The X Factor autotune scandal

It didn’t take long for X Factor to draw some controversy, did it? On the first show of 2010, the production is under fire for adding an autotune effect to the vocals of some of the auditions footage.

We noticed it the most on the wacky audition by Shirlena Johnson as she howled her way through a terrible rendition of Duffy’s Mercy. But viewers could also hear the effect on vocals by Gamu Nhengu and Caroline from G&S.

Just in case you’ve been in pop culture quarantine for the last few years, autotune is the quirky vocal effect which adjusts the pitch of a vocal. It first reared its head in Cher’s Believe single and has been vastly (over)used in pop and hip hop ever since.

The Guardian has recorded some of the outraged reaction from Twitter and Facebook users:

Thank god I’m not the only one that’s noticed this. To be quite honest it shocks me how a ‘singing competition’ can deceive its listeners in this way.

But for those of us who’d been at the press launch of the show last week, it was more obvious. Journalists, including Lisa from our sister site Unreality TV, heard an entirely different version during the launch. These were some of the first people to complain that the sound had been doctored.

Personally, I don’t believe that the effect was added to ‘preferred’ acts. I know that Shirlena Johnson got through to boot camp after her bizarre version of Mercy, but I doubt that she’s a serious contender. Still, I agree with the basis for fans being outraged – X Factor is a singing competition, and if they’re adding post-production to people’s vocals then the public can’t judge the singer properly.

And anyway, if these people are the best singing talent the nation has, why do they need to hide behind vocal effects? A spokesperson for the show has said:

The judges make their decisions at the audition stage based on what they hear on the day, live in the arena. The footage and sound is then edited and dubbed into a finished programme, to deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers.

Yet another example of how the X Factor has got too big for its boots lately? We accept that certain parts of the show are ‘created’ for dramatic effect – the bickering between judges, some of the outrageous comments they give to contestants and even some of the contestants’ stories. But does X Factor have the right to go changing the vocal sound of a contestant?

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1 Comment

  1. gkey3

    I was watching this and commented to my neighbour , I thought they were using the sound effects that Cher had used on a couple of auditionees, and although they were good singers (or at least they sounded right electronically). I now realise most None singers with slightly bad hearing dont understand that auto tune is there to correct what could be notes the singer can’t quite reach. IMO if you audition in public or anywhere it should be with the natural voice. It is also why I tend not to listen to a lot of R and B/Hiphop type music. Singing for me should come from the heart and soul of  human being not an electronic device attached to beautiful people. There are singers out here who havent made it because they choose not to sell their soul to the likes of X-factor. There are also a generation of listeners who think that the human voice sounds like auto-tune. it doesnt. I know we do need microphones to carry sound. but we should not be using pitch change technology, especially in a competition.

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