Maybe they should be watching England's "X Factor" instead. A major scandal is brewing over revelations that the show enhanced the vocals of some contestants during Saturday's season premiere, with some of the very obviously tweaked vocals so clumsily edited they could have been included on a T-Pain single.
According to BBC News, a spokesperson for the show — created and produced by former "Idol" judge Simon Cowell (who is bringing it to the U.S. in 2011) — admitted that post-production work was done on some of the singers' vocals because of interference caused by the number of microphones used during filming.
One of the most obvious enhancements was made to contestant Gamu Nhengu's take on Katrina and the Waves' iconic "Walking on Sunshine," during which her vocals are very clearly massaged to keep her in key. The post-production face-lift was almost laughable during singer Shirlena Johnson's cover of Duffy's "Mercy," which had her struggling to stay in tune even amid heavy-handed studio trickery.
"The judges make their decisions at the auditions stage based on what they hear on the day, live in the arena," the spokesman explained about the enhancements added after Saturday's first program, which was viewed by more than 11 million people. "The footage and sound is then edited and dubbed into a finished program, to deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers. When it gets to the live shows, it will be all live."
The revelation has resulted in a raft of complaints by angry fans, who felt cheated after Cowell told Nhengu that she was "really talented," which helped her advance to the next round.
One contestant who reached the live finals last year slammed the show for trying to deceive fans. Daniel Evans wrote on his Twitter page, "I am big campaigner against auto-tune in the music industry, it's all over the charts but to hear it on a so-called live show is just plain sad. ... It's like an epidemic, and I won't be watching again. Sad times for real music fans."
According to England's Daily Mirror, the vocal trickery expands well beyond the initial audition rounds, with one former unnamed production staffer saying, "It was an open secret on the show that Auto-Tune was used to both make contestants slightly more on-key or off-key. On some occasions it was used to such extremes that while the contestant may have sounded like they were hitting the right note, the backing band had gone right out of tune. ... It has been used for a long time on the show both for the auditions and the live shows."
The paper also reported that Cowell ordered an immediate ban on Auto-Tune being used in future shows, while insisting to friends that he was shocked by the claims and plans to launch an investigation.
What do you think of a reality TV talent competition using Auto-Tune on contestants? Tell us in the comments!