Britney Spears’ Music Producer William Orbit Defends Her Amid Auto-Tune Controversy: “Charisma Is Charisma”

Britney Spears and William Orbit
Famed music producer William Orbit spoke out again to defend Britney Spears amid her continuing auto-tune controversy, telling critics that software can't manufacture charisma Jamie McCarthy/Getty; Dave M Benett/Getty (inset)

It's just her against the music. Weeks after an auto-tune-free version of Britney Spears' "Alien" leaked online, the pop superstar is still getting flak for digitally altering her voice on the finished product. Her producer on the song, William Orbit, doesn't get what the big deal is, and has repeatedly defended the singer on his Facebook page.

After first trying to diffuse the controversy by telling critics that the leaked clip was of Spears' warm-up, music industry veteran Orbit — who has worked with the likes of Madonna and All Saints — began responding to individual commenters. When the comments grew too numerous to keep up with, he decided instead to write a second post on the subject. "I never thought this debate would be quite so heated," he admitted.

"Autotune has always been a hot-button topic," the British producer wrote. "Not as much as the issue of photoshopping in the fashion press. But more than say, the use of CGI, looping, and stunt doubles in the movies." 

In the end, though, digital editing is just a very small part of Spears' big picture, he explained. "Regardless of the fun and games that we have with studio production, the main thing to keep in mind with Ms. Spears is that tens of millions (hundreds of millions?) of people enjoy the music," he continued. "That's pretty much the be-all and end-all of it. And charisma is charisma. No software ever invented can manufacture that."

Of the leaked "Alien" clip from her late-2013 Britney Jean album, he added, "[It's] just a shame that someone put it out there. Like, as if they posted duff takes from a movie. Or scans of scrunched-up sheets from the wastepaper basket under a writer's desk? Or photos of the rind-bits left over from a chef's finest a bolognese."

That said, he's not "angry" about the controversy. "I could never get angry about pop music. Or any music," Orbit wrote. "I could get angry about the growing inequality gap, the SCOTUS interference in women's rights to their own bodies, the fact that some people actually deride science these days, the fact that nurses don't get paid properly, LGBT rights, animal rights. And so on. But music? It's a blessing. You cannot be angry with a blessing."

As for those who say auto-tune is a kind of "con"? That kind of language, in Orbit's opinion, is "completely inappropriate" for the topic at hand. "So many things that we trust are misrepresented to us in order for somebody to gouge a few more pennies. Often with harmful results. But music is a different universe," he noted. "Nobody has ever been harmed by a Britney Spears record, unless a stack of them fell onto a CD factory worker."

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