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"Vision of Love" sets off melisma trend

Thursday 6 February 2003

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)

Many thanks to MariahDownunder.com.

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