With news that producers on the British version of “X Factor” used Auto-Tune software to help sweeten the voices of a few contestants, I can’t say I’m that surprised. Like “American Idol,” Simon Cowell’s “X Factor” aims to find the music industry’s next big superstar. If the singers on “X Factor” and “Idol” are going to have to compete with contemporary pop acts — many of whom barely do an interview without a little audio sweetening in post-production — can you blame producers for a little tweaking here and there to polish their product?
In fact, I wonder if Cowell’s old show might have gained a bit of shine from some tuning enhancements in the past. Here’s my pick for five “American Idol” contestants who would have benefited from some minor pitch-correction.
If the stripy-haired single mom rocker had a little pitch help during the show’s inaugural season, then her outlasting Tamyra Gray wouldn’t have been so hard to swallow.
Thanks to zany hairstyles and a strange ability to make pre-pubescent girls weep on command, Sanjaya was a pop culture force to be reckoned with during season six. While his less-than-stellar vocals helped make him fodder for late night talk show hosts, it would have been killer TV if he had been hooked up with ProTools the week he was eliminated. Manufactured drama is apparently what “X Factor” producers are after, so what would have been no better send-off than letting Sanjaya have the last laugh? (Even if said laugh was digitally enhanced?)
Don’t get me wrong: The season eight third-placer very rarely had pitch problems. But how badass would his “Scream On” moment have been if it was T-Pained out?
I always had a soft spot for Mikalah’s sassy-like-a-drag-queen personality, but as soon as she opened her mouth to sing I would break into cold sweats. Her voicebox sounded like a warped record that had been left on a radiator accidentally. Gordon’s semi-final “Somewhere” still haunts my dreams.
Tim Urban (or Lee DeWyze or Anybody from Season Nine)
Season nine could have been subtitled “When Pitchy Attacks.” From the final two (Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox) to atonal hearth-throb Tim Urban to semi-finalists like Haeley Vaughn and Michelle Delamor (shudder!), it seemed like nobody could actually sing on key this year. (Hell, even my fave performance of the season, Katelyn Epperly’s “The Scientist,” suffered from a spectacular misfire of a final note.) But the one person who could have really used a boost was Paige Miles, a girl who didn’t get any screen time until the live shows began … when she had laryngitis and couldn’t sing. At all. The longer she (somehow) survived on the show, the worse she sounded, culminating in Miles’ “Against All Odds,” arguably the worst “Idol” finalist performance in the history of the show. The “Idol” doctors couldn’t get Paige’s voice back, but I bet ProTools could have!
Who would you put on this list? Do you think “Idol” would benefit from a little audio sweetening? Or do you think it ruins the credibility of the franchise? Sound off in the comments below! And make sure you check out the embedded video we created of the classic “Like A Virgin” Keith audition, now boosted with Auto-Tune!