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Jack Chuter

Co-host of the Episode Party podcast, author of Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-rock, editor at ATTN:Magazine.

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piqer: Jack Chuter
Thursday, 28 February 2019

Switched On Pop: Dismantling Our Dismissal Of Auto-Tune

Since 2014, Switched On Pop has been celebrating our conflicted relationship with popular music. On one level, we devour it: pop saturates our Spotify playlists and continues to dominate radio airplay. Yet there’s also an assumption that pop music is less authentic than, say, classical or jazz. It’s a sonic marketing ploy, aggregating musical trends and making a shameless beeline for our most primal pleasure centres.

This podcast obliterates such a reductive dismissal of pop. Instead, listeners are encouraged to apply the same depth of attention to Katy Perry’s latest banger as they reserve for listening to Miles Davis or Mozart. By thoroughly dissecting a track from the top 40 – examining how chord changes can completely overturn the mood of a song, or how the lyrical meaning is reflected through instrument choices – hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan invariably prove that the average slice of radio fodder contains a plethora of hidden details and clever musical techniques.

For their episode on auto-tune they call upon the assistance of journalist Simon Reynolds, who recently wrote an article for Pitchfork charting the history of pitch-correction technology (the software responsible for the cyborg sheen on Cher’s voice in her 1998 smash, “Believe”). While the story of auto-tune’s development is fascinating (who knew that it was invented by a mathematician working in the oil industry?), the podcast truly comes alive during the debate about the backlash. The primary criticism of auto-tune is that it removes the very imperfections that render us human, yet the trio point out that humans have been augmenting voices through technology for decades. Does the robot refinement of Migos's rapping on "Stir Fry" dilute the artistic authenticity any more than Elvis’s use of artificial echo? Once again, Switched On Pop pulls down our elitism to reveal a debate that is considerably more nuanced than we might realise.

Switched On Pop: Dismantling Our Dismissal Of Auto-Tune
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