T-Pain without Auto-Tune is amazing.
Seriously. I was skeptical, too. Before you say anything else, click play on the video.
T-Pain wasn’t the first rapper to use Auto-Tune, but he was the first to use it to turn his voice into an instrument to be manipulated into new sounds and styles. He exploded onto the hip-hop scene in the early 2000s, and it wasn’t long before his voice was synonymous with “Auto-Tune.”
And his influence spread. Other superstar rappers picked up on the Auto-Tune trend. From Kanye West to R. Kelly and Chris Brown to Diddy, Auto-Tune took over the R&B genre, but everyone remembered who was responsible for its prominence.
Reportedly, T-Pain collected royalties from other hip-hop artists who used Auto-Tune, and there was even an iPhone app that allowed users to Auto-Tune their own voices called “I Am T-Pain.”
But for all T-Pain’s fame, Auto-Tune was short lived. Jay Z released his 2009 hit “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” and critical backlash against singers who used Auto-Tune as a crutch flooded the media and reviews.
Now, we learn, T-Pain never needed Auto-Tune. All that time, there was an amazing voice hiding beneath the computerized notes.
In an intimate performance for NPR Music, T-Pain performs some of his biggest hits for a small audience. But he does them acoustically — it’s just the accompanying keyboard and T-Pain’s voice.
“This is weird as hell for me,” he jokes in the video. “I’ve never done anything like this.”
But that awkwardness only lasts a few seconds because even though he seems nervous about taking to the stage sans Auto-Tune, T-Pain sings “Buy U a Drank” with the emotion and nuance that Auto-Tune masks.
I am, by no means, a huge T-Pain fan. But this video makes me wish he’d dropped Auto-Tune years ago. And if he ditches it moving forward, I think I’ll pay more attention to his music from now on.
What do you think of T-Pain’s Auto-Tune-less performance? Is he better off without it? Or should he stick to what he knows? Tell us what you think in the comments.