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Old 07-16-2014, 02:10 PM
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 14
Songs with melismatic vocals

I'm looking to create a playlist of pop/rock songs from the '50s to early '00s in which the singer/musician uses a heavy amount of melisma (ad lib-ing, vocal runs or "gymnastics"; or "oversinging" as some would call it.)

For example, I know that Jackie Wilson was one of the pioneers of this type of singing, along with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder back in the "Golden Age of Music". Nowadays it tends to be overused and not done very tastefully.

Could you give me 'specific' songs and not generalized and vague examples like "any Mariah Carey song" or "any song by Christina Aguilera." That would be much appreciated, thanks.
Old 07-16-2014, 03:27 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 4,883
Do you mean something like "Under Pressure" by Queen/David Bowie where Mr. Mercury scats up a storm?

Or when singers perform a song live and throw in extra bits not heard on the studio version, such as working the name of the current city into the lyrics?
Old 07-16-2014, 03:47 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NC
Posts: 1,650
Melisma is "the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession"

For me the poster child in modern music is Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You".
Old 07-16-2014, 03:55 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Chicago
Posts: 4,647
"Sweet Chi-i-i-i-i-i-ild of Mine" - Guns n Roses
Old 07-16-2014, 05:16 PM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 2,868
Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye, by The Manhattans.

It's a silly song, but it actually has gorgeous melismatic vocals, once you get past the spoken intro, and the goofy costumes and hair and choreography.
Old 07-16-2014, 06:12 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 22,196
Some songs just call out to be "oversung."

Here's Ella Fitzgerald interpreting a George Gershwin classic.

Here's Billy Stewart turning it up several notches.

Not to be outdone, here's Janis Joplin.
Old 07-16-2014, 06:44 PM
Join Date: Dec 2013
Location: Probably lost.
Posts: 1,935
Regina Spektor's Pavlov's Daughter - the melismatic part starts around 2:45. Lots of other Regina songs use it, but in less noticeable ways.

Switching decades, how about Sam Cooke? He was strongly influenced by Gospel, and Gospel has the best melismatic singers outside of the classical world. I feel as though there are better songs of his that show it (which no doubt will pop into my head right after I post this), but you could check out "A Change Is Gonna Come".

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