20 Years Of Cher's 'Believe' And Its Auto-Tune Legacy Cher's 1998 hit "Believe" turns 20 this year. There's a long history of artists using vocal modifications, but this song brings the Auto-Tune front and center.
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20 Years Of Cher's 'Believe' And Its Auto-Tune Legacy

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20 Years Of Cher's 'Believe' And Its Auto-Tune Legacy

20 Years Of Cher's 'Believe' And Its Auto-Tune Legacy

20 Years Of Cher's 'Believe' And Its Auto-Tune Legacy

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/659611154/659611168" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Cher's dance anthem "Believe" was released 20 years ago this month. Rick Stewart/Getty hide caption

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Rick Stewart/Getty

Cher's dance anthem "Believe" was released 20 years ago this month.

Rick Stewart/Getty

Believe it or not, Cher's dance anthem "Believe" has just turned 20 years old. The song, released on Oct. 22, 1998, kicked off a Cher renaissance, cemented her role as a pop icon and popularized a controversial fixture of pop music today — Auto-Tune.

It could've easily been simply a gimmick; instead, Auto-Tune became a very prominent tool in a lot of pop, R&B and hip-hop production. There's a long history of artists using different vocal modifications, but in the past, producers aimed to keep those alterations disguised. Instead of using effects in hopes that the audience wouldn't notice — just to make a vocal a little cleaner, clearer and more on pitch — "Believe" brings the Auto-Tune front and center.

Auto-Tune sounds like digital stretching or flexing, as you hear a singer kind of slide up and down the register in a way that doesn't sound natural. And though the tactic is used seemingly arbitrarily in today's pop soundscape, the impetus for music's infatuation with Auto-Tune can be traced back to Cher's dance pop song from 20 years ago. The deliberate distortion of her vocals could have been perceived as a gimmick, but, decades later, the success behind "Believe" lives on.

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Correction Oct. 23, 2018

In the audio of this story, we incorrectly say that Imogen Heap used Auto-Tune in her song "Hide and Seek." She actually used a Vocoder.