About Those Vocoder Effects…

If you’ve been following the progress of the new George Michael single, True Faith, it won’t have escaped your notice that there’s an uproar that George has used some vocoder style effects on his vocals for this track.  Now, I have to admit some bias – ever since I was a kid, I’ve been partial to this kind of effect on records. And today, I still love it when it’s used to good effect (see what I did there?) like, say, the Black Eyed Peas  do. Maybe, then, it’s not so surprising that I really like George’s new version of True Faith.  However, that being said, it’s a bit shocking to me that people are so upset that George used this effect on one of his records. I understand that some people don’t like this kind of effect, but some people are getting really annoyed about George’s record.

It makes no sense. The fact is – these kind of effects are used on loads of massive international hit records, and people don’t get upset about those.  The only conclusion I can draw is that people are getting upset about the vocoder effects, because it’s George.  I hope the critical reception George received for this record in some sections doesn’t deter him from moving forward with interesting new music.  I’d hate to see him descend into making middle of the road rubbish aimed at vaguely crazy people that buy CDs from the reduced price section at Tescos. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a bit mental, but surely, there are endless Susan Boyle, Cliff Richard and Michael Ball records they can buy?

So, I say – stick with it George!  You’re not that ancient!  Keep making cool music – your existing audience will be there, and the new audience who buy from iTunes won’t take too long to notice…

17 thoughts on “About Those Vocoder Effects…

  1. The reason over the outcry is exactly what you said: it’s because it’s George.

    One of the many reasons we love George is his voice — that smooth, soulful, powerful, delicate voice that is without peer. And to hear it processed and synthesized seems beneath him.

    That’s not to say that he doesn’t have the freedom to do it. It’s just that it would be a bit like Celine Dion rapping — it’s not what people like about her, and it doesn’t play to her strengths.

    With that said, I encourage everyone to buy the track (at least for charity purposes).

  2. I understand that some people may not *like* these effects (although you wouldn’t think it was that many judging by sales of records with this kind of sound). However, I just don’t understand in what sense it’s “beneath” him. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong or bad about this kind of sound.

  3. Brilliantly said…

    I know that “George” has so much creative talent and he can easily use so much more to enhance what he does musically…and use it well…
    I loved “True Faith” from the moment I heard it and for the most part it was because it was different for “George” just as “Freeek” was….but he can interpret music in a way that not many can and I applaud him for it and look forward to so much more…

  4. in a way, it’s a win-win for george. those who get it, love it. the ones who hate the song are paying him and his voice a backhanded compliment.

  5. When I said that it was “beneath” him, I was trying to express what I gather is the source of some people’s disappointment. (I’ve already ordered my copy, as you know😉

    Vocoders were used in the 70s for a funk/disco effect, and the rise of auto-tune in the past decade has been largely to mask voices of singers who can’t sing (not naming names, but you know who they are). And of course, the hip-hop community and the dance market has also used them for effect.

    Although George is intensely creative and has used tons of devices and instruments in his work, this is the first time he has altered his *voice* in a perceptible way. And, to someone who loves his golden voice, it seems strange and unnecessary. You don’t see a Buble, a Mariah, a Christina doing it. Their gift is in their voices.

    He said the Helicon gave him beautiful harmonies; until now, he’s achieved beautiful harmonies with background vocals… so you have to admit it’s a left turn.

    And of course it fits the song he made, because the song is inseparable from it. That doesn’t mean that people won’t be disappointed.

    Again, with that said, I don’t mind him taking chances and experimenting. I just don’t want him to tamper with that voice… add a ukelele if you like… put in some Moogs and 808s… but the voice… that voice should be pristine.

  6. @Brian,

    Well, Mariah Carey certainly has used these kind of effects…

    Plenty of great singers have used these historically, and still do today, to make great records. Not so great singers, even really bad singers, use them too… also to make great records. What is the problem? It’s in no sense a second-class option musically to use a vocoder style effect on a record.

    So, when people use phrases along the lines, “George doesn’t need to use things like this”, it just doesn’t make any sense. Of course, he doesn’t *need* to… it’s a creative *choice*.

  7. Some artists, like Elton John and Celine Dion, cater to their audience. They’ve got a sound their audiences love, and produce this sound again and again and again. Typically once a year, a new record comes out, and it always sells. To most people, it all “sounds the same”, but to those who adore the sound will recognise a new song as something new and great/fantastic/super/moving or whatever it is that tickles them about their favourite artist, and be happy.

    Although artists like this isn’t for everyone, they have a huge following who will – without fail – buy and love their new stuff, because there are no “surprises” there. They know they can spend their money, put the record on and love it – because they always do, and because the sound never changes.

    George isn’t that kinda artist. At least not anymore. He’s done the big ballads and shown off his voice and those who were with him from the beginning will most likely say this is what they love about him. His sound, his voice, his lyrics.

    Since “Patience”, it’s been a whole new bottle of wax. Suddenly you can’t just buy the record, put it on and love everything. Suddenly it takes effort, because it’s not the sound you’re used to, it’s not the soaring vocals you’re used to – in fact, for some, it’ll be like discovering a new artist and learning to love their sound.

    He lost a lot of hard-core fans through “Freeek!” – others loved it to bits. Youngsters discovered that George was just a little bit cool.

    After “Patience”, the output has been – let’s face it – different than what “we’re used to”. For some, it’s too much of a change. For others, it’s fine, cause it doesn’t mean that much to them all in all. They just like him as an artist and get on with it.

    He’s entitled to play around with his sound, his voice, his style, whatever. What he can’t expect is for his “core audience” to “get it”. But, you win some and you lose some.

    As he once said; “The moment I start writing music for my audience is the moment I start writing shit as far as I’m concerned.” If you say so, George…😉

  8. His voice is an instrument. He uses keyboards and computers to program non-keyboard instruments. All he’s doing is re-programming his vocal instrument.

  9. Terri wrote: They’ve got a sound their audiences love…

    Would there be Kissing A Fool without Faith?
    Would there be Cowboys And Angels without Freedom?

    Those hit singles aren’t necessarily the most beautiful ones. At least I like the ballads more than the big hits, I love the songs George presents his beautiful voice. Even if “Older” was a bit too electronic (keyboard-heavy so to say) for me, he proved that he can do the same songs acousticly for the “Unplugged”. For “Patience” I miss such acoustic arrangements…

    I say, if you don’t like the new stuff then stick to the old.😉

    I had to get used to Freeek, but instantly liked True Faith. Even tho I have heard the original tune as a teenager, I didn’t recognise it when I heard George’s arrangement. And after listening to the original version I found it quite odd. LOL

    If I knew to get the same sound like on “Club Tropicana”, I would…. eat a wax apple and watch “Sons of the Desert”. Honolulu baby, I’m coming😀

  10. @terri….just skim reading through your last entry.you said post patience his music takes more “effort”….i’m sure you once said(or near to,reagarding this is not real love)”err is it just me,or is the(your quotes) most relevant song GM has recorded in years…”…i’m sure i’m not far of the mark…but please,shoot me down in flames!

  11. @Robski

    Yeah, I probably did say something about “This is not real love” to that effect. I’m not saying that I haven’t liked his output since before “Patience”. I quite liked both “Patience” (although it’s nowhere near my favourite album) and some of the later singles, with a couple of exceptions.

    Regarding “Patience”, of course there are songs on this album that doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to like, but on the first few spins I didn’t really jump of joy. However, after I’d given it a fair amount of time, only a few songs *didn’t* tickle my fancy. Mainly, funnily enough, songs that were (to my liking) too heavily processed.

    Maybe he’s becoming more… musically intelligent with age (one should hope so anyway), and I’m just not patient enough anymore to take the time and effort to “get there”.

    Also, to be fair, my taste in music has changed slightly since I was 15 and got into “the George Michael sound” – or so I should hope, anyway.😉

  12. @terri for me patience is only equaled(if at all) only to older…..the rest are great,but a bit suspect in area’s….
    talking of first few spins…..regarding older….apart from the already released songs(that i grew to love) only the strangest things(not the wanky 97 version) jumped out to me and hooked me up..all be it an amazing album
    i think(an easy assumption) GM was always musically intelligent from the out start,he just got a bit more cock(no pun intented)sure in his latter career!…….P.S i’m sure you owe me a soup dish or two!:)….give this track a try…it will come to you!

  13. I really don’t understand the reason for the upset. George Michael is George Michael, and he’s entitled to inserting new elements to his music, especially upon revision of another group’s song. The man is a legend, his voice is exceptional even through those effects, and the song has made such an impact on me personally that I’ve heard it more than a 1000 times and has yet to grow old in my mind. Tons of groups and amazing artists have used Vocoder in the past, I don’t see why the fuss. It’s just a change of style.

  14. Have you heard Buble’s latest christmas album?

    It’s dripping with vocal effects. Vocoder is more than noticeable.

    No one is safe

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