Sunday, July 13, 2014

Britney Spears Without Autotune: What People Don't Understand

History always seems destined to repeat itself. After Britney Spears recovered from her infamous breakdown and returned to pop music prominence with 2008's Circus, the public had so much good will for her. You would think we would have learned from our mistakes and not revert back to the same microscopic judgment that helped push her over the edge in the first place.

But that isn't so. These days, the media and general public look for any reason to knock Britney down again. The latest incident is a leaked version of her track, "Alien", reportedly without any autotune. The track leaked on July 2 and the Britney fandom was all abuzz, but it took the media almost a week to pick up on it. I won't even bother discounting these "news sources" for being untimely as fuck.

But I will take the opportunity to explain why these so-called raw vocals aren't the proof that Britney sucks at singing that everybody thinks it is.

1. It's not the track without autotune

People assume that this track is the very take Britney recorded in the studio that was then digitally altered and put on her record. That isn't so. Britney, like every other artist, records multiple takes of the song. The one in question, according to producer William Orbit, is the warm-up take, one that "a generous singer will put something down the mic to help the engineer get their systems warmed up and at the right level."

In short, this "take" is Britney warming up her own vocals while helping the producer warm up his equipment. She sings it a cappella (the backing track you hear was added later by whoever leaked it). It's not meant to be used as a take, much less heard by the public. So this isn't the "Alien" you hear on Britney Jean without autotune. It's literally the very first time Britney is singing the song, for the sole sake of feeling it out.

2. It's not that bad

Given that the public can afford to be unforgiving, everybody is acting like these vocals are the worst things to have ever fallen on human ears. But if you really listen to it, especially if you keep in mind that it's a warm-up track with what Orbit calls "a multitude of vocalisations," you can surely hear for yourself that it's not even bad. Sure, it might make you yearn for the final product, but any singer's warm-up tracks aren't going to be something you'll want to write home about.

3. Britney's not a vocalist, she's a performer

Most people might excuse this point without giving it a chance, but here it goes. Britney does not claim, nor has she ever claimed, to be a vocalist. She never set out to be Whitney Houston, though she has always admired her. She is an entertainer and a performer, one whose talent exists not in powerhouse vocals but in her pure star power and ability to put on a show. That said, I can point you to countless examples of recordings and live performances that prove that Britney does have an unexpectedly decent singing voice.

4. If you don't like autotune, well...

If you're one of those music purists who reject any and all signs of digital enhancement, then you can pretty much count out any songs recorded after 2000. All singers, no matter their talent and no matter their genre, use autotune. It's the industry standard, and it's obviously used to varying degrees, but everybody needs help correcting the occasional pitch or smoothing out a vocal here and there. It's the equivalent of putting an Instagram filter on a photo.

After all this controversy, Billboard reported that sales and shares of "Alien" skyrocketed. So thank you, Britney bashers! We might get that third single after all!

Now, please enjoy "Alien" as it's meant to be heard.


Taylor Tanton said...

You defend her like none other! You should be her lawyer!

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