I just finished reading The Source's cover article about Auto-Tune's place in hip hop as well as in the music industry as a whole. The article discusses the rift that is forming between Auto-Tune addicted MCs like Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and the like versus lyrical purists like Jay Z (he did make the ultimate Auto-Tune diss song). The article poses a good question, is Auto-Tuning a gimmick or an art form? Can Auto-Tune really have more artistic relevance than a T-Pain i-phone application? Many music insiders surprisingly say yes; Auto-Tune is here to stay and is a serious musical instrument (in the article one individual even compared it to the electric guitar).
I have been quite critical of the program, just like many other hip hop fans and critics, I think its cheating; masking musical imperfections and idiosyncrasies that made songs original and quirky, as well as unfairly giving talent to the talentless. However, I do think Auto-Tune can one day be considered a serious musical instrument if it is wielded the right way.
Forty years ago, the synthesizer was also stirring up controversy in the music world, (and I must admit some of the worst songs of the 20th century were made with it...Funky Town? We Built This City?) however over time, it changed the course of musical experimentation. People were able to manipulate noise in a way that had never been done before, making the music sound futuristic, and more fluid.
Auto-Tune is doing the same thing, however this time they are playing with an instrument that hasn't seen much tinkering in the past, the voice. Sure, many musicians have experimented with vocal distortion, Throbbing Gristle, David Bowie, The Beatles, the problem with Auto-Tune is that you can achieve vocal perfection where it never existed before. When Heidi Montag, Brook Hogan, and Katy Perry can magically "sing" on their albums and music videos but in a live setting can barley stay in tune, eyebrows are raised. If Auto-Tune was used for distortion of the voice, to make it sound more organic, or robotic, I think everyone in the music industry would have an easier time embracing it. However when it is wielded simply as a shortcut to longer studio time, and artistic experimentation, its not my cup of tea. T-Pain had a gimmick, but now its antiquated, and the imitators are over-saturating the market.
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