Truth in Advertising: Auto-tune and Britney Spears

Britney Spears has been a pop singer since at least 1998, but a leak of a music file of her singing one of her recent songs has all but destroyed what little artistic credibility she ever had.

First, read this:

Auto-Tune is an audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies which uses a proprietary device to measure and alter pitch in vocal and instrumental music recording and performances.[2] It was originally intended to disguise or correctoff-key inaccuracies, allowing vocal tracks to be perfectly tuned despite originally being slightly off-key.

The processor slightly bends pitches to the nearest true semitone (to the exact pitch of the nearest tone in traditional equal temperament). Auto-Tune can also be used as an effect to distort the human voice when pitch is raised or lowered significantly.[3] The overall effect to the discerning ear can be described as hearing the voice leap from note to note stepwise, like a synthesizer.

Auto-Tune is available as a plug-in for professional audio multi-tracking suites used in a studio setting and as a stand-alone, rack-mounted unit for live performance processing.[4] Auto-Tune has become standard equipment in professional recording studios.[5]

Auto-Tune was initially created by Andy Hildebrand, an engineer working for Exxon. Hildebrand developed methods for interpreting seismic data and subsequently realized that the technology could be used to detect, analyze, and modify the pitch in audio files.[3]

I have already written about how I view photoshopping as fraudulant, so clearly I view use of auto-tune to misrepresent singing ability as much the same. But not all auto-tuning is fraudulent, of course. It was used to make the Symphony of Science videos.

But listen now to this finished sound file of Britney Spears singing her song “Alien”.

And we have just learned that the song was auto-tuned.  Here is an article describing this discovery:

This might not be the first time we’ve heard a Britney Spears track without any Auto-Tune enhancement, but it doesn’t mean it makes us cringe any less this time around.

On July 2, the unedited vocal version of Spears’ track “Alien,” off of her most recent album, “Britney Jean,” leaked. As the video picked up steam, track producer William Orbit posted a statement Monday, July 7, explaining that the track is a vocal warm-up session, not Spears’ final take.

“I’d like to affirm that ANY singer when first at the mic at the start of a long session can make a multitude of vocalisations in order to get warmed up,” Orbit wrote. “Warming up is essential if you’re a pro, as it is with a runner doing stretches, and it takes a while to do properly. I’ve heard all manner of sounds emitted during warm-ups. The point is that it is not supposed to be shared with millions of listeners.

“A generous singer will put something down the mic to help the engineer get their systems warmed up and at the right level, maybe whilst having a cup of herb tea and checking through lyrics before the session really kicks off. It’s not expected to be a ‘take.'”

Oh, God!  If record producers are going to lie, could they at least try to be credible?

Hear the version of the song before auto-tune was applied. (Update:  the original link led to a music file that was later taken down; this is another copy of it on YouTube.)

The music is exactly the same, only the vocals sound like crap!

I have to wonder if auto-tune was used on earlier Britney Spears songs, all the way to her first album “Baby One More Time”. But what we can be sure of is that the record company knowingly committed fraud and was trying to suppress that fact. When the original non-auto-tuned version of “Alien” came out on YouTube, the company took advantage of the DMCA to try to suppress it.

Damn the company, and damn Britney Spears!

4 thoughts on “Truth in Advertising: Auto-tune and Britney Spears

  1. Here is a video detailing how autotuning has almost completely taken over pop music, along with lip-synching, which is also dishonest.

  2. Pingback: Sarah Copus, NOT a typical teen star! | Dale Husband's Intellectual Rants

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