Kanye West's new album features prominent use of a pitch correcting technique. Apparently the trade name of this technique, as well as the proprietary product's name is called Auto-Tune (wikipedia link). I remember its use (or at least remember its characteristic sound) from Cher's, "Believe". I had noticed this kind of sound again listening to lil Wayne a while back, and it's use particularly piqued my interest when I heard Wayne live on SNL. Kanye West's use finally drove me to wikipedia.
The techinque is basically vocoding the person's voice to whatever pitch is close, or something like that. I found the wikipedia exerpt from the Boston Herald pretty funny, "Country stars Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have all confessed to using Auto-Tune in performance, claiming it is a safety net that guarantees ticket buyers a good performance."
It makes for a pretty cool sound, and I enjoy its use in West's album. That being said, I find its use a little unnerving. It kind of cheapens the experience of a performance when you think to yourself, "I can probably do that." Lil Wayne's guitar work on the SNL episode was pretty sad to watch. His performance was cheapened (from my perspective) because I knew he wasn't experienced or good with the guitar. Will that happen with the use of Auto-Tune? Or am I just an arrogant asshole? I'm sure geesers like me were thinking this exact same thing when electronic music began to emerge. But I love electronic music even though I know all it takes is a lot of time dragging the mouse and using some software. The creative process still exists, and it's still music, so it's still good. I guess Auto-Tune is just another sound, another art form.