Auto-Tune: Do or Don't? Discovery says yes, Jay-Z says NO

Oh where did this all start? Although Roger Troutman or Teddy Riley are often credited for the first use of auto-tune, that was in fact the talkbox. I once heard that the pioneer of auto-tuning is none other than Cher. That’s right, ‘Do you believe in liiiiife after looooove!?’ Who knew this diva would influence artists in totally different genres.

T-Pain Auto-tune

Now it seems auto-tune is for the masses. Haters tend to target T-Pain, the most notorious (ab)user of auto-tune, but some others include Akon, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West. Now we see it spreading from R&B to indie rock with Discovery, the much talked-about love child of Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot.

Personally, I’m at a loss. I do not know what to think of auto-tune. I had no respect for T-Pain until I watched his interview with DJ Skee of Los Angeles’ KIIS-FM. When asked about the active use of auto-tune in his music, he responded,

It’s making me money, so ain’t about to stop. It’s been working so far… You actually gotta sing, I mean, it ain’t hard. You gotta take your time, really and you gotta know where you can go with it and where not to go with. It’s just like, you gotta work it, man.
This interview did a couple things for me. One, I see his diction is about the equivalent to that of Don Vito, which pissed me off — I’m pretty sure his music would sound like gibberish without the auto-tune effect (as if it doesn’t already). But here’s the two. T-Pain, as much as he sounds like a stupid, high-pitched robot, produces his own music and probably knows his voice isn’t as eloquent as other successful rappers. So he brings back auto-tune and taps into the masses, creating himself a name — be it loved or hated. And as he says, it’s making him money. Has this interview taught me the mastery of this voice-correction technique? Not quite, but hey, ‘80s synth bands seemed cheesy and dated at one time and still made a come back.
Jay-Z Death of Auto-tune

Now for Jay-Z, he’s not as torn as myself. Debuting early June on New York City’s Hot 97, Jay-Z’s newest hit ‘D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune)’ serves as a testament for the widespread hatred of auto-tune. Check some of these lyrics:

I know we facing a recession
But the music y’all making gonna make it the great depression
Or your lack of aggression
Pull your skirt back down, grow a set men
Nigga this just violent
This is death of autotune, moment of silence
(La da da da, hey, hey, hey good bye)
Laughable because it’s clever or because it’s so true?

Listen to Jay-Z’s “Death of Auto-Tune”

Word on the street is that this song is only boosting the sales of auto-tuning artists, and T-Pain has pushed his upcoming album release a whole year earlier.

discoveryprimariesI imagine that Discovery is ignoring the heat of HOV as its album debut LP creates hype along the indie rock circuit.

Discovery is Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot and Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend. I am pretty partial to Ra Ra Riot, delicately powerful indie rock band with a maturity that tastes very sweet. They were my first big interview in 2007 when I wrote for Syracuse University’s Equal Time Magazine, so I was absolutely psyched to see this collaboration.

Discovery frequently uses auto-tune, which seems to be a streamline against handclaps and throbbing danceability and more handclaps. Think Passion Pit on roofies. The fluidity of vocals boosts the chill factor to the max, and the big beat electro-pop gives it enough umph to keep it up.

We know Miles and Batmanglij have phenomenal voices, so auto-tune just seems like nonsense. But giving the album a good listen, overall, I think it works. LP simply hits the spot for summertime listening.

Personal favorites:

“Osaka Loop Line”
[audio: |titles=Osaka Loop Line |artists=Discovery]

“So Insane”
[audio: |titles=So Insane |artists=Discovery]

But my internal debate still lingers, to auto-tune or not? I just don’t know, what do you think?

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