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

Clockwise from upper left: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Mountain Goats, Suzanne Vega. (Courtesy of the artists)

Hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton come to blows over the polarizing and hard-to-define art of "speak-singing."

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.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Most Popular