Listening to popular music in this day and age requires an acceptance that what was once valued as talent is no longer the end-all be-all of the music industry. Let me first say, in most settings I’m completely against the use of Auto-Tune, a plug-in for music producing software that adjusts a sound to bring it into a specified harmony. So if you’re looking for a complete lack of bias, you may want to look elsewhere. However, I think you may end up being surprised by my verdict at the end.
What Exactly is Auto-Tune?
Auto-Tune was created in the mid ’90s by Antares Audio Technologies and is capable of taking an audio track and brings it into harmony. Originally designed as a way to clean-up tracks in post-production and to assist performers doing complex dance routines, it has since become a staple in many music performers’ standard songs. Usually when it’s used it produces a robotic-like sound where the audio jumps between specific notes.
Because of the unique sound it produces, it was quickly latched onto by performers looking for something modern sounding, and it certainly accomplishes that. Unfortunately, it has also led to some performers downplaying the need for good vocals, knowing that they can simply be Auto-Tuned later. This is especially evident in live performances, as it’s become common place to use Auto-Tune during complex dance moves, a time when hitting a note can prove nearly impossible.
Looking at top music charts for any given week will tell you that many listeners either don’t mind the use of Auto-Tune, or actually like it. It has caused quite a stir in the music business, though, with one prime example being Death Cab for Cutie wearing blue ribbons in protest during their performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards. But is it always bad?
The short answer, from what I’ve heard taking a listen to its use in several different genre, is no. Certain genre, such as metal, dance, and dubstep, actually benefit greatly from its use in many cases as their music often has a futuristic theme to it, and a robotic voice fits in beautifully. Other genre, such as country, should in my opinion be rather ashamed of its use. Singing about That Girl doesn’t tend to lend itself a need for a futuristic theme, thus the appearance of Auto-Tune in the Tim McGraw song seems wildly out of place.
So is there a place for Auto-Tune in the music industry? I believe their certainly is, in some select genre. But as Today points out, while the plug-in may not be ruining the industry at the moment, it’s certainly getting rather close to that point.