As much as I rail against the tyranny of Autotune, I confess that I secretly adore it — in certain contexts. It’s a clever tool for making new sonic textures or for twisting a singer’s voice into ways that are not physically possible. But if it’s used to make up for a singer’s lack of ability, then to hell with the foul thing.
Basically, my metric for Autotune hatred is the industry pressure behind a singer (I’m a cynical bastard like that). If they’re a top-40 singer, you know there’s a lot of label money, a lot of king-makers, a lot of queen’s handmaids, to get them to the peak of pop culture perfection. It’s an illusion; it smells of artifice posed as reality. That’s where I draw the line and despise Autotune.
But then there are bands like Mind.In.A.Box, who I adore like you would not believe, who use Autotune liberally and to obvious effect. Singer Stefan Poiss twists himself into many different characters of both genders fluidly throughout the ongoing saga of the project’s albums, and it’s stunning.
There are also projects such as The Knife, where singer Karin Dreijer contorts herself into both genders to an obvious effect (I think she’s the spiritual heir to Lori Anderson). She has no problem using Autotune to manipulate her voice — it’s pretty clear that she’s not using the tool to fix her slips in pitch — and it works out very well, extending her range of identity, which is an important element in writing.
So, the truth be told, I’m not totally an antagonist of Autotune. Like any tool, there are applicable uses of it. In my book, if it’s used to clean up sloppy, lazy, or unskilled vocal tracks, then for god’s sake stop using it. Leave the pretty-face fashion model in the magazine and stop cluttering up our earbuds with that high-profit tripe. But if the tool is used as an extension of the singer or as a statement about the tool itself, then god bless.