How auto-tune can be emotional




Epic Records

Auto-tune is something that has traditionally been regarded as something inhumane, a tool that removes the human element from a person singing and conforms them to a robotic mold. Used for its intended purpose, that can be true, but ever since T-Pain first started playing around with it back in 2005, the program has been adopted as a style for some. Usually, that could err on the side of simple silliness, but for southern hip hop artist Future&rsquo;s latest album, <em>Honest</em>, it has stripped down his voice instead of thickening it.

It&rsquo;s right there in the title track: he&rsquo;s just being honest. Granted, he&rsquo;s being honest about larger-than-life things (&ldquo;My diamonds ain&rsquo;t got flaws,&rdquo; he declares on the title track), but the auto-tune actually helps you believe that he is telling the truth. Future&rsquo;s default mode of rapping isn&rsquo;t too intricate, usually involving him just talking very loudly &mdash; I&rsquo;m almost certain that he could never hold a tune by himself &mdash; with the auto-tune to restrain him, he&rsquo;s transformed into a very sincere-sounding singer.

It also helps make &ldquo;I Won,&rdquo; a track in which he and Kanye West call their respective fianc&eacute;es trophies, seem genuine and sweet instead of a typical reduction of women to objects. The auto-tune brings out the guttural aspects of his voice, and instead of making him sound animalistic, it sounds like he&rsquo;s singing cathartically.

The same applies to &ldquo;I Be U,&rdquo; which is a song about his devotion to his fianc&eacute;e; she&rsquo;s a trophy, but she&rsquo;s also not one he&rsquo;s going to discard. Future has said that there are no love songs on the album, which seems to reinforce the honesty of the tracks &mdash; they&rsquo;re not inspired by merely blind love that could peter out at any moment. They&rsquo;re facts.

Not every track seems to contain the same level of truth, though. &ldquo;Move That Dope&rdquo; is a pretty standard coke rap track, and I doubt Future&rsquo;s close to the culture these days. &ldquo;Covered N Money&rdquo; and &ldquo;Benz Friendz (Whatutola)&rdquo; (featuring Andr&eacute; 3000, making good on his recent re-emergence) are nothing but braggadocio tracks. But it&rsquo;s when these only serve to reinforce the qualities of the more truthful songs &mdash; by getting a sense of when Future is playing &mdash; we also know exactly when he&rsquo;s not. And while some of the simpler bangers are good (or even great, in the case of &ldquo;Look Ahead&rdquo; and &ldquo;Move That Dope&rdquo;), their real place is to reinforce what is good about the true standouts.

Future is one of the more distinctive hip hop artists out there at the moment, something that seems to be becoming increasingly rare across all genres. On both of his studio albums, he&rsquo;s proven himself able to use auto-tune to enhance his music in very different ways. And as his profile only continues to grow, his music might change with it. Most importantly, he&rsquo;s not a rapper who hides behind a guise. He&rsquo;s upfront about everything. He&rsquo;s just being honest.