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Autotune: More than Meets the Ear

It’s quite obvious when a singer uses autotune on their voice, right? I mean, listen to this guy before and after autotune, he sounds like a pitch-perfect robot once he turns on autotune:


While there are certainly a number of musicians whose use of autotune is intentionally and stylistically blatant—I’m looking at you, T-Pain!—you might be surprised to learn just how often this production magic is utilized in making some of your favorite pop singers sound practically perfect in everyway. In fact, some producers will tell you that in the world of pop music, the list of singers who just say no to autotune are fewer than those who take advantage of the technology regularly. And, unlike Cher, whose song “Believe” is credited as the first commercial pop song to use the autotune effect to alter a singer’s vocals, modern day pop singers use it subtly and sparingly. First, listen to Cher’s blatant and stylistic use of autotune:

Now listen to this before and after comparison, where the singing is made bearable after some work with autotune:

While he certainly didn’t sound flawless after the autotune, notice how he didn’t sound like a Transformers robot at all in the post-production take. This is the more subtle use of autotune that producers confirm is used on most pop songs (even though singers deny using it). This is the kind of autotune that makes bad singers bearable, good singers great, and great singers flawless since the less work the autotune program has to do, the less noticeable the effect becomes.

Is this Auto-matically Unfor-tune-ate?

With autotune becoming more and more prevalent in both live performances and studio recordings, we have to ask ourselves whether this is a problem. Should albums be slapped with “Made with Autotune” stickers much like food products have to warn customers of artificial flavors? Should concert tickets contain an autotune disclaimer? How can the consumer ever know for sure whether they are listening to the real deal when they spend their money on music? Well, you be the judge on where to draw the line of authenticity, but in the meantime you can rest assured that anyone who sang before autotune was on the market is soaring without any strings. Take it away Whitney!

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