NOTE: Sony Japan tried to have the video above removed from YouTube by filing a DMCA takedown notice, thereby proving themselves to be even bigger dicks than I accuse them of being below. But I fought back, and won. The video is now restored to YouTube.
SCANDAL pretty much combine everything I've ever liked into one convenient and unique musical package. I've seen them live, really live, so I know they put on an amazing show. I buy all their stuff. Their most recent release is this:
It's their yearly live disc release - this one's of their special one-off show at Osaka-Jo Hall in March of 2013. Osaka-Jo Hall is one of the biggest arenas in Japan and their hometown venue - when they started out, their first shows were literally in a park across the street from it, and they've dreamed of playing there since then. This was the biggest show they've ever played (bigger than Budokan), and the most emotional for them.
So it's really too bad that their record label borked the disc. I feel like I wasted about $70.
Watch the video at the top, if you haven't yet. Don't ask me what's up with their outfits - there is a meaning behind them, but it's too obtuse if you don't follow them closely. (They do change to regular black outfits later in the show.) Anyway, the point is the Auto-tune.
SCANDAL's always been kind of a weird band in that they straddle the line between being pop idols and rock stars, but they themselves insist that they are a rock band. They do really play, they do really sing, they write at least some of their music, and they want people to respect them as a band. And in the old days, at least, they were really raw and powerful, like a Japanese version of The Runaways.
So it's out of character that this whole disc is just an Auto-tune extravaganza. It's like T-Pain style stuff in almost every song - I could tell there was Auto-tune going on before I even compared it to the original M-On footage in the above video. If it's not as obvious to you, try listening with headphones - in addition to the perfect pitch, listen for abrupt pitch changes that don't sound human. Once you hear it once, you'll hear it everywhere.
Now, I'm the one that put that video together - I didn't do it to make the band look bad, I did it to make the Auto-tune look bad. In fact, I don't think Auto-tune really has any place in rock music and I'd prefer if they left it off completely, even if it means the girls go off key every once in a while. Hey, that's rock 'n' roll. And they know that - I doubt the band themselves had any input in this.
This is the interface for Auto-tune 7. This is the root of much of the musical evil we've had to endure for the past ten years or so, right here. All the humanity-killing, soul-sucking electronic sorcery that turns a normal human voice into a robot - this is it.
In fact, Auto-tune isn't supposed to be heard. It's supposed to be invisible, or "transparent" in audio parlance (and it may be on their previous Budokan disc - it's not clear whether they used Auto-tune on that release or not). You see near the top left, under "Pitch Correction Control", those three knobs and one button are there so you can adjust Auto-tune to where it will correct tuning issues without being obvious about it.
My guess is that whatever summer intern Epic Records had working on this disc just set these controls incorrectly and then didn't bother listening to the result. "Retune Speed" is the most likely culprit, combined with misuse of the "Humanize" control. How this actually got approved for release, though, I have no idea. I would think a person higher up in the food chain at Epic would have to listen to a major release before putting it out on the market.
It's really a shame, because it was a great show (you can still watch the entire M-On version), and one I know the band will remember forever. But this isn't a good disc for us fans to remember it by - this isn't what they sounded like, and in fact no one naturally sounds like this. My hope in posting this is just that more of their other fans will take notice and force their record label to treat them as a rock band and/or actually listen to their future releases before putting them out there and charging us money for them.
Some of their fans may not notice or care, but if they want to broaden their fan base to real rock fans, this kind of thing doesn't help.