Anorak News | The Voice is cursed by Whitney Houston’s melisma

The Voice is cursed by Whitney Houston’s melisma

by | 18th, May 2012

IT was of course your ever-reliable Madame Arcati who first foresaw the tragi-comedy that BBC1’s The Voice is turning into – a vast £22 million wail of a show whose patron saint of vocal gymnastics is the late Whitney Houston. While most of you out there were swaying your arms to some pro-am screamed-out golden oldie, like tone-deaf seaweed in an old Jacques Cousteau TV doc, I was filing nails on two fingers.

Up to now I had no idea that there was a word for this endless, mindless, godawful screeching. Now, thanks to the legend that is Mary Hopkin, I have learnt it. Welcome to the world of melisma.
Mary – my new friend on Twitter – introduces us music illiterates to melisma on her splendid website at She defines the word as: ‘Noun: several notes sung to one syllable.’ Mary adds her take: ‘The current definition seems to be: as many hemidemisemiquavers as humanly possible crammed into a single syllable.’ She says that female popstars are most prone to ‘melismating’, tagging the tarts of tinnitus ‘melismatrolls.’
Mary – a beguiling Taurean most famous for her 1968 No1 global hit Those Were The Days – is too well-raised to name the stellar culprits of this singing style but telepaths know who she means.
She does wonder, however, whether the overuse of melisma is the result of social phobia or something. She reveals that she herself can melismate by seating herself on a washing machine and setting it to fast spin while in song. I’m sure Jessie J would be impressed.
For more of Mary on melisma, see her blog for March 6, 2012 – click here.
The Earth Turns from Mary Hopkin’s latest album You Look Familiar (with son Morgan Visconti)

Posted: 18th, May 2012 | In: TV & Radio Comment | TrackBack | Permalink