By Elvis Wong
You turn on your radio in the car as you drive to school, to lunch, back to school, and then finally back home. The first station that you turn to is 94.9 and you hear Teenage Dream by Katy Perry. Then you change over to 99.7 and you hear California Gurls by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg. Then you change yet again over to 100.9 and you surprisingly hear Hot ’N Cold by Katy Perry. Annoying, huh? No offense to those Katy Perry fans out there who would love it if this scenario actually happened.
Familiarity is a feeling that we all embrace to some degree. And with the music industry, there are no exceptions to loving to listen to songs that we are familiar with. Radio conglomerates such as Clear Channel have set play lists for the songs that they air every day based on the popularity of the song. Because of this, we constantly hear the same songs over and over again. This is a part of what we call musical pop culture.
Andy Hildebrand, at the age of 40, retired from his job as an engineer interpreting seismic data for the oil industry at Exxon. Using a mathematical tool called autocorrelation to send sound waves into the ground, Hildebrand was able to accurately map out potential drill sites for oil.
Now, in pop culture music, autocorrelation is used as a pitch correction technique to process vocals as an effect to distort or correct the imperfection and inaccuracies of the human voice. In music recording, we call this Auto-Tuning.
In recent years, the contemporary music industry has been eclipsed by commercialization and the incorporation of musical technology rather than focusing on talent; many record labels and producers of music are more concerned about showcasing and promoting their attractive artists with dance performances and music videos and as a result, our generation of teenagers has been bombarded by amateurish music. All of a sudden, mediocre voices sound a lot better than they should. And this is the problem: we’re becoming more and more comfortable with Auto-Tuning, probably too comfortable.
According to an article published by Time magazine, the first time Auto-Tuning was used was on the 1998 Cher hit, Believe. Since then, Auto-Tuning has become a seemingly indispensable tool in the music industry as countless artists of many genres rely on the electronic addition to their voices or pitch correction techniques to make them sound flawless.
Of course, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, we are losing musical talent in America. We are slowly being deprived of what we define as “good music.” “Music never dies,” is really a phrase that is slowly deteriorating in our society today. Musicians are disillusioned and falling in love with the idea of gaining fame and being popular rather than performing and truly loving music. And that’s what we’re missing: real music. Music seems to be dying a little more every day.