There was a period, not so long ago that you could actually listen to a piece of pop music without hearing Autotune. Ever since Cher abused it in 1998 with her song Believe, we haven’t been able to escape it.
What most people don’t actually know is that Autotune started out as an expensive separate piece of hardware that processed audio. Its purpose was purely to subtly effect the tuning or pitch of the audio signal, effectively locking it into tune. At that time computer based digital audio was experiencing a huge growth in popularity. Because of this, Autotune became an affordable software plugin that was available to the masses.
If used correctly, it works brilliantly – gently correcting the tuning of a voice of instrument, whilst still allowing it to sound natural. However, thanks to the Cher effect (known from now on as Cherness), it has become commonplace to crank it up to 10 and use it as an effect – or to stylise a voice. This is now so common that it can be heard on pretty much all pop tunes – the voices sound bland, unnatural, robotic & lacking in talent.
While we do still have the occasional guitar oriented pop band that can actually write songs, play instruments and sing, the diluted influx of talent show dross is smothered in a layer of Cherness. Why the producers of this tat obsess over making them all sound the same, I don’t think we’ll ever truly know. Hopefully, someone with some actual talent will shine through & change this direction. For a while it seemed that artists like Amy Winehouse may have had some influence here, but due to her unfortunate demise, it was relatively short lived.
As Autotune has developed over the years it can now also change the timing of voices. We now have to wonder in reality, how close to being in time and pitch are these ‘Artists’. If they really do need this much correction, should they really be in front of a microphone in the first place?
Hopefully over the next few years we will finally see the demise of the TV based talent show. If the popularity of these drops, then hopefully we will once again see an increase in quality artists coming through the ranks. Or at least a significant shift in musical direction.
Perhaps the next concern might be that since we have now had a 1980’s based resurgence, the next decade to be abused will be the 1990’s. While a good portion of the 90’s was filled by Britpop – there was also a lot of trash in the early 90’s. If it then gets to the point where producers start using the likes of Cher’s Believe as inspiration – what happens when an existing abuser of Autotune, takes that as further inspiration?
To be honest I don’t know & I really, really don’t want to hear the results…for the love of music, please stop using Autotune!