Don’t worry, this post is not a criticism of Stephen Hawking, but is in fact a desperate request to save my ears from the deathly assault that is auto-tune, which is seemingly pervading every new pop song that is released these days. In case you don’t know what auto-tune is, imagine a drunk C-3PO on helium and you would be in the right ballpark. I blame Cher for starting all this. Her song ‘Believe‘ is the first one that I can remember that made use of auto-tune, albeit only in the chorus. It seemed like an amusing quirk at the time, until the song made number 1 and the constant air play it received made it seem like it had been around since God was a boy.
But the song that has now provoked me into action is the recent release by the Black Eyed Peas ‘The Time’, which really puts the ‘rap’ into crap. Ignoring the pathetic lyrics (such as ‘This is international. Big mega radio smasher’ and ‘Jet-setter, jet-lagger, we ain’t messin’ with no maggots’) is one thing if the tune is good, but not if it’s a cover of one of the most over-played, cheesy songs from the film of every teenage girl’s wet dream, Dirty Dancing. And then if that’s not a bad enough combination, the chorus sounds like a duet between Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Who in their right mind wants to hear that?
Even Kanye West has decided that he can sing with the aid of auto-tune, having ditched rap on his album 808s & Heartbreak in favour of sounding like Stephen Hawking before he understood the settings on his voice synthesizer. On every song. That decision was the real heartbreak for me as I loved Kanye’s previous albums. If I’m wrong about auto-tune, can somebody please explain the attraction of it? But if you agree with me, can’t some of you social media types set up some sort of protest group on MyFace or something? Hell, it worked last year when we managed to get Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas number 1 spot in protest at the X Factor song, so it must be worth a punt.
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that technology is no substitute for actual talent when it comes to singing. If you can’t sing well, either make a modest effort, such as Eminem maybe, or call in a professional to do the job properly. Using auto-tune is the start of a slippery slope artistically, like giving a drug addict control of his own morphine in hospital. Adding just a little bit more may seem like a good idea at the time, but it will just mask the real problem – a lack of talent.