Do you have a regional accent and wonder whether you should emphasise it when singing? Or do you prefer to use an American or neutral sound? Singing with an accent
Many acts have songs with accents that are distinct, and combined with great vocals, this makes them instantly recognisable. As such, singing with an accent can help you stand out and carve your own signature style.
Why do some artists sing with their own accent while others lose it completely? Read on to find out which acts have blazed a trail singing with strong accents and whether you should sing with an accent.
Singing with an accent
As a singer, you have many decisions to make about your act, and this includes how you pronounce your lyrics. If you’re part of a band, you’ll need to have a group conversation about this and work out which route to take. Singing with a regional accent often sounds really cool, especially for solo acts, but do be sure that your words are always clear enough for the audience to hear and understand. This is achieved through good diction skills.
Many bands and solo artists have made the decision to use their own regional accents, a trend that really took off in the 1990s.
Singers with accents
- Goldie Looking Chain
- Kate Nash
- Lily Allen
- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
- Ronan Keating
- Amy MacDonald
- Sharleen Spiter
- Lewis Capaldi
- Hannah Reid
- Sean Paul
- Lucy Spraggan
- Miley Cyrus
Some singers lose their accent completely when they perform:
Examples of acts that have songs with an accent
Goldie Looking Chain
The Welsh group found fame with hits such as Guns Don’t Kill People Rappers Do.
The Mancunian Gallagher brothers were trailblazers in both their style and sound. Don’t Look Back in Anger and many more of their songs have become classics.
Lewis Capaldi sounds very different when speaking than singing, but if you listen to his songs you can definitely hear his dulcet West Lothian tones coming through. (Another famous West Lothian singer is Susan Boyle).
Rap tracks always include an accent, as the lyrics are spoken – but even in the sung sections of rap and grime, accents are common. Stormzy’s South London sound is perfect for these musical genres.
Lucy’s Yorkshire vowels are clearly discernible on her tracks and it certainly adds to the charm of her music.
And of course, it’s not just Brits in the mix. Many US artists have a soft accent – the ‘over the pond’ equivalent of RP. While acts like Miley (whose dad was a famous country-pop singer with a very strong accent), makes the most of her velvet Tennesse drawl on her tracks.
What happens to accents when singing?
Have you found your accent changing when you sing? When we focus on our vocals we often amend the shapes we make with our mouth, soft palate and tongue to achieve the best possible sound. But you only have to listen to Adele to hear how this can also change our accents. And certain genres suit certain ways of pronouncing words, which is one of the reasons why pop and rock artists often end up sounding American.
Do you have an accent when you sing?
You certainly do. It may be a neutral sounding or soft accent, but you always have an accent of some description. The type of sound that would generally be considered to be singing ‘without an accent’, would be the British Southern English pronunciation, widely accepted as a standard.
Why do British people sing with an American accent?
Most of us have grown up on a musical diet heavy on American bands and artists. This has caused a lot of copying and emulation. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and to some extent the 1980s, almost all pop and rock were sung with strong American accents. And this trend has never left the industry, although there are now many more singers emphasising their own accents.
Why don’t British singers have an accent?
Those British singers who sing without a discernible accent may be doing it for a number of reasons:
- They’re following trends for a certain style of singing, that involves a non-regional accent.
- Their natural accent is too strong for an international audience or has to blend with other band members. Viewers of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here have commented on how different Nadine Coyle sounds when speaking, to singing. But as part of Girls Aloud, both she and Cheryl had to neutralise their singing accents to nake the group sound cohesive.
- They are adapting the vowel sounds to create the best tone and sound – and that might not match up with the way they would naturally pronounce it.
- Some genres should not be sung with a specific accent, like opera and musical theatre (unless the role calls for it).
Singing with a British accent
The term ‘British accent’ is an umbrella term covering a lot of different accents. There is no one single British accent. Rather British accents make up accents including Scottish, English and Welsh. But even these are umbrella terms, as each of the areas has many regional accents, such as Mancunian, Glaswegian, cockney, RP (received pronunciation)
Female singers with British accents
Kate Nash and Lily Allen have both made a point of emphasising their accents in their work. In Kate’s case, this is a north-west London accent, while Lily hails from west London. Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Hannah Reid both sing with their own RP accents. Amy MacDonald and Sharleen Spiteri became popular letting their lyrical Scottish accents shine through their music.
If you’re unsure whether to incorporate your accent into your songs, ask for feedback from your vocal coach and fellow musicians. Record and listen to yourself back and evaluate how you sound.
- Do accents change over time?
For some people being in different environments and moving to different geographical areas, causes their accent to change – particularly for those who are young. For others, their accent never changes, or they switch organically between two accents depending on where they are.
- What is Celine Dion’s accent?
Celine has a French Canadian accent and comes from Quebec. However, to make her songs accessible for the English speaking market (particularly the rest of Canada, the USA and UK) she uses English sounds and pronunciations for her English lyrics a great deal.
Do you sing with an accent? What are your favourite acts that have songs with an accent? Tell us in the comments below.