Monday, April 20, 2009

As Volume Often Trumps Reason, Emotion Can Overwhelm Diction

When I was a long-haired lout of a student (as opposed to my current long-haired fop status), the Cocteau Twins were very popular amongst the NUS/NME fraternity.

I don't know if you remember the group, but they were - like the Thompson Twins - comprised of more than two members, and were not twins. Anyway, one of the things which made them rather distinctive was the way that singer Elizabeth Frazer would sings lyrics in a fashion which made them almost impossible to understand; like a radio tuning in and out, there were flashes of clarity, when you could make out several words in a line (sometimes even consecutive words), but a lot of the time it was as if she was speaking in tongues.

It was, nonetheless, quite effective, and it was certainly pretty popular. I was reminded of this style of singing the other day when I heard, on the radio, the Leona Lewis cover version of the Snow Patrol song Run, where the vocal performance seems to waver in and out of coherence.

For instance, I know that the chorus goes pretty much like this:

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

But when Leona sings it, and blurs one word into another and then on into another, I hear something more like:

Liar, Liar
Andy you have my toys
Evey nifoo cannar ear mavoy
Arby rarby sardoo dear

...It's probably just my contrary and snarky streak that hears it that way, of course, but on the other hand it could mean that we should dismiss 80s-style synth-pop as the next big thing, and look to glossolalia as the way of the future.

If so, it's probably for the best that Smash Hits is no longer a going concern, as it would have been a nightmare trying to reproduce songwords, especially in these days of Spellcheck.

Speaking of things religious and music-related, is it just me, or does the genuine group The Priests look alarmingly like a storyline from Father Ted?


Stevyn Colgan said...

You are so right. Incidentally I was (and am still) a huge Cocteau Twins fan and regularly dust off Heaven or Las Vegas for a quick spin. And almost anything by Curve too. Do you remember those clever Maxell ads in the early 198os that had us all singing 'Me ears are alight' and 'Into the valley, peas sure sound divine'? If not, I put 'em up on my blog some time ago. Click here.

John Soanes said...

Yep, that's the album which was so very popular when I was a student!

I rather liked the press ads for one brand of blank tapes which had lines such as 'Take the hiss out of Barry Manilow'...


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