Vocal fry is an epidemic. At least, that’s what we’re told. But what, exactly, is it?
Everyone has a set of vocal cords, which consist of folds of cartilage. When you speak, air comes out of our lungs and make our chords vibrate. How high or low you speak or sing is dependent upon how much air comes out of your diaphragm. Voices typically vary greatly, but there have been certain speaking trends that have defined generations. Who can forget the ‘Valley girl’ trend of inflecting everything as a question?
More recently, this intonation has been replaced by the vocal fry trend that’s reportedly overtaking the teens and twenty-somethings of this generation.
Vocal fry occurs when the cartilage squeezes together and the vocal cords become loose and floppy. This causes popping and rattling to occur and the chords vibrating irregularly. It’s a ‘creaky’ sound that happens when the speaker moves their voice down to the lowest register. Some scientists claim it’s damaging to the voice, some say it’s downright annoying, and some say it’s yet another easy accusation used to disparage young women.
But why is vocal fry emerging now? Some people think it’s employed by women to sound younger, sexier and even more authoritative. But the fact that numerous female celebrities have adopted vocal fry in their normal speech patterns has probably contributed to its fast growth. To put it bluntly, it’s not good for your voice and vocal frying causes long-term damage.
The following ten women are the biggest vocal friers in Hollywood. And be warned, once you hear the fry you’ll never unhear it. Could they be on track to ruin their voices within the next decade?
10. Britney Spears
Britney Spears was an early vocal fry offender, quite a long time before the term became popularised. Not only is vocal fry a trademark of her singing voice, but it also dominates her spoken voice.
And considering how popular and powerful Britney was during the nineties and the early 2000s, there’s a good chance that the 20-something women who speak with a vocal fry probably were influenced by listening to Britney as young girls.
Britney still speaks today with her familiar vocal fry and, given the deterioration of her singing, this may have done some damage to her voice now that she’s older.
9. Paris Hilton
Like Britney, Paris Hilton is one of the original celebrity vocal fry offenders. We all know Paris as the celebrity heiress who got caught in a sex tape scandal as well as starring in her own reality series, “The Simple Life.” After attempting to have a particularly irritating music career, Paris has calmed down a bit – though that could be down to a marked reduction in her popularity. But at the peak of her fame, Paris’ voice and trademark vocal-fry laden phrase ‘that’s hot’ definitely influenced numerous young girls who wanted to talk just like her.
Maybe Paris’ vocal fry is the result of her lifestyle, being tired from partying late, or maybe she just thinks that it sounds appealing. There have been rumors that the voice Paris uses on her shows and media appearances is fake, and that her actual speaking voice is in fact remarkably different.
8. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson is considered to be a light offender in terms of vocal frying compared to others on this list, as she does a decent job in keeping the creaking away from her films and television appearances. But if you watch her interviews, the vocal fry becomes very apparent. Maybe Scarlett is trying to show a different side, or perhaps she’s just really tired of all the interviews.
Still, Scarlett has a pretty strong and authoritative speaking voice when she’s on screen, so vocal fry certainly doesn’t overwhelm her speech patterns.
7. Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel is one who speaks with a vocal fry so often that nobody really knows what she sounds like at a higher pitch. Granted, one could argue that Zooey’s vocal fry is part of her young, perky appeal and contributes to her landing all those high profile projects. It certainly seems to come as a full package. Zooey’s vocal fry is fairly distinct, and in her case one can hear a clear evolution from the valley girl speech patterns.
Regardless of how the general public feels about her voice, Zooey is still very successful in her careers both as an actress and a musician. And if that vocal fry is what keeps her getting work in the entertainment business, then it can’t be a bad thing. However, with the vocal fry trend growing as rapidly as it is, it’s no longer such a unique selling point for Deschanel.
6. Katy Perry
Katy Perry has become known as one of the biggest vocal fry offenders, as the majority of her speech patterns features the low register creaking. Katy already has a fairly unique sound to her singing voice in the first place, a little rough around the edges. But when you hear her speak in interviews, it’s almost all vocal fry to the point where she sounds like an unhealthy – and irritating – smoker.
It’s hard to determine whether her vocal fry is intentional, to make her come across as more normal and approachable, or if it’s a sign of her age and generation. Her vocal fry could also be the result of vocal fatigue from all that singing.
5. Emma Stone
Emma Stone has been a Hollywood favourite in recent years, but the world didn’t really take notice of her until after her success as the lead in the movie, “Easy A”. She’s already a unique among her generation of actresses as she speaks in a lower register in the first place, and doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter trend of the Hollywood starlet.
But in interviews, she speaks with a distinct vocal fry that’s certainly not unique. For all her edginess, Stone is as much a victim of the insurmountable vocal fry trend as her peers.
4. Hillary Clinton
What is the powerful and articulate Hillary Clinton doing on this list? Believe it or not, Hillary actually speaks with some vocal fry. Scientists have compared her voice to other pop stars and have found that she and Britney Spears speak in a similar vocal register.
Of course, one would doubt that in Hillary’s case, the vocal fry would be an issue. There is no question that Hillary can command a room whenever she’s speaking, vocal fry or not.
3. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga recently made a huge impact at the Oscars when she hung up her bizarre outfits, chucked her “pop star voice” at the door, and wowed millions with her tribute to the movie, “The Sound of Music”. But when Lady Gaga is singing in the recording studio or on tour, she has a very apparent vocal fry that can apparently be switched on and off.
Even when she is speaking, Lady Gaga has a vocal fry that makes itself known, especially if she’s tired or in a visibly mellow mood. It’s not quite as pronounced as others on this list, but it’s enough to take notice.
Ke$ha has become one if the most popular pop stars of the 21st century, so her influence is undeniable. But not only does she speak with a strong vocal fry; she also incorporates it into her singing. This means that all those kids listening and singing along to Ke$ha in the car are actually training their voices to speak and sing with a vocal fry.
Could Ke$ha be inadvertently teaching a new generation of young women to speak in a vocal fry?
1. Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian is considered to be one of the biggest vocal fry offenders, having managed to fully incorporate it into her everyday speech. She’s often charged with popularising this speech pattern in recent years.
It seems that all of the Kardashian daughters speak with the same tone and vocal fry, to the irritation of many. But people associate Kim’s voice with success and power, and many young women emulate her.
However, recent studies are suggesting that women who try to speak like Kim are less likely to get a job, or could even be more at risk to be looked over for promotions. It could be considered discrimination, but the vocal fry-valley girl hybrid speech can definitely start to grate on the nerves after a while, as Kim K proves.
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