Who made autotune popular in music?

Autotune: real feeling or the devil's stuff?

Much points to a classic soul album. The songs are called Lonely or Answer Me, My Love, and the performer is a relevant veteran: Jerry Williams aka Swamp Dogg. His biography is tightly interwoven with the soul and funk music of the 1960s and 1970s, and his earliest publications date back to the 1950s when he was not even a teenager.

The American later produced albums for Atlantic Records and wrote songs for soul stars like Doris Duke and Z. Z. Hill. In order to be able to pursue a career of his own with full freedom of fools, he invented Swamp Dogg. As such, he has released a new album. It's called Love, Loss, and - here it comes! - Auto tune. But not classic soul.

He was out in the car for a day with a friend. After seven hours he asked whether the one who was trilling on the radio had died. Why else would it have been played all day? He learned that they were all different interpreters, just everyone would use autotune. The old hand smelled a deal: let's record a Swamp Dogg album with it! Said and done.

Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune is a work of art. Well, Swamp Dogg has published a lot of eccentric work, so it goes with tradition. At the same time, the unrestrained use of Autotune caricatures the inflationary appearance of this technical gimmick in pop music.

Digital helium

Autotune is a digital voice correction tool. It is used when a singer's talent does not keep up with the task given to him. The result was an aesthetic of its own, the exaggeration of which resulted in a bloodless falsetto from the computer. In the past you had to inhale helium for a similar effect, today it does autotune. Swamp Dogg's anecdote illustrates how equalizing this intervention is.

Autotune is always present in contemporary pop. It has the aura of modernism and is considered an instrument of the 21st century, but it is old hat. It's like the digital version of a vocoder. This is a device developed in the 1930s for military use that converts voice messages into electronic codes. The term is made up of the English words "voice" and "encode".

Hippie goes vocoder

Since the 1960s it has been used in music as an effect device for alienating voices. When it came to creating a futuristic look, the vocoder came into play. Its future use was programmed with the development of the first synthesizer. At the end of the 1960s, synth pioneer Robert Moog experimented with it, and in the mid-1970s, vocoder singing climbed the world's charts for the first time: the German band Kraftwerk added the effect to their song Highway a.

As a result, experimental artists such as Stevie Wonder or Herbie Hancock played with it, but in the 1980s the vocoder humiliation was soon too boring for many synth poppers - despite or because of Phil Collins' world hit In the Air Tonight. In 1982 hippie Neil Young even sang on his album Trans through the Kastl. At some point it was good again, the supposedly modern had long had a beard like ZZ Top.

Cher's world hit marked a turning point in the history of this aesthetic Believe The disco hum, which appeared in 1998, was characterized by the use of the new effect produced at the time with Autotune. It then seeped into the mainstream and is now used in the art of Justin Bieber, Rihanna or après-ski techno. And not just there.

Malkmus, Lambchop and Cloud Rap

In 2005 the guitar god Bob Mold played with it, ten years later Autotune had even arrived in the stable of the slow-motion cowboys at Lambchop. The former Pavement singer Stephen Malkmus uses it on his current album (and apologizes for it on the cover), electronic dance music cannot do without, Daft Punk or Kanye West likewise, Cloud Rap would be inconceivable without Autotune.

As with other instruments, it is the creativity of the application that determines the quality. Most productions use it as a mere gimmick - and sound accordingly: equalizing, dreary, contrary to the idea of ​​the individual coloring and emotionality of the voice. Autotune has therefore already been insulted as neoliberal and denounced as a fake of genuine feelings.

Real or false rut

Not even an old man like Swamp Dogg is immune from this. He supports it courageously Sex With Your Ex, but much more than a caricature of true rut does not look out of his autotune excitement. A song like I'll pretend reads like a forger's confession. It isn't, because he plays with open cards right from the start.

Still will Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune only find their way into his satirical work as a climax. Musically you are like with classic albums Total Destruction To Your Mind or Cuffed, Collared & Tagged but better cared for. They can do without helium from the computer. (Karl Fluch, October 24, 2018)