Auto-Tune wins a record 19 Grammys

February 1, 2010
By Jackson Miller

In an era of wide­spread piracy, plum­met­ing sales, and new leg­is­la­tion ban­ning pay­ola, the music industry’s shriv­el­ing wal­let sees just one glim­mer of hope peek­ing through the dense smog of con­sumerism and indie-label oppres­sion.  Its name is Auto-Tune.

After mul­ti­ple nom­i­na­tions and, in most cases, wins in every Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop cat­e­gory, Auto-Tune will have 19 new stat­ues to add to its ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of awards.  It now has the dis­tinc­tion of win­ning more Grammys in a sin­gle cer­e­mony than any other artist in his­tory, shat­ter­ing a pre­vi­ous record held in a tie by Carlos Santana and Michael Jackson.

Auto-Tune, whose first hit was 1998’s “Believe” (released under the stage-name Cher), has rid­den the pop­u­lar­ity of its musi­cal equiv­a­lent of Pepto-Bismol to stag­ger­ing com­mer­cial suc­cess.  It has become a cov­eted per­former due to its abil­ity to actu­ally sing on key, some­thing that tra­di­tional pop singers have spent long hours in stu­dios try­ing to mimick.

The noto­ri­ously privacy-obsessed soft­ware appli­ca­tion has per­formed under a nearly end­less list of aliases, includ­ing the Black Eyed Peas, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West.  Its cav­al­cade of radio hits such as 2008’s “Heartless” and 2009’s “I Gotta Feeling” have made it utterly inescapable.

A friendly clown accept­ing a Grammy on behalf of Auto-Tune

When eschew­ing its dis­tinc­tive, futur­is­tic sound (pop­u­lar­ized by its record­ings under the name T-Pain), Auto-Tune can be almost unrec­og­niz­able.  Its 2003 album Metamorphosis, under the pseu­do­nym Hillary Duff, sounded almost exactly like a breathy, tal­ent­less 16-year-old whore.

“Auto-Tune cre­ated a musi­cal rev­o­lu­tion,” explained Sony A&R exec­u­tive Connor Markwin.  “With other per­form­ers, we used to gam­ble on tal­ent, orig­i­nal­ity, and mean­ing­ful lyrics.  I mean, who really knows where to find that any­more?  Auto-Tune can make hits with­out any of those things.”

Success hasn’t gone to the head of the elu­sive musi­cian, how­ever.  Auto-Tune, who refuses even to take credit for its most pop­u­lar record­ings, has also men­tored young up-and-comers.

“If it weren’t for Auto-Tune, I’d still be ter­ri­ble at singing,” revealed Grammy-winner Rihanna in a 2008 inter­view with VH1.  “I couldn’t be famous with­out it.”

But not every­one is happy to see Auto-Tune suc­ceed.  Jay-Z famously recorded a song called “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” for his album The Blueprint 3.  The result­ing feud between the two artists has spo­rad­i­cally made head­lines but never cul­mi­nated into an all-out media war, thanks in part to Jay-Z’s grow­ing irrel­e­vance on even his own albums.

If tonight was any indi­ca­tion, no num­ber of songs writ­ten by Jay-Z could begin to detract from Auto-Tune’s enor­mous pop­u­lar­ity.  Even the joke song “I’m On A Boat”, a comedian-penned par­ody sport­ingly fea­tur­ing Auto-Tune itself, was nom­i­nated for a Grammy.

“Auto-Tune shits Grammys,” Mr. Markwin told Torch.  “My labels have big plans for it.  If we have our way, by the year 2013 you’ll never hear a human voice on the radio again.”

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