Chaka Khan may walk "Through the Fire," but you'll never see her walk into a studio where auto-tune is being used.
The legendary vocalist, 69, is opening up about her frustrations with singers who use autotune to alter the pitch of their voices in recordings. In a conversation with the New York Post's Page Six, Khan acknowledged that the music industry has some "very fine young artists" in it, although she's not a fan of those using the pitch corrector.
"There is some great stuff out there and there are some great artists," she said at the Angel Ball in New York City last week. "There's some very fine young artists out there doing great, great work that I am impressed with. But the others, they just need to get them a job at the Post Office — they are always hiring! People are using Auto-Tune. They need to get to the Post Office quick."
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Auto-Tune was introduced in 1996 by the company Antares Audio Technologies, initially to give artists the ability to correct notes that were off-key or inaccurate, but it's since been repurposed to let artists manipulate and distort vocals.
The effect took on a new life artistically when Cher tapped it for her 1998 single "Believe," and reached new heights in the mid-'00s when T-Pain began to use it as his signature sound on a variety of hit records.
Other artists saw success with the effect around that time, like Kanye West, whose 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak featured him primarily singing with Auto-Tune. A more recent generation of hitmakers in Travis Scott and Playboi Carti have since followed suit.
But the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, who attended the fundraiser for Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, isn't co-signing autotune anytime soon. She also told Page Six that she feels there are a number of women vocalists who are insecure in themselves. "I feel very sad. It saddens me deeply that so much… insecurity is present in these girls. They really need to know that they are the gold and that they really are precious."
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Khan has been hesitant to accept sampling in the past, too, when it comes to altering voices — more specifically her own. Back in August, she spoke about West's 2003 debut single "Through the Wire," which sampled her classic "Through the Fire," and expressed that she was "upset about sounding like a chipmunk." The song, written about West's near-fatal car accident that left his mouth wired shut, used a sped-up sample of Khan's hit. But while she gave him clearance to sample the song, Khan told Good Day D.C. earlier this year that she didn't expect West to tinker with her voice the way he did.
"I've not heard from him, and I'm not looking to hear from him. That's what he did with his music," she said. "I was upset about sounding like a chipmunk, 'cause he didn't put that when he asked [if he could] sample my song. He didn't mention he was going to speed it up three times its normal speed. Had he, I would've had something to say. But since I didn't think of that, believe me, I think of it now. [When someone asks to sample my music] I ask, 'How are we gonna do this?'"
The singer previously said in a 2020 interview with VladTV that West "warmed" her heart when she found out he listened to the song during his recovery. But despite getting paid for the sample, she said that "it was an insult, period. I'm not doing this for money. Do you understand? I was very upset with that."
In June 2021, on Netflix series This Is Pop, T-Pain opened up about backlash he got from introducing autotune in his songs. As he explained, Usher told him he "kinda f---ed up music" by using the effect. "I didn't understand," T-Pain said at the time. "I thought he was joking at first, but then he was like, 'Yeah man you really f---ed up music for real singers.'"
T-Pain said at the time that it became "the very moment that started a four-year depression" for him, while Usher later explained that the two had a separate conversation about the comments, and that it was "hurtful to know that he had experienced that kind of hardship in life."
"Private conversations for me have always been intended to uplift. But when or if people get pieces of it, they can always have some other interpretation," Usher said. "But we've spoken since and we're good."