25 years ago, Cher released a song that would change the sound of pop music Cher's song "Believe" was released on Oct. 19, 1998, and it became the first hit song to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — something that's still all over pop music 25 years later.

25 years ago, Cher released a song that would change the sound of pop music

25 years ago, Cher released a song that would change the sound of pop music

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Cher's song "Believe" was released on Oct. 19, 1998, and it became the first hit song to use Auto-Tune as an instrument — something that's still all over pop music 25 years later.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Twenty-five years ago today, Cher released a song that would change the sound of pop music, and I know you've heard it. It's "Believe."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BELIEVE")

CHER: (Singing) Do you believe in life after love?

MARTIN: You heard that little warble in her voice? That was produced by Auto-Tune. That's a studio tool that digitally changes a singer's pitch. Cher's producers used it in a way that most people had never heard before.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BELIEVE")

CHER: (Singing) Do you believe in life after love?

MARTIN: And savvy producers took notice. Soon that sound was popping up all over the place.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah. T-Pain became an early ambassador for Auto-Tune after he heard it in a Jennifer Lopez remix.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

T-PAIN: And from then on, I was like, I got to find that effect. And once I found it, I - you know, I knew that was going to make me different, because up until then, I had just been singing and singing and - but I wanted something to make me stand out, something to make me different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUY U A DRANK (SHAWTY SNAPPIN')")

T-PAIN: (Singing) She snappin'. Oh.

Auto-Tune to the rescue.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUY U A DRANK (SHAWTY SNAPPIN')")

T-PAIN: (Singing) We in the bed like oh, oh, oh. Oh...

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. It certainly rescued him. T-Pain made it his signature sound, and it landed him in the Top 10 over and over in the 2000s. But he wants to emphasize that Auto-Tune wasn't why he had all those hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

T-PAIN: People thought that was making my songs, and I'm like, no, you still got to make good songs. You can't throw on Michael Jordan's shoes and think that you're going to be the greatest basketball player of all time. It's just not going to happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUY U A DRANK (SHAWTY SNAPPIN')")

T-PAIN: (Singing) Oh, oh.

MARTIN: And today, 25 years after Cher dropped "Believe" on us, pop music is filled with that bit of studio trickery.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish).

DRAKE: (Singing) You got my mind in a terrible place.

LIL DURK: (Singing) Never thought I'd make it out.

SZA: (Singing) And I'm the main one crying.

MARTIN: Andy Hildebrand invented Auto-Tune back in 1997, but he originally thought it would just be used to make tiny corrections to a singer's pitch. Here he is from a 2004 interview.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ANDY HILDEBRAND: The singer's first take is often their best. It's full of vitality and emotion. After the take, their producer will announce that's great, but the second phrase was pitchy. Let's do it again. What Auto-Tune lets the producer do is fix the first take.

MARTÍNEZ: And here's the amazing thing - Hildebrand developed the original algorithm for a very different industry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HILDEBRAND: That computation allows oil companies to use seismic data to map subsurface strata to find oil.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. The same algorithm used to scan the Earth for oil deposits could be modified to scan a singer's voice for the right pitch.

MARTIN: Earlier this year, Andy Hildebrand won a Grammy Award for his invention, recognizing his lasting contribution to pop music and, to a lesser extent, oil exploration.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BELIEVE")

CHER: (Singing) Do you believe in life after love? I can feel something inside me say I really don't think you're strong enough, no. Do you believe in...

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