Video Fridays: Bon Iver, Auto-Tune

If you’re as old as me, and you remember the ubiquitous commercials for Memorex cassette tapes, you’ll remember the company’s tag line: Is it live, or is it Memorex?

The claim was that their tapes were so good you wouldn’t be able to tell a live performance from a recording if you were blindfolded.

Anyway, I thought of that old ad copy when I saw a video at Pitchfork of Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon performing with The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

When it comes to music, as I’ve written before, I’m often very late to the party, so I admit that it’s a bit ridiculous that, when Justin Vernon first put his mouth to the microphone and out came this vocal drenched in Auto-Tune, I was seriously taken aback.

The debate’s been raging for quite some time (just Google a while, you’ll see) as to the artistic legitimacy of this technology, a technology that can both correct bad singing or digitally embellish a vocal to create sounds that would be impossible to recreate without it. But, I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve ever seen Auto-Tune used in a live performance, and I have to say that I have really mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, it seems like it’s no different than a tremolo bar or Wah-Wah pedal or a thousand other electronic effects for an electric guitar. It’s just another tool in a musician’s tool box, and it can be used well or used poorly or overused, depending on the quality of the artist using it.

On the other hand, in a live setting it just seems odd. That’s it. Not wrong, just odd.

The truth is, there’s no doubt that Justin Vernon is a talented vocalist, and there’s a wonderful video of him singing a cappella with two of his mates to prove it. At the same time, I had no problem falling in love with his Auto-Tune-heavy song Woods, as I wrote in June 2011.

For now, I’ll leave it up to you. Here’s the clip from Fallon, an extended version of the Bon Iver song Perth.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2 thoughts on “Video Fridays: Bon Iver, Auto-Tune

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