre track, and she's so hot that I don't mind the lipsyncing.

  13. I don't mind Autotune – I think it has some interesting applications. What I DO mind is the endless legions of hip-hop and R&B minions using it because it's the cool thing to do now. That destroys creativity, and that's never a good thing.

  14. I liked the way it was applied in Portal.

    But that was for the credits of a video game. I wouldn't listen to songs like that just for listening. Arjun is right, there is a whole group of virtual singers. The most well known is Hatsune Miku. I know this because my girlfriend is crazy about it…

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