A happy word sung sadly is sadder than a sad word sung sadly. Song titles like The Weeping Song or Broken Dream give us fair warning. We’re ready for a story of hope crushed by time or tragedy. The singer can deepen what we already expect, but they can’t turn our expectation upside-down. A Broken Dream can’t be fixed in a song Weeping can’t disguise itself as laughter. Sad words are sad words.
But what do you expect from a song called Cartwheels? Joy and spontaneous exuberance? The innocent, happy whirl of love’s first days or weeks? Watch Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas sing the word cartwheels into sorrow. How? Listen for the catch in the voice on the ar of cartwheels. It throws a shadow on shared memory of carefree love:
Continue reading Ward Thomas: Cartwheels
Sharing a language never guarantees understanding. Expectation is key. But it’s hard to know what to expect, when you work in a shop that sells a little of everything:
© Sing Better English, 2016
Tell your soon-to-be-ex-lover: You really hurt me this time and you keep hurt short and sharp. Really carries the burden of your pain. If you’re a small child telling your mother: Jake really hurt me, you stretch your hurt to breaking point and beyond, to make sure your big brother Jake gets a good telling-off. Really is just the icing on the cake.
The long /ɜː/ vowel in hurt is elastic. Keep a steady tone and hurt will stretch, as far as you need, without snapping. Listen to Marika Hackman singing You Come Down. She squeezes the pain of time past, time present and time future into the vowel of hurt:
Continue reading Working Hurt Hard
Ron Mael of Sparks, our fourth Movember Man, wrote This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us in 1974. His brother Russell agreed to sing it. Very quickly, very precisely and with an intriguing falsetto.
Given that Russell enunciates as clearly as this or this, why is it so hard to catch his words? You’ll hear the title/chorus easily enough, and Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat is no problem. But which zoo animals does Russell name? Which Japanese city? How many cannibals need their protein? And why doesn’t it destroy your enjoyment of the song if you spend its 3 minutes lost in confusion?:
Continue reading Ron Mael’s Magical Mystery Tour: Daily, except for Sunday
Imagine this: you’re the vocalist in The Pink Phylloid psychedelic tribute band. Tonight’s gig? A chateau near St Tropez. The usual dressing room routine: paisley, kohl, crushed velvet, hot thyme.
Your manager bursts in. Le Twitter’s aflame. Not as you’d planned…
Continue reading What’s in a Name?