Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine

Why do British people seem to lose their accents when they sing?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Unlike many Brits, Ian Dury retained his iconic accent when singing.

Asked by: Ella, California


It’s partly that many of the distinctive characteristics of an accent aren’t reproduced well when you sing. Vowel sounds get stretched, and the precise articulation of the consonants is lost. The result is a neutral baseline accent that sounds vaguely American.

Most of the British artists who keep a noticeable accent have a more spoken, less melodic delivery. Think of Ian Dury (above), or the UK grime scene. But the Americanised accent is also partly a cultural expectation for certain musical genres, such as R&B or mainstream pop. Some bands do retain a strong regional accent, though – The Proclaimers, for example.

Why does music make us feel good? © Getty Images


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.


luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


Sponsored content