“To me, this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of making music is what’s most important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play and instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do. It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here (points to heart) and it’s about what goes on in here (points to head).” – Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters
Shortly after Dave Grohl gave the above acceptance speech at the 2012 Grammy Awards, he and his band, Foo Fighters, played alongside David Guetta, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and Deadmau5. Three of those four are very guilty of blatant autotune use while Deadmau5 is an electronic artist whose musical work completely relies upon his knowledge of computers and computerized music. Therefore, he gets a pass. But still, there is this lingering stench of hypocrisy.
Autotune is not a new technology nor is its use just contained within the past few years. As a matter of fact, the first use of it in a popular, “commercial” song was Cher‘s Believe. And before that, there were vocoders. And before that, there were talk boxes (look up the “Singing Guitar”). But it is only in these past several years that it has been used as a means to cover up mistakes rather than be an interesting effect sprinkled here and there.
Artists today such as Kesha, Katy Perry, Akon, T-Pain, and more, make use of autotune constantly. It comes to the point that when they don’t use autotune, their real voice becomes the effect. As I mentioned in my rant against the Grammy Awards, it is a shame that we are celebrating Adele‘s wins. Not because it is her, for she is a truly talented and gifted singer. It’s because there weren’t really any other options, aside from Foo Fighters. In fact, looking at the nominations for the 2012 Grammy Awards, it’s astounding how many of them make liberal use of autotune.
Dave Grohl is right. True music comes from the heart and the head. Inherently, this music is human, because it comes from a human heart and a human head. And that’s what makes certain songs so relatable and capable of allowing us to attach such a strong connection and meaning. Little flubs and errors prove that the music has that certain human element that we can connect with.
Our culture today relies so much upon technology that we ourselves are losing our very humanity. Why call someone when you can just text them or tweet them? Why meet up when you can just Skype? Want to meet new people? No need for clubs or restaurants or libraries or shops, there’s Omegle and Chat Roulette! It all fits right into our lifestyle of quick, easy, painless results and that’s what sells.
So the problem with autotune is that we as a society have not only allowed it to flourish, we have embraced it and nurtured it.
So what can be done to stop it from spreading even further? That’s up to you, the consumers. You have to make your voice heard and you have to let the music industry know that you are not satisfied with this music anymore. Tell them that you want real musicians. If anything has been shown in the past year, it is that the majority voice can and will be heeded. SOPA/PIPA were struck down. Governments have been overthrown.
But just like with the above examples, actual participation is required. Stop buying these musicians songs. Stop watching their videos on YouTube. Instead, support those artists that you know are less known. Give them a chance to shine.
The music industry needs a kick in the ass. The only people that can offer this are the listeners. That’s you. Lace up your boots and start kicking.