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Technology run amok

Country Standard Time Editorial, February 2010

Much has been made of Taylor Swift and her Grammy performance. Peter Cooper, a writer for the Tennessean and a performer in his own right (check him out - he's put out some good CDs), wrote a Feb. 5 commentary "Taylor Swift's week of swift backlash."

In the column, Cooper, who is a very fine writer, offered defense of Swift, saying in some respects she was not all that different from other country performers. Swift, of course, received a lot of negative comments from press and music fans for her less than stellar performance with Stevie Nicks on Rhiannon.

Cooper also wrote the following, which caught our eyes - "Swift would have had no problem if she had just done what most country stars do: She could have run her vocals through an auto-tuning processor that knows the note she's supposed to be hitting, grabs the note she hits and shifts her pitch up or down (in Sunday's case, it would have been up) into artificial perfection. Almost every A-list recording artist uses this technology in the studio, and most use it live, without apology."

Is that where music and country are in 2010 - resorting to technology to achieve false perfection?

How sad.

Maybe we try to be too perfect today in the U.S. where everyone must look just so or take steroids to hit a homer or use technology to sound like you've never sounded before.

Whatever happened to the emotion of putting it across in the studio and live? (In his piece, Cooper said that Percy Sledge wavered on his pitch on the classic When a Man Loves a Woman. that didn't seem to hurt how that song has done.) There are some performers, e.g., Lady Gaga, who obviously use tapes during their show and make no pretense of hiding it. Owl City clearly uses a healthy dose of tech in his vocals on CD.

Cooper wrote a good piece on Swift, but how about taking it one step further and instead of tossing this bomb out there name a few names of people who do it in concert. Can you think of anything more obscene than trying to fool the fans? Either you can sing and do it live or you can't.

Maybe an imperfect Swift singing live is better than somebody who lies and hides behind technology.