CLODA LYNAM ON THE EVOLUTION OF THE BACKING TRACK IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
IT ALL started when timbuk3 came onto the scene with their now forgotten track the future is so bright i gotta wear shades. They were a band featuring two people and a beat box. Hence the idea of a backing track was born. Now most major artists such as Katy Perry, Usher, Cheryl Cole, Robbie Williams, Victoria Beckham and not to mention all the X-Factor contestants use backing tracks to enhance their performances (or even God forbid to be their performance).
The use of backing tracks has caused quite a lot of controversy. It has drawn criticism from other artists such as Elton John. People feel that backing tracks take from the energy of a live performance. There is no interaction between the singer and the band. The track is not reliable, is more likely to skip or stop. In such cases there is no back up or any way of covering up the mistake and artists such as Ashley Simpson Jennifer Hudson and numerous others have been left with egg on their microphone.
The other problem with a backing track is, that it is much easier for the artist to sound good. Can these artists sing without the enhancement of a track? Without the tools in the recording studios would these artists suffer? It is frustrating when you attend the concert of a band that you hold in high esteem only to find that they sing out of tune, miming or lip synching. Using a backing track is the equivalent of karaoke. You may as well sit at home and listen to the c.d. not to mention the waste of money for the ticket. Why pay for a concert when you can just go out buy singstar superstar, put on a dress and some make up and become your own Brtiney.
Having said that some artists defend their use of backing tracks, for instance Pet Shop Boys claim that ' There is no sneaky secrecy about it', their electronically based music would sound ' sloppy' if played live. A view that is shared by many other electronic groups. Even Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters has admitted to using a pre-recorded vocal track to augment his live vocals on some songs. Band member Norbet Stachel agrees, stating, it's better to use the track than for Waters to lose his voice.
So taking all that into account I feel backing tracks when used correctly and in the right instance can improve the quality of a song. However a problem arises when artists use the tracks in place of live vocals, thus abusing their intended use. Superstar and artists I beseech you please allow yourself the opportunity to fluff your lines and to sing out of tune. I'd prefer that to listening to what is more or less the radio with 50,000 other people.