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What Happens to Accents When Singing?

Some of the information in this article is sourced from Today I Found Out.

The day I found out that a handful of my favorite artists were actually British and not American I was genuinely shocked.

I was young at the time so I had such a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that someone with the strongest British accent could sound fully American the second they started singing.

Adele, The Beatles, Coldplay?

At this point, we’ve all listened to enough songs in our lives to notice this phenomenon at least once or twice. Have you ever wondered why?

Science of Linguistics

Let’s get to the root of it first. British-Pop music was actually inspired by what we consider American music styles such as rock and roll,  blues, and hip hop. 

As a result in order to mimic or replicate that style of music, British artists and other foreign artists will sing in that “American’”style. 

In terms of linguistics, singing doesn’t have an accent and similarly, an American accent in itself is fairly neutral.

When singing, the melody causes the articulation of certain words or elongation of vowels and consonants to change depending on the style or type of song. Accents cannot be reproduced when singing. 

Singing is much faster-paced than speaking and words can be manipulated in euphonious ways.

Considering this, it’s wise to see if this phenomenon can occur in other genres of music.

Opera has its own accent. Opera singers, regardless of the language or accent they sing in, have a similar style in their singing. This can be seen across all genres of music whether it is Pop, Jazz, or Rap.

Talk Singing

One of my favorite moments where this concept is seen is when Dua Lipa is “talk singing.”

In “Levitating” by Dua Lipa, her British accent shines through at that verse and it’s my favorite part simply because of the way she enunciates words.

“My love is like a rocket, watch it blast off |  And I’m feeling so electric, dance my a– off |  And even if I wanted to, I can’t stop | Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” 

The entirety of the song is in an American accent and this is an example of one of the few songs you can hear the “Britishness” of a British artist’s voice.

Maybe you’ve never noticed that some of our favorite British musicians lose their accents when singing. Hopefully, you learned something new today.

By Mitali Joshi

A Senior at NCSU who is an enthusiastic consumer of music and loves writing about it.