8 Uses Of Auto-Tune That Are Actually OK

Sometimes you WANT to sound like a robot.

Kanye West accepts the video vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Matt Sayles/AP

Ever since Cher transformed her voice into a synthetic warble for her 1998 single "Believe", auto-tune has transformed the way pop vocals are recorded. Within a year of the hit, inventor Andy Hildebrand had sold the technology to every major studio in the world.

Pretty soon the technology wasn't just a stylistic choice - producers began to conceal imperfections in singers' voices. Artists like T-Pain used it blatantly and openly (to the extent that the singer tried to sue the makers of Auto-tune), whilst others (like Britney Spears) used it for more deceptive ends. Soon enough, it became synonymous with artistic laziness, gaining criticism from all corners of the music industry. These detractors ranged from Death Cab For Cutie to Jay Z (although the latter seems to have changed his, um, tune).

As the technology progressed, so too did its insidiousness; auto-tune can now easily be used to enhance live vocals, as evidenced by Gamu Nhengu's notorious 2010 X-Factor audition, as her voice was audibly yanked on key.

Despite this, some artists have carried on in the spirit of Cher, using it as an artistic tool, not a shortcut. Here are eight of its most inspired uses, where auto-tune augments the singer's vocals in interesting ways.

8. Bon Iver - Woods

A song regarded by Kanye West as a masterpiece, "The Woods" closed Bon Iver's 2009 EP "Blood Bank" and stands as an odd track in the singer's discography. Entirely acapella and chant-like in its circular repetition, it marked one of the clearest leaps forwards in the artist's career, straddling the gap between the shy folk singer and electronic auteur.

This strange slice of lonely rambling is made spectral and isolated by the vocal’s thick autotune, counterpointed with a reverb-soaked harmony line. The song is not only rustic (Vernon sings from "down in the woods") but ancient; the lyrics "I'm building a still to slow down the time" suggest that the singer is working on a more leisurely timescale. The auto-tune, then, offers an intriguing contrast between the ultra-modern production and the pastoral antiquity of the lyrics.

In this post: 
Kanye West
Posted On: 

Another wayward English graduate who makes money by arranging words into the correct order. Is really at it good!