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Charles's avatar

Why don't British singers sound British when they sing?

Asked by Charles (4815points) May 12th, 2012

To an American that is. When you speak with someone from England you can immediately hear his accent. But when they sing, most of the time, they don’t sound any different from an American singer. Why?

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9 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

The Beatles always sounded Liverpudlian to me. The LIverpool dialect is stronger than that of Oxbridge or the BBC, of course.

Charles's avatar

I agree some of them do sound British but it seems most don’t. Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols) does, But do Robert Plant. Roger Daltry, Peter Gabriel, Ian Anderson (Scotland?), Jon Anderson, David Gilmore, Roger Waters, etc?

rooeytoo's avatar

For the same reason Keith Urban doesn’t sound aussie when he sings.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t hear a strong accent at all when many of those singers sing @Charles. There are indications of their accents at times, but not consistently. Do most US singers sing with broad American accents? I don’t think they do? Some might have stronger accents than others and then other American singers also have nondescript accents when they sing.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Many do, whether they are from Scotland, England, or Wales…all part of Great Britain. Many of these singers/groups just aren’t mainstream in the US.

I know what you mean though. My SO is from the UK, and I am continually amazed to learn from him that certain UK singers/bands are not from the US. It would be interesting to learn if they tone down the accent intentionally or if singing lyrics makes a difference.

The_Idler's avatar

To you? as an American?
Some may be trying to emulate a new world style (e.g. Rolling Stones).

It also depends of the style of music you’re talking about. Singers with strong British accents are less likely to be heard in the US. Just like US country music is basically unheard in the UK.

In many other cases, you might notice the British accent less (though it is still there), because the way people sing draws out their syllables a lot more, and one of the distinctive characteristics of the stereotypical British accent is its clipped brevity.
I think this is the most important factor…....

Also, it may have been way more noticeable before the “British Invasion” of the USA….
The ‘traditional’ US popular music (country), as well as most black music since the 60s sounds incredibly American – by accent – to me. Aside from that, many indie-style bands have been emulating the British aesthetic…. for years now.

I was surprised that The Killers were American…
but it makes sense, the UK is a MASSIVE music market… pretty much second prize after the US. The Killers have sold 6m albums in the US (pop 300m) and 5m in the UK (pop 60m)

With the exception of US ‘country’ music, the two markets are basically in synergy.

There has been an unparalleled degree of cross-pollination between British and American culture… like nothing else in the history of humanity…. There are distinctly American styles, and distinctly British styles, but there is also a fairly broad middle, where British and American singers both appeal to an ideal moulded over decades by the two consumer markets and also legends from both sides of the pond.

I leave you with some Blur

and some more =P

harple's avatar

Erm, I disagree with the premise here… To me, in the UK, many US singers don’t sound like they’re from America over the UK.

@The_Idler Check out Whispering Bob Harris on Radio 2 on a Thursday at 7pm for some US country music :-)

Charles's avatar

“Erm, I disagree with the premise here… To me, in the UK, many US singers don’t sound like they’re from America over the UK.”

Actually, it sounds like you do agree with the premise which is the Americans and British singers aren’t as distinguishable when singing as they are when they are speaking.

harple's avatar

Let me put it another way. I don’t think it is that British singers start sounding American – more that people generally lose their accent when singing, unless making a concerted effort to maintain it, or unless their way of pronouncing specific letters are different.

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