Auto-Tune: Destroying the Music Industry One Pitch Correction at a Time

30 03 2011

This will serve as an open letter to the likes of Ark Music Factory, and any ‘label’ who purport to be cultivating “undiscovered” teen talents.  Well done, you have made innocent kids the ridicule of the free world and worse, made them think they are really on their way to some kind of Miley Cyrus-Justin Bieber stardom.

I know someone is going to comment and call me a “cyber bully” but I am in no way trying to ruin the self-esteem of these girls! That said, it cannot be ignored that Rebecca “It’s Friday, Friday, Friday” Black, Alana Lee, Madison Bray and Abby Victor are decidedly less talented than the mainstream teenyboppers like Emily Osment, fellow Disney star Selena Gomez, Bieber and the Jonas Brothers.  Luck and opportunity have a great deal to do with success, but people who are paying thousands of dollars to any studio or agency don’t realize they are gambling with neither on their side.
{{ RELATED: Read more about AMF founder, Patrice Wilson HERE }}

At least the gimmicky bubblegum singers of the 90s were in on the joke, and they profited handsomely. These songs blowing up online today, they have nowhere near the level of natural showmanship found on “I Want It That Way,” “Bye Bye Bye,” or “Genie In A Bottle.”
I can look back on my tween years with a grain of salt: I know they weren’t great, that they won’t go down in music history with the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Cher. 
I give my mom a lot of credit for putting up with all the shreiks I shreiked over BSB, NSync, LFO, the Spice Girls and Hanson. Their songs still bring a smile to my face and I can whip out a dance move or two, but they are just childish nostalgia. I assure, my tastes have improved with age.  I can only hope the same goes for the Ark girls.

It is sincerely freaking me out that at 22, I’m already having moments of “Oh, kids today.”

Anyway, the difference between the boybands and girl power groups of my youth? They had to at least be able to sing when they recorded. [Lipsynching in concert is a whole different animal.]

So here is where the real culprit in this whole do-they or don’t-they singing arguement comes in:  A U T O – T U N E .
The not-so-well kept industry trick, concieved by Antares Audio Technologies in 1997, is described on Wikipedia as a phase vocorder “used to disguise off-key inaccuracies and mistakes,” allowing “singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without needing to sing in tune.”

The software has been used intentionally, to achieve a particular effect on the voice, to much success by artists from Cher (Believe, 1998) to Kanye West (808s and Heartbreak, 2008).  The topic of major names in music using the tool even garnered press from Time magazine in ’09– with writer Josh Tyrangiel declaring, “It’s like Photoshop for the human voice. Auto-Tune doesn’t make it possible for just anyone to sing like a pro, but used as its creator intended, it can transform a wavering performance into something technically flawless.”

Rap mogul Jay-Z included a track called “DOA (Death of Autotune)” on his 2009 album The Blueprint 3, and later commented that the device had crossed over from an aid in the arsenal of legitimate artists to a societal joke. 
“It was a trend, it was cool in the beginning. Some people made great music with it, now it’s time to move on,” he told MTV.

So why is something that is sort of shunned by the better part of the entertainment industry, or at least thought of as a last resort on your off-est of days, so beloved by the people coming onto the scene now?  Jason Derulo, Taio Cruz, and most recently Kim Kardashian, have released singles in the last year that were heavily and obviously put through the digital wringer before reaching our radio waves.

The issues with Auto-Tune have consistently reared their ugly heads– but this time the anger is geared toward the vanity labels and personal projects posted to Youtube.

Yes, I’m looking at you, Rebecca Black. 


*Joseph Birdsong, you’ve got some sweet editing skills, but you’re not innocent in this either.*


So what do we do?
Phenomenal songwriters like Taylor Swift don’t jump out of suburban high school every day.  Kids aren’t teaching themselves to play an instrument as much as they’re pretending to play one on GuitarHero(TM of Activision).

But does that mean we ought to settle for garbage like the “My Jeans” song by some girl with giraffe lips and grasshopper legs, who may or may not be Dustin Diamond’s illegitimate child?

Diamond, now 34 - Swerdlow, 12

 The only good thing I can say about her song, “My Jeans” (which I heard about last week from Tyler Oakley) is that this song is age-appropriate, but alas, her parent’s weren’t at the creative consultations that followed, which is evident by her current single, O.M.G., and its Miley Cyrus at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards-level disturbingness.

It scares me that most middle schoolers don’t have the sense to sift through their parent’s CDs or (gasp!) records and discover the magic that is Elton John, Styx, Heart, or Janis Joplin.  And I blame Auto-Tune for that; the under 19 set don’t even know music exists without digital airbrushing- and how could they when we have all been buying it?!!

MetroStation made me consider taking a pencil to the ear, but Rebecca Black and Jenna Rose… I could never have seen this shit coming. 
I almost miss that horse-faced nepotistic poseur Trace Cyrus.       Almost.


New Year, reNewed Focus

23 01 2011

Hey ya’ll, Been away a while!
Took about 8 weeks off from blogging while I was on vacation from UAlbany, but just because I wasn’t posting every week doesn’t mean I wasn’t absorbing all things media and pop culture!

 Here are my thoughts on a few items that developed during my sabatical…


The Cast of JERSEY SHORE: Reality stars, Enemies of Italy, and… Authors?

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino released his self-help gem “Here’s the Situation,” a veritable GTL How To, back in November; Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi graced the literary world with her novel “A Shore Thing” earlier this month; and now, Jennifer “JWoww” Farley will take a shot at the Best Seller list with a compilation of her insights to the contemporary dating game with “The Rules According to JWoww,” due out February 8.

 Currently, Sorrentino sits at #4005 on the Amazon sales chart- far and away from Polizzi who is #606.

Honestly the only one of these 3 titles I am tempted to thumb through during my next visit to Barnes & Noble is JWoww’s. I’m pretty sure she and castmate Vinny Guadagnino are the only ones that can read, but he’s opted not to cash in on the image.  I admire her tenacity, she is one of the only characters from ‘Jersey Shore’ who has been unchanged each season.

As I understand it Farley has two degrees in business- so I expect this to be just the latest in several strategic ventures she persues while ‘Jersey Shore’ is still wowwing.



Canadian singer Lavigne, 24

Nobody has liked your music in a decade, but you’re still relevant enough to have been the first online celebrity death hoax of 2011! 

The internet has done great things for ease of access to information, but it has also contributed to the rapid spread of misinformation, hate, and rumors.

Late 2010 Twitter “casualties” were Adam Sandler, Owen Wilson, and Charlie Sheen.  Sandler and Wilson are alive, well, and working. Sheen is alive.   All four death “announcements” over the holiday season had the stars meeting their demise on the slopes. To quote Youtube icon Michael Buckley:  “Somebody really hates snowboarding!”



NPR sets the bar for journalists…  and apparently that bar is not up very high.
NPR seriously fucked up their coverage of the Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting in Arizona by announcing the congresswoman dead- when she in fact lived and is recovering.

“Weekend Edition” host Scott Simon said on Wednesday the organization’s mistake is “reprehensible.”  He went on, “There should be no room for doubt when a news organization declares someone dead. They should wait until the medical authorities directly involved declare death, or close family members announce it.”

I can only agree with Scott Simon, as reports surfaced that Gifford’s own husband, Mark Kelly, believed her dead before speaking with his mother-in-law who was at the hospital with Giffords.  To send this poor man into the early stages of grief is unforgivable- on the part of NPR and every other media outlet who inaccurately reported on the Tuscon shooting.


2010 was the year people really learned the name AJ Daulerio.

His involvement in breaking the Bret Favre cellphone photo scandal has solidified his place in history alongside Woodward/Bernstein (who broke the Watergate scandal), Monday Night Football (whose anchors first reported the death of John Lennon), and the National Inquirer (who knew Tiger Woods was a cheater days before his wife!).

AJ Daulerio has surpassed the expectations of one-time mentor Will Leitch, who founded the “Deadspin” sports site, and not by any means Leitch is proud of.

Daulerio has upped readership three-fold, but he has veered the website from its beginnings as platform for commentary, to a raunchy gossip page with tidbits of athletic coverage.

Leitch told GQ that “I never wanted people to feel like they needed to take a shower.”   And now Deadspin is home to the “Worldwide Leader in Dong Shots.”


“Add to DVD Queue” no longer an option on the hugely popular movie rental service.  Within the next 12-18 months those flimsy red envelopes that contributed to the demise of your neighborhood rental shop and perpetuated the laziness of American consumerism will be no more- as Netfilx has announced they anticipate a complete shift over to digital streaming in 2012.

I am on the fence about this. On the one hand, it is smart for Netflix, as they will no longer have to purchase and process physical DVD discs. On the other hand, what a way to slap your older customers in the face. Perhaps the over 50 crowd doesn’t have the desire to subscribe to and learn “OnDemand”-style viewing.

Also, it is unclear whether the same variety of films and TV series will be available through this digital ordering system as through your “Add to DVD Queue”/mailer format.  Older films, obscure foreign or documentary films, and sets of television shows may be harder to come by now.