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

 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

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artists

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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Song
A Hymn to Him
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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Song
Sweet Jane [Full Length Version]
Album
Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]
Artist
The Velvet Underground
Label
Atlantic
Released
1997

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Cover for Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

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

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

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Pierrot lunaire, melodrama for voice & chamber ensemble, Op. 21 [Act I, No. 1, "Mondestrunken"]
Album
Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire; Herzgewächse; Ode to Napoleon
Artist
Christine Schäfer
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
1998

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Cover for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Wilco

  • Song: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
  • From: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

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

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