This past Saturday was the start of the new season of the British version of The X Factor, and it was revealed over the weekend that Simon Cowell’s show has been using Auto-Tune to make the audition contestants sound better by correcting pitch and disguising off-key mistakes. Not surprisingly, fans are outraged. Many pop singers use Auto-Tune on their recordings or in live performance. But no one knew it was being used until Saturday’s season premiere, which featured a performance by 18-year-old contestant Gamu Nhengu who sang Katrina and the Waves’ 1980s hit “Walking On Sunshine”. After hearing her effort, judge Simon Cowell told her she was “really talented” before she was unanimously voted through to the next round, in part because of her compelling back story. That’s when fans crowded onto Facebook claiming they could clearly hear that vocal enhancements had been employed on Gamu’s voice and accusing the show of perpetrating a massive con. (“When she got going on the second verse, there’s a 10-second chunk where it’s really, really sharp and there’s an Auto-Tune moment.”) In response to the controversy, an X-Factor spokesman admitted that post-production work such as vocal enhancement technology was used because of all the microphones on stage to “deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers”. But the spokesman promised that the live shows will indeed “be live”. The use of Auto-Tune is a hot button issue in the music industry with both JayZ and Christina Aguilera protesting its prevalence. I think Fox has a duty to ensure that Cowell doesn’t bring his cheating ways to the U.S. when The X Factor launches Fall 2011.
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