The Musical Innovation Autotune Earned Rapper T-Pain Fame & Hate

American Rapper T-Pain became (in)famous for spreading autotune throughout hip hop and pop music beginning in 2005. Merriam-Webster doesn't feature the noun autotune with its own entry yet, which is probably about to change. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines autotune as “​a device or system for tuning a piece of music, etc., especially a computer program that lets you correct the sound of a singer's voice or an instrument that is out of tune on a recording”. This process results ins a recognizable synthetic pitch.

His association with the musical device earned him a lot of backlash from the industry and other artists. As he explains in interviews, this backlash had very real consequences for him, when personal friends tuned in and his mental health deteriorated. Singer Usher who he considered close told him “[…] you really f---ed up music for real singers”.

The parallels to past backlash against the establishment of other instruments and musicals styles become apparent if you view autotune as part of that history. Remembering the critique of new musical genres like Rock or Metal by music purists and ideologues tells us that this phenomenon is nothing new and just filled by modern, digital instruments.

While T-Pain can’t be considered the sole source of autotune’s prominence besides the likes of Cher or Kanye West, he did leave his mark, establishing his own “auto-tune-subgenre” through the “T-Pain-Effect”. Predictably, autotune which has become part of today’s pop music standard repertoire, will take its place as just another digital instrument in today’s musical landscape.

Sources & Further Reading

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