When T-Pain hit the scene in the mid-2000s, the music industry developed a love/hate relationship with him very quickly. On one hand, there were a lot of people who really loved his music and couldn’t get enough of his catchy hooks. On the other, there were people who couldn’t stand the fact that he used a pitch correction effect called Auto-Tune on all of his songs. Either way, however, numbers don’t lie and T-Pain’s first three albums definitely did numbers. On top of that, his use of Auto-Tune popularized the technique and more artists began to use it. What many people didn’t realize, though, is that behind the scenes, the very thing that made him popular (Auto-Tune) also had a negative impact on his mental health.
The History Of Auto-Tune
Since T-Pain was the first person to use Auto-Tune heavily, there are a lot of people out there who think he invented it. In reality, however, Auto-Tune was around long before T-Pain even started his music career. The process was invented in the mid-1990s by a research engineer named Andy Hildebrand. Essentially what Auto-Tune does is help singers sound better by matching their vocals with the correct note. By the late 1990s, Auto-Tune had been installed in music studios across the country, and producers loved the fact that it made their jobs easier.
However, Auto-Tune can also be used to create different effects on people’s voices and this is something that people discovered over time. In 2008, Cher’s hit single “Believe” became the first song to use the different effects available with Auto-Tune. At the time, the song’s producer, Mark Taylor, claimed the effects were the result of an FX pedal, but he has since admitted that it was Auto-Tune. Despite the popularity of the song, Auto-Tune wasn’t really used in mainstream music again until T-Pain released “I’m Sprung” in 2005.
How Auto-Tune (And Usher) Caused T-Pain To Fall Into A State Of Depression
I know, I know, you’re probably wondering how Auto-Tune could’ve sent T-Pain into a state of depression, but there’s much more to the story. In an interview for a new Netflix series called This Is Pop, T-Pain shared the details of a conversation he had with R&B superstar, Usher. While the two were traveling to the 2013 BET Awards together, Usher called T-Pain to the back of the plane and explained that he felt T-Pain’s use of Auto-Tune had ruined music for the artists that could really sing. T-Pain, who looked at Usher as a friend, was shocked by what he said.
After the conversation, T-Pain started to question if Usher was right and he admitted he fell into a depression that lasted for four years. T-Pain credits his wife, Amber, with helping him realize that he shouldn’t worry about what other people have to say about his music. T-Pain now says he’s focused on making music that he likes. As of now, Usher has yet to respond to what T-Pain said.
T-Pain’s Influence In Music
People can say what they want about T-Pain, but no one can take away from the fact that he’s had a huge impact on hip-hop and R&B. The way he used Auto-Tune as a tool a not a crutch has been copied by several artists over the years. In fact, in 2008, Kanye West released an entire album of Auto-Tuned tracks called 808s and Heartbreaks. Lil Wayne also started using Auto-Tune in the late 2000s/early 2010s. While none of these artists have outright acknowledged that T-Pain was their inspiration, there’s no doubt that had it not been for him, there wouldn’t be as many people using Auto-Tune today.
T-Pain Can Actually Sing Though
Due to his heavy use of Auto-Tune, most people naturally assumed that T-Pain relied on the technique because he couldn’t really sing. That mindset was laid to rest in 2014 when T-Pain performed on NPR’s TinyDesk. He sang the entire set without Auto-Tune and people were blown away by the fact that he sounded great. In less than 15 minutes, he showed the world that his success really was due to his talent and creativity. Did the Auto-Tune help him stand out? Of course, but that doesn’t mean that it was solely responsible for his success.
For T-Pain, the moment was bittersweet. He appreciated the praise, but it also made him realize how many people really didn’t respect him before. T-Pain hasn’t mentioned whether he plans to release an album without Auto-Tune, but after hearing him sing there are a lot of people who would love to hear a project like that from him.