Top 10 Auto-Tune Songs

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Auto-Tune is an audio processor created by Antares Technologies. It was initially designed to correct pitch problems in the recording studio. The use of Auto-Tune technology is controversial in pop music. Many claim that is over-used to give singers perfect pitch who otherwise do not possess the skill. However, producers also use Auto-Tune to create a specific, obvious sound as part of their artistic creation. These are 10 of the best examples of creative use of Auto-Tune related effects in pop music.

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Cher - "Believe" (1998)

Cher Believe
Cher - "Believe". Courtesy Warner Bros.

Back in 1998 no one had seriously considered the use of Antares' Auto-Tune pitch correction software as a recording "special effect." Reportedly, producer Mark Taylor added the distinctive effects on a lark testing out what Auto-Tune could do. Cher says that when she heard the sound she demanded it be left in the recording. The futuristic impact on her vocals is an integral part of the subsequent record, and "Believe" became the biggest hit of Cher's career. To this day, the distinctive Auto-Tune sound is sometimes referred to as the "Cher effect."

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Daft Punk - "One More Time" (2000)

Daft Punk One More Time
Daft Punk - "One More Time". Courtesy Virgin

The electronic duo Daft Punk had already used vocoder distorted vocals in their worldwide hit "Around the World" in 1997. They turned to Auto-Tune to alter vocals of singer Romanthony in the recording of "One More Time." The use of the technology was criticized in much of the music industry, but Daft Punk likened the criticisms to those at the use of synthesizers in pop music in the early days of the development of that technology. Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk sees the use of vocal distortion technology as analogous to the use of other instruments in the recording studio like an electric guitar. He was pleased that listeners seemed to either love or hate it the use of auto-tune in "One More Time." They did not walk away with a neutral opinion.

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Faith Hill - "The Way You Love Me" (2000)

Faith Hill The Way You Love Me
Faith Hill - "The Way You Love Me". Courtesy Warner Bros.

Auto-tune is rarely used in country music recording, but in 2000 Faith Hill was not a typical country artist. She had successfully crossed into the pop mainstream with her top 10 smash hits "This Kiss" and "Breathe." In an effort to boost her breezy single "The Way You Love Me" on pop radio, a mainstream remix was created which applies auto-tune to the backing vocals. The impact is subtle, but the studio effects give the song an edge that is not present in the original mix. "The Way You Love Me" peaked at #6 on mainstream pop radio and #3 adult contemporary.

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Chris Brown - "Forever" (2008)

Chris Brown Forever
Chris Brown - "Forever". Courtesy Jive

Chris Brown is not a singer who would require Auto-Tune to stay on pitch. In fact, the opening of "Forever" is sung without its use. However, the judicious use of Auto-Tune by producer Polow da Don is an essential element in creating the gorgeous Eurodisco feel of the song. It was not Chris Brown's first use of auto-tune on a hit record. His 2007 single "Kiss Kiss" also utilized the technology. "Forever" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbed into the top 20 at dance music radio.

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Rihanna - "Disturbia" (2008)

Rihanna Disturbia
Rihanna - "Disturbia". Courtesy Def Jam

A wide range of distortions are utilized to create the otherworldly, horror movie feel of Rihanna's "Disturbia." Auto-Tune is just one of the elements here that creates the disturbed impact. The digital effects lend an otherworldly warble to Rihanna's voice. "Disturbia" went all the way to #1 on the pop and dance charts. It was a top 5 pop hit single in many other countries around the world as well. "Disturbia" earned Rihanna a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording.

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Britney Spears - "Womanizer" (2008)

Britney Spears Womanizer
Britney Spears - "Womanizer". Courtesy Jive

Britney Spears has frequently been criticized for liberal use of auto-tune in her songs. Detractors claim that it is used to cover up her lack of vocal ability. "Womanizer" is one of the hits punched up by digital technology. An original demo of "Womanizer" without the support of auto-tune was leaked, and it gave both support for the critics and fans who claimed her vocal talents were much more solid than the suggestions of her enemies. "Womanizer" with auto-tune was a #1 smash pop hit. It also broke into the top 20 of the dance chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording.

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T.I. - "Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna (2008)

T. I. Live Your Life Rihanna
T.I. - "Live Your Life" featuring Rihanna. Courtesy Atlantic

"Live Your Life" features a dramatic, catchy recreation of the yodel-ish hook of O-Zone's "Dragostea Din Tei" by Rihanna. However, when she shifts into English, the Auto-Tune distortion makes her singing sound almost as exotic as the previous Moldovan lyrics. Later in the song a clear, non-distorted break has extra impact due to the contrast with the earlier distortion. "Live Your Life" became rapper T.I.'s second #1 pop hit following his smash hit "Whatever You Like."


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Kanye West - "Heartless" (2008)

Kanye West Heartless
Kanye West - "Heartless". Courtesy Roc-a-Fella

When rapper Kanye West set out to record his album 808s and Heartbreak in the aftermath of the tragic death of his mother, he says that he had emotions to express that couldn't be expressed solely through rapping. Consequently, West sings frequently throughout the album. He uses Auto-Tune liberally, because it gives his voice a "heartbroken" sound. T-Pain was consulted on the proper use of the technology in the recording studio. Auto-Tune was previously used on the background vocals for Kanye West's acclaimed "Jesus Walks." "Heartless" was a major pop smash hit debuting on the chart at #4 and peaking at #2. It also topped the rap chart.

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Black Eyed Peas - "Boom Boom Pow" (2009)

Black Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow
Black Eyed Peas - "Boom Boom Pow". Courtesy Interscope

When the Black Eyed Peas decided to revisit the futuristic sounds of electro, they brought Auto-Tune along to drench their vocals in a mechanistic, robotic wash. The result was the biggest hit of their career thus far spending a phenomenal twelve weeks at #1 on the US pop chart. The lyrics directly reference a futuristic sound. Most critics responded positively to the electronic experiments throughout the song. "Boom Boom Pow" also topped the rap chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording.

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Kesha - "Tik Tok" (2009)

Kesha Tik Tok
Kesha - "Tik Tok". Courtesy RCA

"Tik Tok" is the song that made Kesha a star. Auto-Tune is used liberally, and the presence of the electronic effects convinced detractors that Kesha was a weak vocalist. The opposite turned out to be true. The impact of Auto-Tune in "Tik Tok" is to create a very specific party pop sound. "Tik Tok" spent nine weeks at #1 on the US pop chart becoming one of the biggest debut hits ever by a pop artist. It also went to #1 on the dance radio chart.