Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

Auto-tuning, BE GONE!!!

At long last, the lone blogger (hardly) types again!!

It’s been a long and lovely holiday season, and I’ve finally decided to brush off my laptop (oh who am I kidding–I’m on it every day), flex my fingers, and type a small rant!! Hurrah!! And just to be contrary, I’ve decided to write about something that is really more in the music genre, but who cares?!  And what is this topic, you ask? Well I’ll tell you!

AUTO-TUNING

Auto-tuning? What’s that?

So glad you asked! It’s a shamelessly abused mechanism in the pop/rap/R&B music world (that has now made its way into film and TV as well) whereby voices are tuned to the correct pitch as the person sings.  Back in the ’80’s, I remember being gutted when my 13 year old musician brother scoffed that Debbie Gibson probably couldn’t “REALLY sing that good–they just use a machine that makes her voice sing in the right pitch.” 

DEBBIE? REALLY?! What about Tiffany??! Don’t tell me Tiffany does that too!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!

I’m sure this process dates back even further than Debbie Gibson (as if!), but the point is this–now they can auto tune singers while they’re singing live.  Oh, excuse me…”LIVE.”  It’s a fascinating accomplishment, but it’s leaving a bad taste in the mouth of yours truly. 

The primary problem is that everyone ends up having this robotic quality to their voice (think Cher in “Believe”–remember how freaky that sounded when it first came out? Yeah, well now everyone sounds like that to a degree.  Gross).  But that’s not the only thing.  It sends the message that singers should be pitch perfect all the time…and guess what? That just DOESNT happen! And personally, I like it when there’s a bit of variable in there–how can you convey emotion while working with a machine that is just monitoring your vocals like a seismologist?

To better tie this post to film and TV, I’ll give two examples–Glee and Across the Universe.  I am particularly offended by Glee using auto-tuning, as those cats are all Broadway darlings, so we know they can sing–who cares if it’s off pitch enough so that only a computer would know? The only people on that show who could get away with using auto-tuning are celebs that are perhaps desirable for their audience-drawing capacity, but who cannot carry a tune.  But even then, it would be far more charming to hear their real voices, and if they’re terrible, then hey–maybe don’t go on a vocal show? Just a suggestion.

Across the Universe…sheesh.  I could write a whole blog on how much I hated this movie (Sorry! I know I’m practically the only person who does hate it, but I stand by my choice), but the first thing you hear in that film is Evan Rachel Wood’s plaintive, lovely voice…that soon begins to traverse notes in an unnaturally nimble fashion.  And I have to say–I liked her unmarred voice a lot.  Once you hear that auto-tune quality, you cannot tune it OUT, and it is maddening.  I heard this effect on every single lead actor in that film, except for Dana Fuchs (Sadie), and since she’s the only one NOT using it, she sounds a bit off from everyone else.  This, in my humble opinion, detracts from her kick ass voice.  

Just listen for it.  You’ll see what I mean.

On the flip side, I’ll close with this thought–if auto tuning is used in a way that is aware, and it’s simply another way of making music, I’m on board.  Hell, Kanye West apparently made an entire album that blatantly stated it was all auto-tuned.  More power to him! And I guess if you’re recording an album, and you just REALLY have to have a super polished sound, where every note is spot on, fine…but you’re walking a thin line there.  

BUT.  If I’m paying to see Katy Perry sing live, dammit, I wanna hear that bitch SING.  Flaws are beautiful, people.  Or, as Christina Aguilera says….

OH yeah!!

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One Response to “Auto-tuning, BE GONE!!!”

  1. Oh, and P.S. Thom Yorke records his vocals in one take. How about DEM apples?


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