4 min read

Neko Case goes off on auto tune and pitch-shifting

about “singers” that need software to make their voice listenable, it’s a good read. ”Case: When I think about Jackie Wilson or the Platters and then I think about modern, Top 40 music that’s really horrible, it makes me mad. Singing isn’t important anymore. I’m not a genius– if I had been around during the time of Jackie Wilson or Rosemary Clooney or Patsy Cline, I would be shit. I would be singing in some bar somewhere for $5 a week and that’s as far as I would ever go. But I’m living now and I write songs, it’s different. There’s some part about the craft of singing– craft is too important of a word, I hate that word but I just used it anyway– in a lot of places, it hasn’t really made it. It’s not to do with the people who are doing it as much as the people who are producing it. There’s technology like auto tune and pitch shifting so you don’t have to know how to sing. That shit sounds like shit! It’s like that taste in diet soda, I can taste it– and it makes me sick. When I hear auto tune on somebody’s voice, I don’t take them seriously. Or you hear somebody like Alicia Keys, who I know is pretty good, and you’ll hear a little bit of auto tune and you’re like, “You’re too fucking good for that. Why would you let them do that to you? Don’t you know what that means?” It’s not an effect like people try to say, it’s for people like Shania Twain who can’t sing

Yet there they are, all over the radio, jizzing saccharine all over you. It’s a horrible sound and it’s like, “Shania, spend an extra hour in the studio and you’ll hit the note and it’ll sound fine. Just work on it, it’s not like making a burger!” Case: It’s rough, I know. She’s so rich she could get somebody else to do the other stuff while she spends that extra hour in the studio. Or Madonna! Just hit the note! Don’t pretend it’s William Orbit being crafty– we know you’re not hitting the note because you have other shit to do. You can do it, I have faith in you. But don’t leave the studio before you hit that fucking note. And you know what? When you do hit it you’re going to feel so much more valid that it’ll come through in all the other shit you’re supposed to be doing later in the day. Seriously! And if Celine Dion is supposedly the great singer that she says she is why is there auto tune on every fucking word in her songs? Can’t you just hit it, Celine? Do you have another baby book to shoot? You gotta paint your baby to look like a pot of peas? What are you doing that you can’t be singing in the studio? It’s your fucking job! Case: I’m not a perfect note hitter either but I’m not going to cover it up with auto tune. Everybody uses it, too. I once asked a studio guy in Toronto, “How many people don’t use auto tune?” and he said, “You and Nelly Furtado are the only two people who’ve never used it in here.” Even though I’m not into Nelly Furtado, it kind of made me respect her. It’s cool that she has some integrity. Pitchfork: So you’re willing to write off the entire Top 40 at this point? Case: Pretty much.” Nicely said, later in the interview she sings the praises of two of my favorite songwriters, Jonathan Richman and Rufus Wainwright, ”Pitchfork: Are there any bands you can think of that you really liked but were turned off by their seriousness live? Case: Not that I can think of. The only ones that stand out to me are people like Jonathan Richman or Robyn Hitchcock, who can make you totally cry while their music is so funny and they’re hilarious. They know they’re great but they also don’t think they’re better than you and they really invite you into their show. The negative things don’t really stand out as much as, “Oh, that Jonathan Richman show in 1986, fuck that was fun.” Like Rufus Wainwright, what a fantastic musician but he’s so warm and so funny. His self-deprecation is hilarious. He can also be incredibly vain but he does it in such a way that’s so delightful. It’s good because during every song I’m weeping my eyes out because it’s so beautiful and then he makes some joke about how his fur coat is making him look like an extra huge queen and I’m like, “Thank you, Rufus,” because I needed to breathe for a moment. And his sister [Martha], I’ve never seen her live but holy fuck that record was so good, I can’t even deal. Those Wainwrights, they’re ridiculously talented.”