Why Don't British Singers Have British Accents When They Sing?

Adele sounds downright American in “Rolling in the Deep,” right? Here’s why.


Have you ever wondered why British singers don't "sound British" when they sing?


Have you ever wondered why British singers don't "sound British" when they sing?


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As in, singers who have heavy accents in interviews just sound vaguely American in their songs.


As in, singers who have heavy accents in interviews just sound vaguely American in their songs.


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The simple answer is that singing prevents vocalists from stressing syllables, according to Josef Fioretta, a linguistics professor at Hofstra University.


The simple answer is that singing prevents vocalists from stressing syllables, according to Josef Fioretta, a linguistics professor at Hofstra University.


"What gets lost in singing are the suprasegmentals," Fioretta says, a linguistic term used to indicate qualities like stress, tone and syllabification. In other words, a song's rhythm can limit a singer's ability to pronounce words, and especially vowels, in his or her usual cadence: "The tone, the intonation, the rhythm of a language; these all get lost in singing," he says.


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When syllables aren't emphasized like they are in a normal speaking pattern, they become neutralized, Fioretta explains.



So when Adele sings "never mind I'll find someone like you," the long "i" in "mind" becomes elongated, making it difficult to pronounce in a London clip. "If I say 'aBOUT,' you hear the stress on the second syllable," Fioretta says. "But when you're singing, that stress is reduced."




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