Category Archives: Sing Better English

Moonage Daydream, two ways

It takes a true artist to pour enjoyment into another man’s song and keep it there, despite the disinterest of the crowd. They’re waiting for Adele to take the stage:

Meanwhile, 15 years before Adele was born:



The Utter Joy of Irregular Verbs: Tu Canción

It’s a beautiful thing when a songwriter chooses and places a word so perfectly that its shape becomes physical sensation in the mind of the listener.

In Tu Canción (Your Song) you don’t need to know what the word ‘siento‘ (si-yén-to) means. Its sound alone (about 35 seconds in) will make your heart dance. The sliding ‘s‘, the elastic ‘y‘ sound, the soft landing of the ‘n’ and the final, neat step sound of the ‘to‘: a collection of sounds perfectly placed to swing you into a romantic waltz. Thank heavens for Spanish Irregular Verbs:

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Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand): Ostranenie

An ordinary word sung in an extraordinary way is a treat. A parallel universe frisson of excitement. We pay extra attention whenever the familiar is made unfamiliar.

Ostranenie works its magic in Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand). The backing singers offer such an unusual version of the word’anyone‘ that they throw the slow honey of Irma Thomas’ voice into reassuring relief. They pronounce anyone as nobody pronounces anyone. Irma’s telling a love story, so she sings anyone as a deep, warm version of itself:

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Because the Night

There are times when you need to sing an English word in a new way.

Native speakers naturally strengthen the word because by emphasising the ‘cause’. Not the ‘be‘.

Why does Patti Smith sing the word oppositively?

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