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zompist bboard • View topic - Why don't British singers sing with a British accent?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 8:32 am 
Sanci
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Why is it that British singers such as the Beatles don't sing with a British accent?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:35 am 
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The sociolinguist Peter Trudgill actually wrote an . It's in the blog Positive Anymore.

The two-cent summary is that pop music genres tend to be associated with certain accents. When new acts perform in certain genres, they tend to imitate the pronunciations they hear other singers use. The Beatles and their contemporaries were performing rock 'n roll, a genre which originated in the USA, so they modified their pronunciation toward a USAmerican accent. As rock became naturalised in the UK, British pronunciations became more common. (Trudgill actually tracks how "American" pronunciation features declined over the course of the Beatles' career.)

By the early 80s, the whole process had come full circle. New wave music in general and synthpop in particular was heavily identified with the "Second British Invasion", which is how a ends up using a faux-English accent on its early recordings (an affectation they later dropped, just as the Beatles did).

And it wasn't just American bands; I was shocked when I first heard Sinéad O'Connor speak how thick her Irish accent was since it wasn't noticeable in her singing at all. Five years later, a band from Limerick called The Cranberries had a number one hit with "Linger", which featured an /r/ so retroflexed it could touch its own toes. That was right around the time that emerged and--as the name suggests--there was no mistaking at all where those bands were from.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:07 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:01 pm 
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I have made some investigation on this subject myself. Heck, I've made a of this semi-American accent, which I use for singing.

As linguoboy said, it has to do with the fact that singers tend to mimic the singers they like, including their accent. Rock music originated in the US, so the first British bands used American accents - and then settled on a half-American, half-British hybrid. Also, lots of American singers tend to use a non-rhotic pronunciation when singing, even if their normal speech is rhotic.

Another factor is that a lot of what makes an accent noticeable simply disappears when we sing. The accent's particular rhythm and intonation patterns disappear behind the melody; the accent's "timbre" and "vocal setting" are also less noticeable, because of the need to project (indeed, a lot of vocal training is about losing the bad habits we have in everyday speech). So singers automatically have a more "neutral" accent.

All of this also apply to non-native English speakers. Very often, you barely notice that some singers are non-native... until you hear them talk, and then their foreign accent is glaringly obvious.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:22 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:34 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:10 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:52 pm 
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These are some good examples of singers who put on another accent when singing compared to their normal speaking voice.



This is about having an accent somewhere between a British & American one when singing.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:23 pm 
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The genre theory is strengthened when you look at singers like the Beatles, who moved between many genre influences even on a single album. It may be true that they became more native over time (I don't know them well enough to judge), and they probably never sang in their real singing accents, but it's not just a time thing. If you compare,say, the more 'authentic' Yesterday (1965) with the overtly genre Why Don't We Do It In The Road? (1968), you see how the same singer has at least some local edge in the first, but makes the second essentially a vocal impersonation.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 5:38 am 
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Last edited by Ryusenshi on Sun Oct 15, 2017 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 7:27 am 
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 4:20 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 3:14 am 
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Sorry, just sloppy phrasing on my part. He was clearly talking about a particular subset of indie rock. He was saying that Arty White Bands tend to sing in their own local accent, then added as an afterthought that most people would call them "indie rock bands" instead.

(By the way, I find the expression "indie rock" vague to the point of uselessness, but that's a story for another time.)


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:15 pm 
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In the song "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits, the singer uses a British accent.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:28 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 10:55 am 
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