General Question

Tink's avatar

When singing why doesn't an accent show?

Asked by Tink (8668points) June 24th, 2009 from iPhone

I was listening to the song Scream by Tokio Hotel and his accent sort of comes out, but why do they sing in english perfectly if they are from another country? I’m not just talking about this song or this artist there are many others too

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34 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

Because when singing a person is forced to enunciate clearly.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Accent not showing? Have you ever listened to Lily Allen singing? Or The Wombats? It’s a very clear British accent there..

whitenoise's avatar

When singing, you engage on a repetitive exercise and you use your brain in a different way. You don not need to come up with words and rationales of what you’re saying for instance.
People can quite easily sing songs in a foreign language that they do not even have any understanding of. (My kids happily sing their interpretations of various English songs, often quite hilarious.)

When speaking, the brain uses a different method to form speech and that is where the accent comes in stronger, switching from a thought process, quite often through the native language synthesis into the final target language. While when singing, the sound patterns are readily available.

siilver's avatar

I think it depends on the music/song. I don’t listen to country but look at Keith Urban for example… he sings country but is Australian. It just comes to the point of what the person is singing. I agree with @DarkScribe with the point that in some situations the emphasis of the words is what makes the accent come forth.

Tink's avatar

Ok also when acting
Ex. Robert Pattinson no comment
His accent doesn’t show when acting just when he’s talking

Tink's avatar

@siilver – Or Arctic Monkeys they are British
And I don’t listen to country either!

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@Tink1113 When acting it all depends. You can choose to keep your accent in place or you can choose to replace it with another one. Heck, you can even put in a Japanese accent if you want. That’s the whole point of acting. You’re supposed to be good enough to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes (and ears) even when they’re right there staring at you. Especially when they’re right there staring at you.

siilver's avatar

@Saturated_Brain Now acting is another story. I am from the south so I have that lovely drawl, but have you ever noticed that news reporters always seem to over-enunciate their words? Its all in the training, most actors go to a voice coach to help them change their accents for certain roles.

whatthefluther's avatar

As others have already pointed out singing known words is quite different than every day off-the-cuff speech. And it is not just accents. Mel Tillis was a stutterer, but you would never know it from his singing. Jim Nabors had a wonderful deep singing voice and sold many records but to hear him speak, well, you would swear he was Gomer Pyle (the role he played in the T.V. series and that was his actual speaking voice).

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@siilver Exactly. But I’m pretty sure that when they get back home from work they’re just gonna slip back into their own accents they’re used to.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I’ve heard this myth before but it simply isn’t true. Accents do show through. Perhaps to a lesser degree then when talking.. but they still show.

ckinyc's avatar

I think singers have voice coach so the end products will have a much wider markets. Most of the Scottish singers do not sing with their accents so their music will have better chance to enter the British mainstream and Internatinal markets. Other example, Hong Kong singers will record their Cantonese album in Mandarin so they can sell their album to mainland China. Big market!

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Listen to Harriet Wheeler.

Her face is just as beautiful as her voice, too.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@ckinyc Ooohh… You wanna be careful there.. Cantonese is almost a different language from Mandarin. It isn’t a matter of accents. It’s a matter of different dialects.

DeanV's avatar

No accent? Listen to these bands…

Franz Ferdinand
Bloc Party
The Fratellis
Phoenix

But that’s just me. Maybe they come out more in some bands than others.

Muse, for example has some songs when you can really pick out the accent, then others when you just can’t. But maybe that’s just because he’s screaming.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Saturated_Brain Lily Allen et al are trying exceptionally hard to add on that accent. the Cockney sound was/is big for a while.

@dverhey yeah, FF does have a bit of an accent, but again, Kapranos tends to be very dramatic and overact when singing.

The prime example of an accent showing while singing is Belle and Sebastian. it’s very clear they’re Scottish when you listen to it. no mistaking.

DeanV's avatar

@eponymoushipster Oh, certainly. He definitely dramatizes their songs. But it’s still a pretty strong accent, hearing them/him talk about the band.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@dverhey oh definitely. i’ve seen them live, etc. and he’s got a very strong accent. Really, the Glaswegian accent is super strong on most everyone.

cwilbur's avatar

There are very few pure vowel sounds – most of what we think of as vowels are actually dipthongs. In my accent, long “I”, for instance, is actually closer to “ah-ee,” but pronounced very quickly.

And one of the things that makes a big difference in accents is the vowel sounds—many of which are actually dipthongs. Because dipthongs are all about the transition from one vowel sound to another, it’s impossible to sustain them—someone with my accent, singing “I” on a long note, needs to sing either “ahhhhhh-ee” or “ah-eeeeeeee.” This in itself will eliminate a lot of differences between accents.

LexWordsmith's avatar

in singing with my church choir, i often flatten diphthongs, because the glides sound ugly when sung.

so, “A-leh-loo-yah” not “A-lay-loo-yuh”.

Tink's avatar

@dverhey – You mean like the song Pink Ego Box ?

You guys are throwing people at me that I don’t know : )

DeanV's avatar

Kinda. What I’m getting at is that it really depends on the band for showing the accent, but the reason it is less there when they sing is either enunciation or just the person hiding it.

Darwin's avatar

Certainly The Proclaimers don’t lose their Scottish accent when singing.

But when a singer is learning a song in a foreign language, they are often learning the words as nonsense syllables, and thus duplicate the actual sounds, so no accent shows through.

DeanV's avatar

@Darwin Funny, my 7th grade class sang that song for our school, complete with guitars and all. It was terrible. We just couldn’t pull off those accents.

Darwin's avatar

@whatthefluther – Like many stutterers, Mel Tillis could sing without stuttering, as well as whisper. This is due in part to changes in the way the brain “talks” to the vocal cords and also to being familiar with the words instead of initiating speech de novo.

And Jim Nabors, who was the uncle of our neighbors, did indeed have a beautiful and highly trained singing voice. However, his normal voice was actually lower than the high pitched register he used as Gomer Pyle, and lacked much of the accent that was part of what made Gomer so funny. In fact, that accent was something he developed for an early cabaret act where he sang and talked in multiple voices. He didn’t visit often because he had terrible asthma as did several of his nieces and nephews.

whatthefluther's avatar

@Darwin….Thank you for the info.. I am sure in the mood for a party tonight. Unfortunately my lurve for you has max’d out….alas, I can not put you over the top. It will come soon from some other jelly. Congratulations, Darwin!

Tink's avatar

Holy shit @Darwin is at 9996 already partay!!!

whatthefluther's avatar

Tink…Put Darwin over the top!!!!

whatthefluther's avatar

We must get some new blood in this place. Darwin is getting GA lurve right and left but there is no increase in the total score. We can’t all be max’d out. Somebody give it up. Lets party!

Tink's avatar

Yeah I ran out of questions to ask a while ago. Sorry

ckinyc's avatar

@saturated brain: I know. I am Cantonese and can speak both dialects. I am using that to point out the things they will do to gain market shares.

Strauss's avatar

I know that when I was singing in Texas, my songs tended to come out sounding more Texan than my speaking. (Note my first comment in this thread)

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