Britney Spears and Ke$ha might influence dance moves and belly-shirts but now they might be influencing the way young women speak.
Thanks to pop songs, young women are speaking more with a speech pattern called vocal fry, a creaky, guttural tone that pop singers typically use to slip into lower notes. In other words, it is the sort of gritty, sexy voice that 85-year-old habitual smokers develop.
Listen to Spears' (Hit Me) Baby One More Time. You will hear the vocal fry when she croaks the lines Oh baby, baby. The first few seconds of Ke$ha's song Blah Blah Blah features it too. The creaky register can usually be heard at the end of a sentence.
Kim Kardashian is another vocal frier. You can hear this tone in almost everything she says.
Vocal fry was a term coined in a new, small study by researchers for the Journal of Voice. These researchers analyzed the tone of 34 female college student's voices, ages 18 to 25, and found that the use of the vocal fry register may be common in female young adults.
It is possible that these college students have either practiced or observed this vocal register and modeled it to match popular figures, the authors wrote.
Vocal fry has typically been considered a speech disorder, reports MSNBC. It is often seen in patients with vocal cord damage. However, based on the recorded speech from the 34 Long Island University female students, it is clear that vocal fry is becoming normalized.
My colleagues and I have noticed this speech pattern in our young female college students, said Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, one of the researchers on the study. She describes vocal fry as sounding like rattled, popping air.
After publishing the study, Abdelli-Beruh did a similar study on college men and found that they are much less likely to speak in this tone. Interestingly, some research indicates that in some dialects of British English, male speakers use fry more often than female. So maybe it is also a gender marker, Abdelli-Beruh said.
The trend is widespread, and possibly generational. (A)necdotally, vocal fry is judged to be annoying by those who are not as young as the college students we tested, she says. My son, who is a teenager, listens to 92.3 NOW in NYC. I noticed the way the voice said 'NOW' on the radio (is) clearly glottal fry.
In honor of the vocal fry maestro, take a listen to Britney Spears' (Hit Me) Baby One More Time. Can you hear the vocal fry? If you want to learn how to vocal fry yourself, check out the tutorial by Aussie vocal coach, Ian Castle. You will sound like a cheeky pop star in no time.