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The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

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The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/149623697/149881191" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
 Clockwise from upper left: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Mountain Goats, Suzanne Vega.

Clockwise from upper left: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Mountain Goats, Suzanne Vega. Courtesy of the artists hide caption

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Few people can easily define it, but nearly everyone knows it when they hear it. Speak-singing, the murky marriage of spoken lyrics and sung melodies, can be heard in everything from 17th-century opera to The Velvet Underground and the latest Mountain Goats record. On this edition of All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton argue over the pros and cons of this polarizing art form and take a look at some of their favorite (and not-so-favorite) speak-singing artists. Plus, listeners chime in with some of their own picks.

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for My Fair Lady [Original Soundtrack]

Rex Harrison

  • Song: A Hymn to Him
  • from My Fair Lady [Original Soundtrack]
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My Fair Lady [Original Soundtrack]
Album
My Fair Lady [Original Soundtrack]
Artist
Original Soundtrack
Label
Columbia
Released
1994

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Cover for Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]

The Velvet Underground

  • Song: Sweet Jane [Full Length Version]
  • from Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]
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Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]
Album
Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]
Artist
The Velvet Underground
Label
Atlantic
Released
1997

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Cover for Has Been

William Shatner

  • Song: Common People
  • from Has Been
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Has Been
Album
Has Been
Artist
William Shatner
Label
Shout! Factory
Released
2004

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The Modern Lovers

  • Song: She Cracked
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The Modern Lovers
Album
The Modern Lovers
Artist
The Modern Lovers
Label
Rhino
Released
1976

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U2

  • Song: Pride (In the Name of Love)
  • from Unforgettable Fire
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Unforgettable Fire
Album
Unforgettable Fire
Artist
U2
Label
Island/Universal
Released
1984

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Cover for Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

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Mozart

  • Song: Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), opera, K. 492 [Act 1. Scene 1 & 2. No. 2. Duettino. Se a caso madama]
  • from Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

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Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Album
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Artist
Rene Jacobs
Label
Harmonia Mundi

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Cover for Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Herzgewächse; Ode to Napoleon

The Speak-Singing Debate: Just Sing The Damn Song!

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Christine Schäfer

  • Song: Pierrot lunaire, melodrama for voice & chamber ensemble, Op. 21 [Act I, No. 1, "Mondestrunken"]
  • from Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Herzgewächse; Ode to Napoleon

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Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Herzgewächse; Ode to Napoleon
Album
Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Herzgewächse; Ode to Napoleon
Artist
Christine Schäfer
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
1998

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Cover for Mister Heartbreak

Laurie Anderson

  • Song: Blue Lagoon
  • from Mister Heartbreak
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Mister Heartbreak
Album
Mister Heartbreak
Artist
Laurie Anderson
Label
Warner Bros.
Released
2010

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Cover for Solitude Standing

Suzanne Vega

  • Song: Tom's Diner
  • from Solitude Standing
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Solitude Standing
Album
Solitude Standing
Artist
Suzanne Vega
Label
A&M Records
Released
1987

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Cover for Sunset Tree

The Mountain Goats

  • Song: Love Love Love
  • from Sunset Tree
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Sunset Tree
Album
Sunset Tree
Artist
The Mountain Goats
Label
4AD
Released
2005

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Cover for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Wilco

  • Song: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
  • from
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Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
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Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Artist
Wilco
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2009

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