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Hey, Matt:

Why is it that when English guys sing, you don't notice their accents? For example, when Liam Gallagher from Oasis speaks, the accent is so thick I can barely understand a word he says. When he sings, I understand everything. What's the story there?

-- Perplexed Yankee, the net

We used our low-tech, stuck to the wall, desk-model phone to dial up Martin Chambers in SDSU's music department for this one. And dang if we didn't get through right away. No busy circuits. And no dead spots, even though we were washing the dog and cleaning crud out of the rain gutters while we talked. Sez the professor, in the world of pop music, there often is a vocal style or "sound" that's associated with a particular genre. It can be something pretty much mandatory, like a shit-kicker twang (my words, not the professor's) while singing those getting-on-a-train-going-to-jail songs, even if the singer grew up in Jersey. Or how about the British Invasion guys sounding like Mississippi blues croakers to lend some authenticity to the music. That miserable little hamster Michael Junior might raise a lot of money for PBS with his warbling, but if he tried a couple of choruses of "Dust My Broom" without the proper inflections, we'd be laughing too hard to pledge.

But in the case of Gallagher, even if the pop style doesn't suggest an accent, the singer himself might adopt one for whatever reason. (An accent is just a speech habit. It can be changed temporarily or permanently.) That will make his singing style different from his speaking style. Gallagher might find it easier to articulate when he sings than when he speaks. Or at least he's paying more attention to putting across the lyrics than he is to some pointless interview. In fact, some people who stutter when they speak can sing fluently, so there's not always a one-to-one connection between speaking and singing.

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