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T-Pain dumps Auto-Tune, explores new ways to sound like Cher

June 3, 2011 |  2:15 pm


T-Pain has promised he will never use Auto-Tune again. Instead, the singer-rapper is developing a new sound he calls The T-Pain Effect.

Do not underestimate the magnitude of this promise, which, for people under 30, is probably the most exciting pledge they’ve fielded since Michael Lohan swore he would shut up. Lohan, of course, did not shut up, and it isn’t likely that T-Pain is really going to abandon his love of lucrative audiocrutches, either. In fact, if you look at the fine print of his announcement, it’s likely that, whatever the new patented T-Pain Effect sounds like, it won’t be T-Pain’s Actual Voice (TM).

Let’s take a look at the fine print of his announcement. The press release, issued Thursday, quotes T-Pain as saying, “I vow right here, right now, to never use Auto-Tune again.” Note the capital letters. Auto-Tune is a brand name, a reference to a product offered by the company Antares Audio Recordings. T-Pain signed a contract with Antares in 2009. It’s safe to say that contract is up.

But Antares isn’t the only company that can make your voice sound like the starship Enterprise under 40 feet of saltwater. Another company is iZotope, and it just so happens that T-Pain has a new deal with that company, to create his upcoming T-Pain Effect. No one knows what the effect will sound like. Maybe it’ll make T-Pain sound like Barbra Streisand, and Streisand sound like Ted Nugent. Maybe it can make my cat -- who is currently going through a phase involving yelling at me at 3 a.m. -- croon like Dean Martin after exactly two highballs. That would make me want to sign a contract with iZotope.

But whatever T-Pain plans to sound like, don’t expect, say, something intimate and natural, like Adele. Contemporary music is being overrun with the distant, angular tone that comes from robotic voice effects. It’s used in various degrees by Kanye West (who doesn’t need it), Kim Kardashian (who probably does), Imogen Heap (who doesn’t) and everyone in between. Right now, the whole world sounds like Cher circa 1998, and people love it.

“It’s pretty prevalent in most genres of music, to be honest,” says producer Kevin Kadish, who has worked with Jason Mraz, Miley Cyrus and Willie Nelson, among others. “I don’t think it’s on its way out.”

In fact, here’s a tip for you: “Everybody uses it,” Kadish says. “Sometimes you might not know it.”


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-- Leslie Gornstein

Photo: T-Pain performs at the Gibson Amphitheater in 2009. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times