Auto-tune + George Michael = a great combination

Published April 11, 2011

If you’re listening to mainstream pop these days, it’s virtually impossible to avoid the sound of the auto-tune effect on lead vocals. As such, its ubiquity has made it an increasingly controversial “gimmick”, at least among us old-timers who started listening to pop music long before Cher brought auto-tune-treated vocals into the mainstream with her 1998 mega-hit ‘Believe’.

Apparently, Kate Bush fans are currently up in arms because the singer has used auto-tune on her new single ‘Deeper Understanding’ (a re-make of a track from her 1989 Sensual World album). Another recent recording that has caused quite a stir is George Michael’s Comic Relief cover of New Order’s ‘True Faith’, on which Mr Panayiotou’s vocals have been heavily auto-tuned. Most people seem to hate it. Personally, I love it.

Auto-tune is a tool like any other in recorded music: it can be used to enhance a song or to ruin it. In this case, it has brought an elegiac feel to the recording, which I find quite moving. Imagine the opposite situation: George Michael over-emoting (as he has an unfortunate tendency to do) to showcase the “classic song qualities” of a tune us other mere mortals thought was simply a late-Eighties electronic dance track. Doesn’t sound very appealing to me. The fact of the matter is that he does manage to bring out a new dimension in 'True Faith', just by more subtle means. So give the man some credit for daring to take this route and mess with our expectations of both him as a vocalist and the song itself.