Lately I've had several conversations with friends that go like this:
Me: "Man, I wish they weren't using so much autotune."
Friend: "What's autotune?"
Autotuning is what make T-Pain sounds like T-Pain. If you don't know who T-Pain is, wake up to some pop culture and look him up. But T-Pain intentionally overuses autotuning to create a particular style/effect. Everyone knows he doesn't really sound like that. But what's happening lately is that music industry people are using it left and right to make their singers sound perfectly in tune. Key word here is "perfectly." What we're left with is music that sounds digital and overproduced. The music is sterile. I've attached an example for all you learn-by-hearing people. The first video is of Barbara Streisand singing "Don't Rain on my Parade" in the 1968 film, Funny Girl. The second video is of Lea Michele from the cast of Glee singing the same song. Listen.
Do you hear it? The Glee version sounds computer-y, doesn't it? If you don't hear it, do some more listening of other music and keep your ears tuned. You could listen to Michael Buble's first album...and then listen to his most recent album. Major autotuning happening on the newer one. The thing that really gets me is that people like the Glee cast members and Michael Buble don't need to be autotuned. They're good singers already, so the autotuning makes them sound even more perfect, which makes them sound even more computer-y.
So, the thing about autotuning is that it's a good example of what's happening in the world of the arts in general today. Because of our access to incredible digital technologies, there has become a demand for perfection in everything from show tunes to graphic design. People want flawless music, flawless photographs, movies, design, and on and on. Luckily, though, there's a culture of artists who recognize what's happening and are creating a pretty strong backlash. Designers are hand-drawing their stuff, musicians are recording analog and releasing their albums on vinyl, photographers are shooting film (and no, I can't photoshop your eyes open). And, it seems like all this is part of a bigger cultural shift....like people are longing for more authenticity in every aspect of their lives. We need that rawness in art...that's what helps us distinguish the good art from the bad. And it's what makes that emotional connection to the music or art or whatever. I mean, imagine a voice like Louis Armstrong's on autotune. No, thanks. Keep your ears peeled, people. Autotuning is gross and we need to say so.