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Was Simon Cowell's X Factor Really "Faking It?"

Conspiracy Corner, Comic Con 2009 Brick

Has Simon Cowell's X Factor been too pitchy perfect? Will the American version of the talent show be similarly in tune—make that, in Auto-Tune? And is Glee to blame? 

Here's what we know:

Yes, the original, U.K. edition of the Cowell-created X Factor has copped to digitally futzing with vocals. Or, as a British newspaper put it, the show was "faking it."

No, no matter how many times we listen to 18-year-old Gamu Nhengu's version of "Walking on Sunshine"—the audition from Saturday's X Factor season premiere that ignited the controversy—we can't tell if it was futzed with or not. We obviously are deaf. "Absolutely disgusting use of..Auto-Tune...does X Factor really think we are idiots?," one fan wrote on the show's Website, per London's Telegraph.

No, X Factor isn't saying which vocals it has—or hasn't—futzed with, or how long it's been futzing. Speaking to the BBC, an X Factor spokesman made it sound as if, as a rule, the Auto-Tuner gets pulled out during the show's pre-taped audition rounds "to deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers," but that once the show goes live, "it will all be live." 

Yes, X Factor has been accused by London's Daily Mirror of  "surprisingly wide scale" futzing—"including [in] the live finals." 

No, according to the same report, Cowell was not in on the knob-turning, and, in fact, on Monday night "ordered an immediate ban" on futzing.

No, we don't know where the American version of X Factor will stand on Auto-Tuning. A FreemantleMedia spokesman said Tuesday the production company had no comment. X Factor is due to hit these airwaves, via Fox, in fall 2011. (But the company did say Auto-Tuning was off-limits for its other top franchise: "We have never, nor would we ever, use Auto-Tuning during the American Idol competition.")

No, X Factor didn't invent futzing. Hardly. Says Kevan Cyka, a producer (Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, etc.) and exec at Nashville's iShine Records, "It's just understood that you're going to tune the vocals"—in the studio, and live. 

But what about TV talent shows?  

"It's not surprising," Cyka says. "But it seems to defeat the purpose of finding out who is really good."

And, finally, no, we shouldn't blame Glee for raising our standards, not to mention our collective sense of what Cory Monteith's voice is supposed to sound like. After all, the Auto-Tune-addicted hit series didn't invent futzing, either.

Says Cyka: "The sad thing is we've gotten so used to it that we have to hear vocals perfect."

Maybe just not too perfect.

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What's up with the Cowell-less American Idol? Get the latest right here.

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