For decades, the music industry treated autotune as though it were a shameful thing. Singers who used autotune were frowned upon and considered sellouts. The idea behind this was that a singer’s voice should be ‘pure’, any artificial glossing up was considered fake and undignified. Plus the contrast between the autotune supplemented sound and the singer’s live vocals was always disappointing and often horrifying. Autotune was treated a little worse than ghostwriting. It was seen as the music industry’s photoshop, and singers who used autotune were considered talentless and unserious artists. So, how did autotune become such a force in the music industry? How did autotune become such a beautiful form of creative expression?

Here’s a look at some hits and artists who dared and fared well with the vocal effects processor:

California Love

In the year 1995, Tupac released a monster hit called “California Love”. This track is considered one of the first hits to feature autotune though the autotune didn’t stand out too much, functioning only to supplement the mesmeric beat. However, the difference it added to the track was very recognizable. The autotune effects added to the vocals in the chorus gave the song an almost ethereal feel, adding a dreamy feel to the song’s energy and bounce.

T-Pain

Although Kanye’s use of autotune was futuristic for his time, it would be wrong to not mention T-Pain’s influence. T-Pain might not have been as creative as Kanye in his use of autotune, but he used it heavily and extensively, and it became his signature sound. T-Pain’s use of autotune, in spite of having amazing vocals without the effects, proves that the autotune sound is appealing and in high demand.

Kanye West

Autotune allows the voice to be stretched and manipulated in ways that, prior to its invention, were simply impossible. To find out about how the vocal effects processor works, you can read more on this blog.

A decade later, autotune would take the industry by storm. Kanye West is arguably the artist who pushed the boundaries of autotune use, crossing genres with the sound and using it to transform his voice into an instrument. The best example of this is his track ‘Runaway’ from his album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. This track features an autotune boosted vocal solo that can easily be mistaken for a guitar solo. Kanye was able to use the autotune as a tool to enhance his ability to create melodic sounds using his voice, the autotune effect allowed him to edit his vocals however he wished, making his imagination the only thing limiting his sound.

Believe

Cher’s ‘Believe’ was released in 1988 and is considered to be the track that popularized the autotune sound in pop culture. Not only was the sound unique and different, the audiences also loved it, making the track a smash hit. ‘Believe’ was special because it showed just how flexible the autotune tool was and opened artists and audiences up to potential new sounds and possibilities for music. It also changed the way artists perceived the human voice as a musical instrument.

Autotune In Recent Music

Today, artists in all genres use pitch correction technology to enhance their sound and, sometimes, create new sounds. This is most evident in Hip Hop wherein the alternative sound, which relies heavily on autotune, has taken over. Most songs on the BIllboard Hot 100 are drenched in autotune. The autotune sound is so central to today’s pop music that if it didn’t exist, today’s music would sound completely different.

Rappers like Lil Wayne also used the sound to improve their delivery and add a touch of melody to their sound. Another reason the use of autotune has increased significantly is the emotional range it allows artists to express. Artists use autotune to create howling and haunting vocals that convey the depth of their emotional expression. Slurred and warped autotune enhanced vocals are also becoming increasingly popular.

Rappers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of autotune in modern times. Most pop musicians use autotune to gloss up their sound and give it a luxurious feel that perfectly matches the glistening aesthetic of pop music. Artists like Lady Gaga, Kesha, and the Black Eyed Peas use autotune to its peak potential and create futuristic and otherworldly sounds with its assistance. For many artists, autotune is essential for their sound, even if just used minimally, such as in the cases of Katy Perry and Chris Brown.

Another genre that is autotune heavy is EDM (Electronic Dance Music). There’s no better example of autotune use in EDM than Daft Punk’s entire discography. Daft Punk experimented with autotune and created a futuristic sound that mimicked the science fiction/cyberpunk aesthetics. The result was a unique and original style of using autotune that has been adopted in numerous genres and mimicked endlessly.

Final Thoughts

It’s fair to say that autotune use crept into the music industry and has absolutely dominated the sound of popular music in recent years. The success of autotune is owed to the creativity and bravery of artists like Dr Dre, Daft Punk, Kanye, and Cher. Autotune is a dominant force in the music industry. By the looks of things, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.