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Please Stop with the Robot Voice

Lady Sovereign - I Got You Dancing

Also, this chick, Lady Sovereign, sucks. I really wanted to post this video which is nothing more than a wretched, messy amalgam of "Beat It" and "Thriller" mixed in with Bratz Doll, heinous choreography, and football makeup.

But then I heard her robot voice and it got me to thinking. The robot voice is courtesy of Auto-Tune, a pitch-correcting plug-in producers use when their artists sing like crap and can't stay on key. Cher first abused Auto-Tune with "If You Believe in Life After Love" when she used Auto-Tune on her vocals throughout the entire song. (It wasn't Devo, as some have blasphemed; they used a vocoder, not Auto-Tune; anyway, Mark Mothersbaugh is a god who needs not to abuse such sonic tools.)

For whatever reason, a bunch of musicians heard this and, instead of recoiling from the radio and clutching their ears in pain as I did, they thought "WELL GOL-LEE, can I get this fancy technology on my next album?"

T-Paine brought the Auto-Tune back to life, but Kanye West is the latest popular abuser with "Love Lockdown," and if you heard him sing live on SNL this past weekend, you'd understand why he needs to robot-voice it up when he's not rapping.

(It's a great song, just that Kanye is Auto-Tuning the ever-loving life out of it. So, suck.)

But no one does it like Blizzard Man. Behold:

One of my favorite moments of SNL comes on around 1:05. There's a difference in using your voice as an instrument (and having the Auto-Tune perform as an accessory to this); but using such effects are best in moderation, otherwise the song sounds annoying and also like the person's batteries are dying.

Using Auto-Tune is like that old adage about a woman putting on her makeup: makeup is supposed to be a secret between a woman and her mirror. It's not being used as the vocoder was in the 80s; as a supplement to synth-pop; it's being used for the ENTIRE melody.

Some wise advice to remember: every time a musician abuses Auto-Tuner, a kitten dies. 

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! My husband and I were joking about this off and on all weekend -What is going on with music?
My gawd, I sound like my parents...


What's particularly amusing is that a number of deliberate 'robot voice' effects, when executed by someone who can actually stay on key, aren't created in a computer at all.

Metal springs, paper cones and rubber tubing can all be used to create fantastic audio effects if you know what you're doing.

While I'm not a particular fan of his music, Kid Rock has used such techniques in the last few years to great effect.


Dood, Kayne's WHOLE NEW ALBUM is auto-tuned. Quel horrible.


Before T-Pain, there was...this:



Hate, hate, HATE the auto-tune. HATE.

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