There are many reasons why English is the overwhelming language in present day music, yet I would state that the fundamental reasons are historical and linguistic.
The British colonisation began in the 17th century when many people from England, Scotland and Ireland migrated into to the so called “New World”: U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This huge colonisation of native language speakers provoked an expansion of the vocabulary through contact with the original settlers of these areas (U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand). As a result, in these nations, English is now used as a mother tongue.
In the 18th century the British Empire colonised Asia and Africa with the purpose of spreading its impact around the world. Since this period and due to the British Empire and its colonisation, the most powerful country worldwide has always been an Anglo-Saxon country.
Moreover, paying attention to the places where most genres which are popular nowadays started, it can be seen that they began in Anglo-Saxon territories: rock music, the base of pop music and one of the most famous genres of music nowadays began in the US and was refined in the UK; House genre, in Chicago; Techno genre, in Detroit; Indie-rock, in the US and UK; and Jazz in New Orleans. These two nations, the United States and the United Kingdom, remain the biggest exporters of music nowadays. With music being exported worldwide due to globalisation and improved communication links it can reach everybody no matter what their native language is.
For further insight into this topic you can check out our article: Why has the English language become a global leader of languages?
When comparing English with another language it can be appreciated that English is a very easy language in which to write lyrics and compose music. As an example, we will compare English, which is a Germanic Language, with Spanish, a Latin language.
- Alphabet: both English and Spanish use the Latin alphabet with the differentiation that English alphabet contains 26 letters and Spanish alphabet contains one more letter, the ñ.
- Phonology: The phonological system of Spanish is significantly different from that of English, particularly in the aspects of vowel sounds and sentence stress. English has twelve pure vowel sounds and eight diphthongs. This contrasts with Spanish, that has 5 pure vowels and 5 diphthongs. The length of the vowel sounds plays an important role.
- Gender: English nouns do not have gender while Spanish nouns have it. In the English language, all nouns use the same article: “the”. In the Spanish language, each noun is thought to be either masculine or feminine, and the articles “the,” el (masculine) or la (female), will frequently go with the noun to exhibit which gender the noun is.
In a nutshell, since English is not a tonal language and is very permissive when referring to stress and prosody, it is much simpler than Spanish, with its very precise vowels and stresses.
AN EXAMPLE AND STUDY CASE: EUROVISION
Eurovision is a very good example of how far English language has reached in music. Each May since 1956 individuals from crosswise over Europe and around the globe have assembled around their TVs for an expanded night of worldwide excitement: The Eurovision Song Contest. For one night consistently our mainland, rich with languages and cultures, is joined by music. With up to 27 finalists and 200 million watchers, the opposition may well be a fun occasion however maybe it’s not the festival of European language and cultural diversity that it could be. In the initial ten years of Eurovision, the UK and Ireland were the main two nations to sing in English. Presently English is the thing that we anticipate. English is a universal language talked by more than 1 billion individuals around the world. It is therefore not unexpected that such a large number of musicians make music in English. Obviously, music makes money and a bigger audience makes more money. Of course, maybe English just sounds better. How about we consider that albeit English music is all around, music isn’t the only thing that matters. For whatever length of time that we keep on learning, to talk, to acknowledge and to love, diversity will prosper.
by Alba Malagon Diaz