Music is always innovating. There’s been a focus in mainstream pop of finding strong and quirky vocal performers to make records stand out. The BBC’s Sound of 2010 winner, Ellie Goulding; the excellent Regina Spektor and the BBC Sound of 2007 winner, Mika.
Multi-track and chorus effects have been around for many years but auto-tune technology seems to have sparked a backlash. Similar to the vocoder at times, I suspect it’s the ‘fire and forget’ nature of auto-tune that doesn’t have the musical source input like the vocoder that maybe accounts for the hatred it receives.
In this post, I’ll consider both sides of the argument and leave you with my two favourite examples of auto-tuning at the moment (which are worth reading to the bottom for!)
There have been several artists who are using auto-tune technology to refine their performances which some critics, like Jay-Z, have protested against allowing those with little talent to produce music. Whilst it’s difficult to estimate how many records have been tweaked, there are those which make a point of exaggerating auto tune effects. It seems to be down to T-Pain for taking auto-tune to RnB.
There are, however, artists who use it creatively and I don’t think should be tarred with this ‘cheap talent’ brush. The haunting ‘Hide and Seek’ by Imogen Heap is my biggest mainstream example.
Recently I’ve been spotting a resurgent movement of artists using autotuning as a way of transforming otherwise stale source material into art. I find it as refreshing as the music sampling movement started by Grand Master Flash at the start of the 1980’s. I’ll wrap up my defence of auto-tuning with two examples.
The excellent music project ‘Symphony of Science’ headed by John Boswell aims to “deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form” (Symphony of Science, 2010) and their latest video ‘The Unbroken Thread’ is definitely worth a watch.
And finally, there are The Gregory Brothers. I’ve only discovered them lately after their appearance at the Boxee Beta launch. They are taking news footage and creating RnB hits out of them, shawty (you’ll understand when you’ve seen their work!) Their channel on YouTube is well worth investigating but my favourite from their ‘AutoTune The News’ series has to be #9 Nobel. Health Care. United Nations.
Let me know where you sit on this debate.