Thursday 6 February 2003

"Vision of Love" sets off melisma trend

What is melisma? "A group of notes or tones sung to one syllable," says Webster. It's the move pop and r&b singers make when they hit a word that ends in a vowel. The "ooo" sound in "you" becomes a gallop of notes which often sounds like a bad guitar solo. Ululating. The best-known iteration of this strategy is also the point at which melisma became an affliction in pop, especially r&b: Mariah Carey's 1990 debut single "Vision of Love".

How important was this song? Very. In a 2001 interview, Beyoncé Knowles said, "After I heard 'Vision, I started doing runs." "Doing runs" means, roughly, "singing harmonic variations on scales" or "going aaoooauaaahooaoah when you probably don't need to". The 20th-century instance of this style can be linked to the vocal tradition of the African American church, but don't correlate the pop version with Sunday service.

(Village Voice)

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