The TRL Pop Quiz works like this: our editors are posed a music-related question and have only 15 minutes and just 100 words to research, choose and explain their answers. This week’s question: which songs use Auto-Tune in the best way?
How could we talk about the best Auto-Tuned tracks without referencing T-Pain, best known for popularizing the vocal effect? His 2007 track “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” featuring Yung Joc solidified his status as the King of Auto-Tune, so much so that he created an iPhone app called “I Am T-Pain” that allowed people to Auto-Tune their voices just like him. People questioned his vocal abilities, but T-Pain has since retired his Auto-Tune ways and proved he really can SANG without it. – Kristen Maldonado
“Believe” by Cher is the best use of Auto-Tune on a single song. It’s widely considered to be the first prominent use of Auto-Tune in popular music, later popularized by artists like T-Pain, a master of the form. For me, though, there’s just something about “Believe.” In this song, the Auto-Tune is very audible, and the song would not be the same without it. It’s repetitive, triumphant, and tailor-made for the club. BIG honorable mentions to every song on 808s and Heartbreak, an album that couldn’t exist without Auto-Tune, and I love it for it. – Leah Williams
You’re welcome to call me a sap for this selection, and you wouldn’t be wrong. “Beth/Rest,” the closer to Bon Iver’s eponymous album, finds frontman Justin Vernon at his most earnest, robotically wailing on a soft bed of synths and cheesy guitar noodling. The lyrics—difficult to parse to this day—shuffle between meaningful and meaningless, seeming to happen upon moments of clarity by mere chance. And none of it would work without Auto-Tune, the tool that lends a sort of inhuman magic to everything he says, and gives his nonsense an unearthly weight. – Gus Turner
There’s something about waking up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy that had Kesha in Auto-Tune overdrive on “TiK ToK.” Kesha’s repeated use of Auto-Tune lifts the vocal effect’s perception to a stylistic choice rather than a tool to fix people’s off-pitch voices. Fitting squarely into the Auto-Tune craze of the late 2000s and early 2010s, “TiK ToK” certainly isn’t Kesha’s only song with Auto-Tune, but its uses in this track show how the effect can turn an above-average bop into a total party anthem. – Matt Gehring