An Audience with Michael Bublé (ITV), and Autotune



UPDATE: Check out a recent live interview


The full-on mainstream media promotion of a tour takes some getting used to. Thirty-four year old Canadian ratpack singer Michael Bublé was on ITV last night, plugging ten dates at major UK venues in September/ October.

When music is designed to be this predictable, when the market only functions if singers stay millimetre-close to their records, I've stopped listening. The commerce becomes the spectacle in its own right.

ITV was milking the ad breaks for all they were worth. An ad for seatwave.com just happened to feature a fictitious poster for the tour. An ad for ice cream had as backing track the same song in the same key that had preceded the ad break. . So, ITV chooses to play fast and loose with Article 2.1.2 (b) of the CAP/BCAP advertising code on the separation of advertisements and programmes. But such is the search for the honest buck, perhaps.

I watched the programme intermediated by flow of Twitter comment. Sad, me? There were literally hundreds of women of all ages every minute declaring that they "<3" Buble. But there were also several mentions of AUTOTUNE, a device which corrects the pitch of a singer in live performance. And some of those made the assertion seemed pretty confident that distortion on the sound makingit "vo-coderish" was a dead giveaway. I don't know. I'm not making the allegation, just reporting it.

But it raises two questions. First. It would be interesting to know if he was using Autotune. And there are clearly going to be ITV technicians who know. Or could deny it.

And secondly, does it make any difference? Some argue that amplification is the thin end of the wedge, and the use of tricks like this is just a logical extension? Or that music which is there to reassure a large public rather than challenge it might as well go the whole hog. Any thoughts?

52 comments:

  1. Being a PA for a music production company, I can safely say auto-tuning was used, copious amounts of it! Listen to the song Mrs. Jones, it was full of it. He sounds like Daft Punk. The sound engineer should be shot.

    What's surprising is how few people noticed it, even my housemate who's a singer didn't even realise!! I really thought it was rather blatant.

    I find it quite upsetting that such a great singer like Buble was using it. It's cheating and rids us of the 'Live' sound that so many people love, the originality, the occasional blunder which adds to it's charm.

    Well that's my slightly ignorant view. Anyone else think differently?

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  2. I don't think it's a problem - it's a device that helps create the right sound. No more of an issue than drummers using click track!

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  3. Completely agree. Auto-tune was used throughout and on several songs he positively sounded more like a machine than something human.

    A great shame because he has a fantastic voice, but it wouldn't have been his decision alone either way. Record company, TV execs wanting a completely flawless performance. All round cheese tho it was..

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  4. It's the fact that many people - and even singers, musicians, those with 'developed' ears - can't hear the difference between natural and crudely pitch-corrected singing that is so disappointing to me. Buble doesn't need it, his engineer knows better than to use it so crudely. So frustrating!

    The really worrying development is that for young people growing up on an autotuned musical diet, not even live music is safe from synthetic and manipulated acoustic material. It's funny how the closer to pure 'pop' (and by that I mean artists and programmes that are designed to sell as much as possible) the more evidence of manipulation you find: the majority of the top 10, Glee, American Idol etc etc.

    Thoroughly depressing, at the end of the day!

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  5. Aja Allsop gave a more positive assessment of all this on Twitter

    Yes he is not Mark Murphy or Mel Torme etc but he is entertaining and encourages the mere mortals to listen to jazz no bad thing.

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  6. Michael Buble has the most amazing voice and last night he proved it. Truly beautiful. However the rest of the show was crude, rude and deeply offensive. Please Michael get a new Public Relations Consultant. From the early reference to the 'phallic' stage and the 'penetration' feeling towards the audience each question got more and more rude answere except the fact that he respects hid father and grandfather. Silly Paul O'Grady, he is a drag comedian but not a 'celebrity', but who there were? to the really unacceptable comment by Fern Britton who, sitting next to her 14 year daughter raised the issue of cli..... stimulation. I hope that ITV reprimands her most severely and demands a public apology. It was extremely offensive and unacceptable with a large family audience viewing. Not big and not funny. And yes, after that crude remark I switched off the programme.

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  7. John Riches wrote into Facebook

    "Amazing coincidence. My wife likes MB and I don't, so I was watching the show last night and googled for MB + autotune to see if he was using it.

    There seems to be quite a stir in the pop music world about using it, with Jay-Z and Christina Aguilera leading the protests."

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  8. It's true that Buble encourages people to listen to jazz, but his music isn't jazz. It's as described here, boring and predictable. His voice sounded very tinny to me while I was watching the programme, so I wouldn't be surprised if he was using autotune. He's no Mark Murphy or Mel Torme. He also isn't Roger Cicero or Tom Gaebel. Those guys can *sing*. I would love to see either one of them get the TV airtime that Buble gets. Why is it that native English speakers like the Canadian Buble get worldwide audiences much more easily than more gifted performers from non-English speaking countries like Gabel and Cicero, who are German?

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  9. I tend to give performers the benefit of the doubt, and would certainly hesitate before writing off Buble as a live performer as the last commenter did.

    Not least because I haven't heard him live.

    I was recently at a seminar for pop promoters. They talked of the pressure which is now on performers to ensure that live performances get as close as possible to the recorded "original."

    Punters are comfortable with that. There seems to be a vast audience out there which would rather have it sanitized and error-free and hear their "tracks" as predictable as possible.

    Performers have to fulfil expectations. But the magic of live performance, stemming from its very uncertainty can definitely be a casualty.

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  10. Mr Buble has a main stream audience simply because he sings songs that the public recognise also he is very pretty (thats what the females in my family tell me lol )

    If it was Jose James or Mario Biondi etc etc the general public simply wouldnt get it and they never will no matter how good they are.

    Thats why Mr Buble is a success and all the real talents are not.

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  11. Peter wrote in by text:

    I enjoyed the Buble discussion. Linked in nicely with a New York Times piece about the MP3 young no longer being able to appreciate the more information-rich hi-fi sound

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/business/media/10audio.html

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  12. I just watched The Audience with Michael Buble today, and the instant he started singing, I could hear Auto-tune in his voice. . . I was that convinced I googled "Buble Auto tune", which fetched me to this site. I think its a real shame he resorted to this, I would rather hear the odd imperfection to be honest.

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  13. A reader who found the ice cream ad using the same music as just before the ad break was potentially causing confusion between the programme and the ad complained to the ASA who brushed off the complaint thus:

    My ASA complaint about Michael Buble was rejected as Mr Buble is not in the ad himself so there's no chance of confusion

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  14. Was just wondering the fact that buble has said many times that he doesn't like using in ear monitoring and he obviously had to for the stage and had to be wireless... could be anything to do with it?? he has a great voice though... listen to his abbey road recordings... are fantastic.

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  15. Smoggieboon, I think you've got it right. I sense that an audience member you can feel hoodwinked when the goods you've bought have been tampered with.

    Anonymous , yes there has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and explanation about the use of in-ear monitors, try this for example

    http://board.michaelbuble.com/index.php?showtopic=23593


    But for me that's a different issue.

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  16. I have seen Michael Buble perform live and in person many, many times since 2001 and this is the FIRST and ONLY time (to the very best of my musical theater knowledge) that he has EVER used autotuner. I agree with what is said that it's a shame... he has an extremely wonderfully powerful voice and the sheer reason you go to see someone live and in concert is for what is now being considered "imperfections". If I wanted it to sound like the record, I would stay at home and listen to it!

    I feel that this must not have been Mr. Buble's choice as I have not seen him use it before.

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  17. I heard MB sing live in the Arena di Verona on the night before this TV show was broadcast. i cam confirm that he didn't use Autotune and on his final song, he even dispensed with the microphone and used his own natural abilities to fill the Arena with his voice. I'm not an MB fan but his performance was professional, honest and moving. Blame the TV producers.. Cowell wasn't involved was he ?

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  18. Good Question.

    According to the ITV website it was

    "an ITV Studios production for ITV1.
    Commissioned by John Kaye Cooper, Controllor of Entertainment, ITV.

    Produced by Fiona Clark and Executive Produced by Lee Connolly and Katie Rawcliffe, ITV Studios."

    Let's see what they have to say.

    http://www.itv.com/presscentre/anaudiencewith/wk21michaelbuble/default.html

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  19. What is all the fuss about? We saw him in Verona on 22 May and, when he dispensed with the mike he demonstrated his true ability and yes, he can sing without auto tune. Interesting because we've also been to the opera in Verona where no mikes are used at all so Buble was up there with the best.

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  20. I've seen him live many times, he never uses autotune, and I'm a sound engineer. In the program he did, but if you've seen his meets madison square garden DVD you'll see that he doesn't use autotune at all, or try watching his latest X factor appearence, he doesn't use autorune.

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  21. Maybe it's worth thinking about the fact that in today's music business, the powers that be think every artist has to be heavily processed to fit into the accepted generic requirements. Those requirements are dictated by marketing people in record companies, TV etc. In a business which has consistently lost revenue since the 90s, there is no room for deviation. What they don't realize is that the business has lost revenue BECAUSE of this commodification of art, BECAUSE of the blandness that results. Why should the public be inspired to buy blandness?
    This is all a shame because Bublé is undoubtedly a fine mainstream singer.

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  22. Yes indeed. All that intermediation, processing , marketing-driven activity resulting in blandness... there's a nice piece on exactly that, which goes further in today's Times by Sathnam Sanghera. Under the title

    "The music industry will make morons of the most gifted performers- A woman who needs only a piano and a microphone has gone all Mariah Carey" he writes:

    "Alicia Keys is a highly gifted, classically trained singer-songwriter, who was name-checked admiringly by Bob Dylan in his 2006 album Modern Times, and who rises above the banality of most performers by sheer force of talent. And the O2 is a brilliant venue. But her show was ridiculous."

    Here's the link:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/sathnam_sanghera/article7141911.ece

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  23. I love how the writer of this article conviniently left his/her name out; which already makes the article suspect.

    And every single poster who used Annonymous had no musical knowledge what so ever. Including the person who wrote the 8th comment. Trolls......

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  24. Thanks for your comment Joe. I (Sebastian) run the site and wrote the article. I'm sure you are trying to make an interesting point, so do please clarify what your argument is against what's been written here?

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  25. He may or may not be using Autotune, but what difference does it make? It's not as if he's doing a Milli Vanilli, give the guy a break, he has copious amount of talent and he shines :)

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  26. A true live jazz performance should never be expected to be pitch perfect as it looses the basic humanity which differentiates it from bland pop music. Subtle nuances of pitch variation can greatly increase the emotional impact of a song. Just imagine Billie Holiday through Autotune, she'd probably end up sounding like Madeline Peroux.

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  28. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  29. I watched it for 10 minutes and couldn't believe what I was hearing. I thought someone had overdone the reverb. But reading around the issue, Autotune ( and a very poor sound engineer) seems to be the culprit. Let's face it, he's a pretty average singer,but looks good and most of his fans have no idea and therefore don't notice how he's being manufactured. Crap!

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  30. I think that this is why I don't watch a television set :) However, MB's early work was definately in the footsteps of the great swing/jazz singers ( I have two of his Cds!). In my ignorant opinion, MB truly poppled Harry Connick Jr from the seat of latter-day young-jazz-crooner. But, I hear the cash tills ringing...

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  31. There is absolutely no doubt that he uses an autotuner. I haven't found a recording of him that isn't autotuned yet.

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  32. just heard it, googled buble and autotune & arrived here. its like when you had a casio keyboard and pressed the demo key, pretending to play. when the trick was revealed, everyone was disappointed. drop the auto tune michael.You are letting your self down.

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  33. Just watching it again on ITV and immediately could hear the unnatural-sound to the voice. All you focus on is the pure note to the voice. what I want to know is this "correction" added In production or live? Not good either way!

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  34. I also googled 'Buble autotune' and arrived here and the above posts confirmed my suspicion - he was autotuned to the max!
    It sounded awful and completely unnatural. I complained about it to my wife and asked her to listen but she couldn't identify it?!

    Anyway, I understand that he can sing but why it was used on this I do not know. Was it the broadcasters fault? Remember this is the same company who managed to blackout the first England goal in the world cup (itv hd).

    Buble, if you or your agent are reading this then please offer an apology or at least point a finger at someone else, perhaps tv?

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  35. I was horrified when I heard this the other day. Seriously lazy engineering. What are ITV playing at. First Xfactor, now this. This problem has been around for a while now, but this show wins the prize for most blatant abuse of a otherwise great effect/engineering tool. Dr. Harold (Andy) Hildebrand would be spinning in his proverbial grave.

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  36. i love mr buble and tuned in last night but instantly noticed the auto tuning and had to google it today as i thought my hearing was impaired. All i can say is what a blumming shame as there's nothing more thrilling than to hear a naturally gifted singer perform but this has completely turned me off.....

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  37. RTE carries an interesting extract from a BBC interview which Buble gave to Scott Mills on BBC Radio 1:

    "People, whoever you are, if you're writing on these blogs or whatever, if you think that I'm miming, you're an idiot."

    Nobody has suggested on this blog thatyou were miming. The allegation is that ITV used Autotune.

    "You're so used to being fed c**p and you're so used to seeing people jam microphones in their faces because they're lip synching, that when you see somebody using actual mic tehcnique and move a microphone away... it's crazy."

    Fair point.

    "I'm shocked. Did they not listen to me? I was flat! I sang flat! And I was out of breath. If I was going to lip synch, wouldn't I just do it to my recording?"



    Two different points there. Did anyone see the X Factor apparance?

    "I have mimed for videos but never have I mimed for a live TV show. I think if you're dancing it's acceptable, but I wasn't dancing, so it wouldn't have been acceptable."

    Again "miming." An admission, not exactly shattering...

    Here's the SOURCE:

    http://www.rte.ie/ten/2010/1027/bublem.html

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  38. The Scott Mills comments refers to his recent X Factor appearance in which he was widely accused of lip synching. He denies this absolutely and convincingly, not least because he says his own performance was below par - and anyone who compares the X Factor and recorded versions of this song could only surely agree. I have no idea if he used Auto Tune in his ITV "Audience with ..." show. What amuses me is that many people who claim knowledge of music are also at odds about this. But it strikes me as absurd that anyone could claim, as some have done, that his voice sounds "tinny", that he's "pretty average" and that he has only been successful because he's "pretty". I'm not handing out awards and I have no credentials to do so, but his voice is flexible, interesting and powerful. He can sing, really well. TV performances are just that, TV performances. They're not intimatate, live gigs with no amplification or other technical support. Buble is a really good singer. It strikes me as odd that this amount of space is devoted to his credentials when so many successful acts rely so heavily and consistently on technical aids. He's the real deal, as anyone who's seen him live can attest, and his beautiful, expressive voice is every bit as much a factor in his success as his "pretty" face.

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  39. Thanks for clarifying things. The phenomenon - and the scale - of his commercial and popular success are irrefutable facts, that's for certain.

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  40. LOL "Some argue..."

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  41. It is Michael Buble that should be ashamed of himself.

    Would Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, or Sammy Davis use Autotune.

    No. Because they had talent, charisma and confidence.

    Buble is 'Pop Product' - Not Jazz. He sings with the Daleks.

    What next, Autotune used on Opera stars?

    Watch out when ITV announces 'An Audience with Kiri Te Kanawa'.

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  42. I don't mind Michael Buble using autotune 'live' in concert and in recordings; it's his prerogative. And yes, it's apparent that Mr. Buble indeed employs autotune most often. Howeever, the record companies simply need to place an autotune advisory label on these worthless products so they can be easily avoided.

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  43. "'LOL some argue' quoting what or whom? We'd all LOL if we knew what we LOLing about.

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  44. i find all rather a sham using auto tune it seems the music industry is more concerned on looks then talent i myself am a singing impressionist and spent years practising and training my voice and i would never consider auto tune it's too robotic but sadly when the auto=tune or human voice is fully cloned by computer devices and the moving image perfected
    we can raise all sorts of singers and actors from the grave or create new ones
    then its good bye to pop stars and movie stars
    so my advice is to so called professional artistes use this technolagy at your peril if you've got talent to sing use it! if you like computers singing you will undoubtably have that all the time in the not too distant future.

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  45. He does use AutoTune A LOT, in fact every album you are listening to from him is AutoTuned. I am a professional Audio Engineer and know AutoTune very well and also can spot it from a mile away.

    Even his Live recordings, they are AutoTuned, and quite horribly so. This is a horrible crutch that singers are using, and its dumbing down the music lovers around the world to thinking thats their real voice. Mike has an incredible voice, and there is no need to use AutoTune to fix it.

    And I hate to say it but what you're hearing from him is not only a small amount of AutoTune, its actually a lot even for big pop musicians... I dont understand why his producers are correcting his voice so much, and its really sad.

    But yes its true hes using it, and a lot of it. In fact I only found one song so far that doesn't scream autotune and thats "Home" theres a slight bit of correction going on, but its just the tail end of some notes, thats about it. And thats the way it SHOULD be used... But on everything else I'm listening to is just so plastic and tuned to the point where its more computer than man.

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  46. I find it laughable that there is so much ignorance surrounding this subject in the masses. Yes, MB has the cheeky chappy persona, and the near the knuckle words to prove that he is a proper lady's man. Fair enough. But anyone who builds his career by relying heavily on auto tune, when he purports to be a true follower of Sinatra et al, has to be a fraud... I would much rather pay good money to see real artists, singing live, minor imperfections and all, than listen to daft punk caricatures of people who should know better than to allow themselves to be tainted by this computerised bilge.
    For anyone who wants to hear real vocal talent, try an Eagles live gig, if they have yet another farwell tour! Now that's what I call talent....

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  47. I like Buble's repertoire, without question. I like the "sound", timbre of his voice and his intonation. I DO NOT like his use of auto-tune. Those who argue it is only a tweak are missing the point. Auto-tune acts like a sampler, on the fly from millisecond to millisecond. You may as well sample him into a work station and program him into a synth. This isn't what live music is supposed to be about in my book, but if you like that sort of thing then it's a personal choice.

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  48. Ah yes, how 'the business' just loves autotune. The holy grail of the management is to dispense with those pesky, unpredictable musicians and singers. To just get some pretty boys and girls looking good and do away with that tiresome artistry and creative talent is the ultimate goal... get your backing tracks pasted up by some DJ types, slap on the old autotune and throw in a bit of rapping for good measure. Job done, nice hit, cash rolling in and no need to deal with musicians at all! Hurrah!! If only I was joking or exaggerating, but after so many years in the 'the business' sadly I am not :(

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  49. shut the fuck up! Try to play some oh his Wam-up videos now on IG let's see if it is autotuned :) In the first play's, I dont think Mike is the only artist who use that device right? ;) Im a big fan here, and I find this kinda offensive

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  50. Thanks for re-starting this debate which is nearly five years old now.

    We were writing about one show. We were disappointed with the lack of response that we had from ITV producers of it. We suspect that they ( Fiona Clark, Lee Connolly Katie Rawcliffe) are the ones who probably DO know the specific background as to what happened with this show, and why Autotune was used.

    This post has had huge readership. But has the issue ever damaged Buble's career in the slightest? Emphatically ...NO!

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  51. Saw him singing a cappella here in Rio de Janeiro during a show. He has a fantastic voice, I can't deny!

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