As spoofed in the Akon Calls T-Pain cartoon, the abuse of auto-tune software has been a big part of Akon’s sound, not to mention that of many pop and hip-hop artists over the last decade.
For those who don’t lurk in recording studios, auto-tune programs analyze a vocalist’s performance and automatically fix all the bad notes. Though correcting voices with auto-tune is now standard practice in the studio, it’s also used at concerts, muddying the definition of “live” (and making complaints about off-key performances on American Idol somewhat irrelevant). Whether you’re listening to country or R&B, you’ve heard it hundreds of times and never knew it.
In Akon’s case, though, the software is employed not so much to fix pitch as to generate pleasing “mistakes” by setting the parameters so that glitches create a vocoder-likerobot effect.
You heard this technique first on Cher’s recording Believe. To keep the technique a secret, though, the producers lied to gear geek magazines and claimed they had achieved that strange warble using a cheap vocoder effect unit.