Seduced by ‘perfect’ pitch: how Auto-Tune conquered pop music

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From The Verge:

Cher’s late ‘90s comeback and makeover as a gay icon can entirely be attributed to Auto-Tune, though the song’s producers claimed for years that it was a Digitech Talker vocoder pedal effect. In 1998, she released the single, “Believe,” which featured a strange, robotic vocal effect on the chorus that felt fresh. It was created with Auto-Tune.

The technology, which debuted in 1997 as a plug-in for Pro Tools (the industry standard recording software), works like this: you select the key the song is in, and then Auto-Tune analyzes the singer’s vocal line, moving “wrong” notes up or down to what it guesses is the intended pitch. You can control the time it takes for the program to move the pitch: slower is more natural, faster makes the jump sudden and inhuman sounding. Cher’s producers chose the fastest possible setting, the so-called “zero” setting, for maximum pop.

“Believe” was a huge hit, but among music nerds, it was polarizing. Indie rock producer Steve Albini, who’s recorded bands like the Pixies and Nirvana, has said he thought the song was mind-numbingly awful, and was aghast to see people he respected seduced by Auto-Tune.

“One by one, I could see that my friends had gone zombie. This horrible piece of music with this ugly soon-to-be cliché was now being discussed as something that was awesome. It made my heart fall,” he told the Onion AV Club in November of 2012.

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