When Auto-Tune Strikes

Beginning with our exploration of Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction”, we wandered into the history of vocoders, talkboxes, and the most nefarious of voice manipulation technologies, Auto-Tune.

But it’s hard to express just how delightful horrible it can be when Auto-Tune goes wrong without actually diving into examples. Let’s start with an obvious illustration. Rapper/singer Faheem Najm, who goes by the stage name of T-Pain, (see more on Wikipedia) has staked his entire career on vocals where he uses digital pitch correction to various degrees; This has opened him up to the completely accurate accusation that he can’t actually sing.

You don’t have to take my word for it — there’s a pretty good case made for the fact that T-Pain can’t sing in this popular YouTube video, which is entitled T-Pain Can’t Sing.

Sure, it’s easy to pick on a relatively less established artist who’s trying to cross over from rap to the world of R&B crooning. So let’s pick on someone more deserving of our scorn, someone who’s actually a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Billy Joel!

If you scroll in to about 20 seconds, his vocals on the National Anthem start sounding like he’s auditioning to be T-Pain’s backup singer. This performance clearly would have been vastly improved if Joel had simply inserted a transparent breathing tube into the corner of his mouth and insisted that he was opening up last year’s Super Bowl game with an homage to the talkbox. Peter Frampton would understand.