Whether you are an auto-tune fan or not, I think we can agree that T-Pain is not afraid to innovate. He popularized the use of auto-tune in songs like “Buy You a Drank” and “Bartender,” mixed singing and rapping into one flow (“Hard&B”), and was a fan-favorite featuring artist on a variety of other work such as Flo Rida’s “Low” and Lil Wayne’s “Got Money.” However, in the Netflix series This Is Pop, T-Pain gets real about his struggles during the backlash of auto-tune, recounting a conversation with Usher that kicked off depression. A turning point in the conversation of the love-hate relationship between musicians, audiences, and auto-tune was T-Pain’s acoustic Tiny Desk performance in 2014, where he showed off that he does not need auto-tune to sound good. Indeed, he has a strong voice all on his own.
Still, there was a sense that T-Pain had something to prove, perhaps motivating him to join the first cast of The Masked Singer in 2019, a television show where celebrities hide their identities behind costumes and sing, only revealing who they are when they are eliminated or when they win. T-Pain ended up revealing himself at the very end, by winning, and surprising the judges. One of his star performances during the season was of Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me,” and that song actually makes another appearance on his new cover album On Top of the Covers.