Surveying the rise of auto-tune in the music industry, Lessley Anderson passes along a defense of the oft-used plug-in from its creator, Dr. Andy Hildebrand:
In interviews, Hildebrand handles the question of “is Auto-Tune evil?” with characteristic dry wit. His stock answer is, “My wife wears makeup, does that make her evil?” But on the day I asked him, he answered, “I just make the car. I don’t drive it down the wrong side of the road.” The T-Pains and Chers of the world are the crazy drivers, in Hildebrand’s analogy. The artists that tune with subtlety are like his wife, tasteful people looking to put their best foot forward.
Another way you could answer the question: recorded music is, by definition, artificial. The band is not singing live in your living room. Microphones project sound. Mixing, overdubbing, and multi-tracking allow instruments and voices to be recorded, edited, and manipulated separately. There are multitudes of effects, like compression, which brings down loud sounds and amplifies quiet ones, so you can hear an artist taking a breath in between words. Reverb and delay create echo effects, which can make vocals sound fuller and rounder. When recording went from tape to digital, there were even more opportunities for effects and manipulation, and Auto-Tune is just one of many of the new tools available.
A previous defense of auto-tune on the Dish is here.