Auotune is killing the industry

Katie Finlon

Music and baseball are two aspects of summer I’m looking forward to in the short seven weeks ahead.

Of all things for me to bring up, right? They aren’t far off from one another, especially with performance enhancement. Auto-Tune and steroids are one in the same.

Steroid use is a particularly hot issue in sports, especially with Hall of Fame nominees and inductees (Sammy Sosa: corker extraordinaire, anyone?). But I realized that it isn’t an issue within all sports (see Lance Armstrong). The same argument could go for music.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, Auto-Tune is when the voice part of a track has obviously been touched up to sound flawless. Sometimes, in extreme cases, it takes on a robot-esque sound, almost like a cyborg is singing.

Auto-Tune is a funny thing. It takes a sophisticated ear to pick up on it, and even the sophisticated ear has a hard time picking up on it when it isn’t blatantly obvious.

Take the band Fun., for instance. Listen to “Some Nights” at about 3:09–that section is clearly Auto-Tuned. The whole song bases itself on the a capella part in the beginning. When I first listened to that track, the Auto-Tuned part essentially slapped me in the face.

I was stunned that some of my friends, who study music, are very good at it and pride themselves in it, couldn’t pick up on that Auto-Tuned section. They couldn’t even pick up on it when Fun. performed on Saturday Night Live.

It’s like how one doesn’t pick up on Mark McGwire and Sosa pulling home run after home run. That was obviously superhuman—there was no way that could’ve been natural or without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

Think about it: Raw talent is at risk of becoming obsolete because some musicians abuse Auto-Tune, just as it is at risk because athletes abuse steroids.

While I don’t consider myself an expert on baseball by any means—that’s what my family is for—I do follow up on issues within the sport. For example, I’m pretty sure the last wave of raw talent we had for the Cubs was the age of Ron Santo and Ernie Banks.

By raw talent, I mean no ’roids. As the saying goes, Babe Ruth only needed to eat hot dogs for performance enhancement. Santo only needed an occasional candy bar to manage his diabetes, and Banks was named “Mr. Cub” for a reason.

Taylor Swift, I’m looking at you. Your records sound flawless, but you’re awful live. I can’t believe you sell out shows because you lack that raw talent that I’m speaking of.

And then I thought, why? For the love of God, what purpose does Auto-Tune have? Fun. clearly is talented without it—check out their acoustic radio sessions and you’ll see what I mean. Why do artists think that Auto-Tune is necessary?

I could even understand the Black Eyed Peas needing Auto-Tune—computer-generated remixes are their thing. Daft Punk even does the electronic thing well, and Auto-Tune might be necessary there for the desired vocal sound effect.

But Fun.? Even Cher in “Turn Back Time?”

Dudes, you got this. I promise. Don’t feel pressured to use the software because you think you’ll sound like garbage otherwise.