Kiwi pop stars sing with US twang

Most Kiwi pop stars like (clockwise from top) Brooke Fraser, Tim Finn and Boh Runga sing with American accents, according to new research. Photos / Hawkes Bay Today, NZ Herald, supplied.
Most Kiwi pop stars like (clockwise from top) Brooke Fraser, Tim Finn and Boh Runga sing with American accents, according to new research. Photos / Hawkes Bay Today, NZ Herald, supplied.

Call us loyal, but not to the Kiwi accent - nearly all New Zealand pop musicians sing with an American-influenced accent, new research has found.

AUT University culture, discourse and communication masters student Andy Gibson looked at why we pronounce words differently when we sing.

His research found the American accent is so tied up with pop music that it has become the norm - to the point where New Zealanders struggle to sing with their own accent.

"Studies in the past have suggested that non-American singers wilfully put on American accents but my research suggests the opposite - that an American-influenced accent is the default when singing pop," Mr Gibson said.

He studied three New Zealand singers and found there were huge differences between the sung and spoken pronunciation of the same words.

The accent New Zealanders sing with is not really American, but a default "pop music accent" which comes automatically.

Even well-known artists - such as Crowded House and Loyal songwriter Dave Dobbyn - sing with the pop music accent.

The accent is sometimes criticised for being inauthentic, but Mr Gibson said people should not be overly judgmental.

"To sing in a New Zealand accent takes awareness and effort, and it is usually quite noticeable because it is so uncommon," he said.

"The American accent doesn't stick out in singing because we are so used to hearing it."

New Zealand accents were more prominent in music by independent artists or comedy acts like Flight of the Conchords and Fred Dagg, Mr Gibson said.

But not all pop musicians sing with the default pop accent.

"Anika Moa has moments here and there where you can definitely hear her distinct New Zealand vowels."

- NZPA

- NZ Herald

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