Auto-Tune is generally not a positive force in this world. The basic purpose of Auto-Tune is to allow recording engineers, or anyone with a laptop, to tweak the vocals of a recording so that said vocals are not off-key. Like most technological innovations, it has been appropriated for evil. Many popular singers would not have careers if not for Autotune; they use it not to fix a note here or there, but to mask the fact that they are off-key much of the time.
Auto-Tune then became a vocal effect. According to Wikipedia, this is Cher’s fault. Her song “Believe” made the effect popular.
At first this was fine, even sort of cool-sounding. Then every song made use of it and it got old quick.
Eventually Auto-Tune became a *thing*. A meme, or rather a component of other memes. In 2010, I sagely tweeted that “Autotune videos are the new cat pictures” which was true except that cat pictures are much easier for folks to create. One popular example was Autotune The News by The Gregory Brothers. Here is “Bed Intruder Song”.
(Aside: The above video has been viewed over 100 million times on YouTube. Seriously.)
“Bed Intruder” is at least kind of funny. Also, the original interviewee, Antoine Dodson, made some money from the song, which is nice. Many other examples are at best meh. It’s also one of those things that doesn’t age well. At first the effect itself is a novelty. The newness is enough to get a laugh. But to stay funny over time, there has to be some content, some sort of *there* there. (If that sentence makes no sense, try saying it out loud.) Antoine Dodson is clearly unique, and The Gregory Brothers made good use of the news clip. “Bed Intruder Song” managed to capture a little bit of Internet viral lightning in a bottle.
Fast forward to now. PBS’ Digital Studios created the remixed Mister Rogers video. It is truly wonderful. I smiled from the moment the video started and kept on smiling until the end. I then continued to smile for five minutes after it was over. That’s over eight minutes of smiling. I haven’t smiled for that many minutes in a row for a very long time.
Without Cher and the subsequent torrent of Auto-Tuners online and on the radio, I doubt that the Mister Rogers Remix would have occurred. That’s how creative tools work sometimes. There’s a process. In this case, what began as an experiment on a Cher song eventually led to a resurgence of interest in Mister Rogers. And me smiling for more than eight minutes. If that doesn’t justify the existence of Auto-Tune, I don’t know what does.
Here is the video again in case you missed it.
The official title is “Mister Rogers Remixed | Garden of Your Mind”, and the caption is ”Mister Rogers remixed by Symphony of Science’s John Boswell for PBS Digital Studios.” (Source: LatinoRebels.com.)
I realize this already went viral but I only just heard it, so it’s new to me. Thanks to friend Valerie Reiss for the tip.