Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vocal Fry & Britney Spears: This Isn't What I Mean When I Say Bad Girls Are Good

A curious vocal pattern called vocal fry has crept into the culture and become disturbingly popular with young women, Science Magazine and the blogosphere are now reporting.

What's vocal fry? It's a language fad, formerly considered a speech disorder, that has gained popularity with young women who speak American English. Apparently, pop singers like Britney Spears have slipped these low, creaky vibrations into their music, and now it's a vocal style.

I've heard it--long before I ever knew what it was--and always hated the sound of it. Makes an intelligent woman sound stupid and shallow.

"Vocal fry, or glottalization, is a low, staccato vibration during speech, produced by a slow fluttering of the vocal cords (listen here)," reports Science. "Since the 1960s, vocal fry has been recognized as the lowest of the three vocal registers, which also include falsetto and modal—the usual speaking register. Speakers creak differently according to their gender, although whether it is more common in males or females varies among languages. In American English, anecdotal reports suggest that the behavior is much more common in women."

In British English, the pattern is the opposite, apparently. Huh. Culture is strange. At any rate, scientists at Long Island University investigated the prevalence of vocal fry in college-age women, recording sentences read by 34 female speakers, and listened for two qualities, called jitter and shimmer. The study found that two-thirds had fried their voices.

Oops, Britney, I think you did it again.


Underemployed said...

Yeah, I hate it, too. I mostly associate it with dancers who can't sing. Which is everybody these days.

On the other hand, we have Adele. Off-key and strident. What a choice.

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