Somehow it took a fast-food restaurant to do for hip-hop what Jay-Z couldn't: kill Auto-Tune. He recently told a Chicago radio station that his latest song, "Death of Auto-Tune", was, in part, a reaction to a Wendy's spot that parodied the ubiquitous pitch-correction technology:
"I just think in hip-hop, when a trend becomes a gimmick, it's time to move on," Jay said in an interview with Chicago radio station WGCI on Tuesday. "I saw a Wendy's commercial and they're using Auto-Tune. They're joking on it. It's like, OK, enough of that. ... It was a trend. It was cool in the beginning. Some people made great music with it. Now it's time to move on."
The "Frosty Posse" ad for Wendy's Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty -- can you swallow all that? -- first struck me as a dated spoof on boy bands; it must be some indication as to how prevalent Auto-Tune is that I didn't even notice it. But Jay-Z saw the relevancy of the Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, spot, and somehow, despite all the other better parodies -- South Park's Kanye West "Gay Fish" song comes to mind -- it became the last straw for him.
If true, Auto-Tune's decline will be Wendys' gain. Getting Jay-Z to declare your ad to be a cultural milestone is never this cheap.
UPDATE: SFS contacted the owner of Auto-Tune, Antares Audio Technologies, about the supposed death of its product, and Marco Alpert, VP-marketing, reminded us that its intended use is really "the seamless correction of pitch problems in vocals" -- i.e., when you have no idea it's there. As long as producers want to fix imperfections in vocals and vocalists remain imperfect, it'll probably still be around for a while.
As for the Wendy's ad? "We're thrilled to have our brand out in the general world of pop culture. When it's made it into Wendy's commercials, we know that we've definitely moved beyond the rather rarified boundaries of the professional audio-technology world. Controversy is good for the Auto-Tune brand, and kind of fun to boot."