Who cares about autotune?
One of the more annoying properties of inventions is that you can't uninvent them. Not even for short periods of time. You can always pretend they don't exist by banning them, but knowledge is clever stuff and will easily outmanoeuvre such dull thinking.
Take the nuclear bomb. Creating the technology that has the capacity to obliterate us might seem, in hindsight, a bad idea. And no matter how many non-proliferation treaties the Western world's lawyers rustle up, we will forever live in the sinister shadow of a nuclear armageddon until somebody invents a device to erase our collective memory - one that isn't a nuclear bomb.
When Dr Harold (Andy) Hildebrand left his post as a research scientist in the geophysical industry to found Antares Audio Technologies in 1990 to seek ways he could use his previous experience to improve the process of digital sampling, it was inevitable that success on his part would mean the music industry would feel the effects.
And so it has. After a couple of early successes, Dr Andy then went on to invent Auto-Tune in 1997, a programme that corrects pitch problems in a singer's vocals. Just as Les Paul transformed the possibilities of the electric guitar through his solid-wood designs, and indeed his multi-track recording inventions (an area where Dr Andy has also found success); just as with Dr Robert (Bob) Moog's eponymous synthesizer, autotune has taken its place in the producer's toolbox of handy enhancements.
But where Les Paul's and Bob Moog's inventions are considered to have opened up possibilities for music-making, Dr Andy's autotune has generally been seen as a reductive tool; put bluntly, a cheat. Like an athlete using steroids to enhance his or her performance, some see autotune as the refuge for vocal fakes and frauds.
I don't agree. A singer's voice is just another instrument that has already been enhanced by the use of technology over the years. Almost nobody minds when a microphone is used to capture a singer's sound and then regurgitate it through a set of speakers, an amplification process that interferes with the purity of the natural voice. Or when a sound engineer sits in the middle of a gig and twiddles the knobs on the sound-desk to amplify the noise he or she wants to create, which is quite different to the unamplified sound on the stage.
So what's the problem with another addition to the armoury of electronic gizmos to manipulate the audience's aural experience? Especially if it is used with ingenuity as was the case with Cher's hit Believe.
There is a problem, though, when it comes to a talent show such as The X Factor. I don't care that the producers are manipulating my emotions; all artforms - including TV - do that. I don't care whether they use autotune or not, or indeed who uses it.
But I do care if autotune is not offered to all the contestants. If a singer knows it is available and chooses not to use it, that is fine. But to have the producers select who is put through one mixer to help them avoid another (in the shape of Cowell and chums) is wrong and certainly not in tune with the spirit of the show.