22/05/2010

The Autotune "War"

Frankly, I wish everyone would shut up about it. But here's my views anyway...

To start with, there are 2 groups of users that the arguments should be separated out for:

1) People who turn it up full for that specific & deliberate sound (Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, etc)

2) People who use it like it was intended; to save time in the studio by fixing tuning problems with otherwise good vocal takes (almost everyone else in the pop music industry)


These are 2 distinct arguments (although there is a sometimes a blurred line with singers like Chris Brown, etc).



The first is a question of taste, and so is subjective. They use it because they want that sound, and when that sound is no longer fashionable, they will stop using it. I think my main concern with this group is the homogenised music that it tends to produce, but you could hardly say that this is the first bandwagon the pop industry has ever jumped on!

However, I think that rather than dropping out of vogue quickly as people were predicting a few years ago, it has become the norm, and people largely don't notice the weird digital autotune artifacts anymore. As this is the quickest and cheapest way to produce vocals, and as people keep buying it regardless, autotune use like this is gunna continue I reckon.



The issue surrounding the second group of autotune users is one of efficiency and morals. Producers and singers want their records to sound as good as possible, and using autotune is (probably) the most efficient way to achieve vocal perfection. However, some people believe this is unethical, and that it misrepresents the vocalist's talent.

My opinion is that if the singer is marketed on the strength of their vocal abilities (Leona Lewis, etc), then it is morally questionable to digitally correct their voice, but in all other cases morals are irrelevant, as I would much rather hear a robot sing in tune than a human out of tune (to take it to extremes).

To put it another way, when it is the song that is being sold rather than the singer, it is unimportant how the record was actually made, and I think that to disagree would be pretentious.

The only people who I believe are justified in thinking otherwise are audiophiles, but surely autotune artifacts in pop music are just a drop in the ocean compared to "loudness war" distortion, etc.



To sum up, use of autotune is only unethical if you're lying about using it. The rest of the time it's no different to using other studio effects/tools like EQ, reverb or quantization. If you don't like it, don't buy it.


This blog's getting a bit rant-y. I'll have to lighten it up.

PUPPIES!



James
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