When you sing Highway to Hell, don’t waste too much energy on the word highway. Save your breath for hell. It’s the Most Important Word in the chorus. AC/DC wear devil horns, not traffic lights on their heads:
A lot of singers rush towards the chorus, take a deep breath and throw all their energy into the high of the word highway. By the time they get to hell, they have no breath left. Hell becomes a squeak or a whisper; an afterthought, drained of power.
Highway‘s important, but it’s not a special word or a powerful word. The songwriters could have substituted: road, pathway, freeway, my way or trajectory for highway without losing much. The word hell has no substitute. Hell is The Powerful Word, The Important Word. The word people remember. You need to sing it right. You need to have enough breath left at the end of the line to give hell the oomph it deserves.
If English isn’t your first language: remember, hell needs every letter to sound right. Don’t sing Highway to L or Highway to Well.
If Spanish is your first language, don’t over-pronounce the h of hell. It’s easy to turn Highway to Hell into Khighway to Khell if you’re not careful. Sing hell with its smooth English h. Like this.
If you can breathe, you can sing hell properly and powerfully. Honestly.
Don’t forget to read and respect AC/DC’s official lyrics here. It’s not easy to hear Bon Scott or Brian Johnson singing the verse clearly in the original. That’s true. But they are consciously singing real English words. With a meaning. Yes, they are. So should you.
Don’t scream random gibberish in between choruses when you cover Highway to Hell. You don’t sound cool or hard. The opposite, in fact. Know what you’re singing and choose how to sing it. Like Andreas Laursen here.
So – get hell right. Read the lyrics. Don’t shout nonsense. Remember which word is The Important Word. That’s all, folks.
© Sing Better English, 2014