Category: Arts

What kind of books does The Globe review?

Our latest question comes from Sean Cummings. He asked the following question via Twitter: #asktheglobe Why don’t you review genre fiction? Your books section reviews that which most folks DON’T read.

For the answer we turned to Books Editor Mark Medley, who gives his response.

Hi Sean, I respectfully disagree with the assertion that the Globe doesn’t cover the books that people want to read. Just this past Saturday, for instance, we published a 1500-word profile of Jennifer Robson, who writes popular historical romances as is a fixture on our bestseller list. In fact, looking at this past weekend’s Canadian bestseller lists, we have covered every single book on the fiction list, and half of the books on the non-fiction list. (And the only reason we haven’t covered some of these books is because they are financial guides or self-help books, which we don’t generally review.) As far as genre fiction, Margaret Cannon has long been a fixture in our pages, and we publish six reviews by her (focusing on crime fiction) each month. Marissa Stapley also writes a regular column on commercial fiction, which debuted in early 2015. Shannon Ozirny writes a monthly round-up of the best in YA fiction, as well.

As you can see, The Globe regularly reviews genre fiction. Thanks for the question Sean.

If you have a question that you would like answered, use #AskTheGlobe and we will do our best to search for the answer.

What is the greatest film ever?

Globe reader Ian Myers in Hamilton, Ont. asks, “What’s the Globe’s pick for the greatest movie of all time?”

A loaded question, if ever there was one – and the cause of many ensuing heated debates among Globe editors and writers across various sections.  It’s not a definitive selection by any means, but here are five very passionate arguments – for five very different films:

The Rules of the Game, defended by Liam Lacey, The Globe’s film critic: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxs4P6u1EiI

The greatest film ever is Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, a tragi-comedy about a roundelay of romantic encounters among guests and servants at a French estate, culminating in a murder.

Released and banned in 1939 on the verge of the war, this technically audacious and deeply humane masterpiece is the only film listed in the top 10 of every decennial Sight and Sound critics’ polls since 1952, and set the gold standard for the medium of film.

Robert Altman spoke for following generations of filmmakers when he said: “The Rules of the Game taught me the rules of the game.”

Blade Runner defended by Elizabeth Renzetti, columnist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPcZHjKJBnE

Because it transcends time. Because Ridley Scott melded bits of the past and the future to make a glorious, decaying Faberge egg. Because even the star and the director can’t agree what it’s about.

Because Harrison Ford has never been more beautiful, which is saying something.

Because of Darryl Hannah’s hair.

Because everyone, on their death bed, should recite some version of Roy Batty’s speech. Because it dares ponder the central question of human misery: If you’re dead inside, is it because you failed to nurture your soul, or because the world engineered you that way?

The Godfather defended by Marsha Lederman, Western Arts correspondent: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY1S34973zA

From that opening shot – Bonasera begging Don Corleone for justice for his beaten daughter – Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is a master class in filmmaking, each scene – each shot! – the work of a skilled craftsman.

Vito Corleone stroking the cat (improvised!) The horse’s head. Enzo’s shaking hands as he lights the cigarette outside the hospital. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” with the Statue of Liberty visible in the distance through the reeds. Michael retrieving the gun behind the toilet so he can gun down Solozzo and Captain McCluskey. Sonny’s toll booth death trap. The magnificent baptism/bloodbath scene. That good-for-nothing Carlo’s feet kicking through the windshield as he finally meets his end.

It’s perfectly bracketed: the film opens in Vito Corleone’s dark study (opening line: “I believe in America”) with a wedding outside – Connie blissful and in white; and closes in the same study, Michael now Don, in that same chair, Connie widowed and frantic, now relegated to wearing black for the rest of her days.

With the bumbling Fredo and hothead Sonny, it’s clear it will have to be Michael, the war hero, who takes over for Vito. But his trajectory – from his declaration to his future wife in their first scene at Connie’s wedding (“That’s my family, Kay, it’s not me”) to that final shot when he closes the door on her – is so authentic and captivating and magnificently acted by Al Pacino.

And the soundtrack? Forget about it.

The Big Lebowski defended by Darren Yourk, Globe Sports online editor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-go0oBF4Y

Joel and Ethan Cohen have made a number of great films, but this tale of how a urinated-upon rug and a case of mistaken identity turn the relaxed life of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski upside down stands alone. A hilarious script, stacked cast, pitch-perfect soundtrack (special nod to the use of the Gipsy Kings’ Spanish cover of Hotel California when we’re introduced to Jesus Quintana), drug-fuelled dream sequences, marmot-wielding nihilists and a whole lot of bowling combine to create 117 minutes of comedic perfection.

You disagree? Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion man.

Die Hard defended by Christina Vardanis, Assistant editor, Focus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qxBXm7ZUTM

Before the detached, stoic stare of Jason Bourne became the common mask worn by big-screen action heroes, there was John McClane.

There is a lot about Die Hard that plays by the book: one man fights a foreign terrorist group in the name of love with the help of a desk-bound Twinkie-eating cop in a setting that supports a roof-top gunfight, epic catch phrases, a fiery helicopter crash and so much broken glass Annie Lennox made a song with the leftovers.

What makes it the greatest, though, is John McClane. He’s not part bat, or spider, or made of iron. He’s not some amnesia-addled psychologically-programmed killing machine. He tears through Nakatomi Plaza beaten, bloodied, terrified, filthy and full of regret for mistakes he made long before the opening scene –  in his marriage and as a father. When he fires his weapon, he’s driven by fear, not arrogance. He fights dirty – with a chain, with packing tape, whatever he can find – and is desperate for help. He doesn’t think he can win this thing – but he knows he has to die trying. I’d give you more reasons why Die Hard is the best movie of all time, but I’m starting to tear up a bit. Hans, Bubby. John McClane is my white knight.

Follow Globe Arts on Twitter, and read more Globe film coverage here.  Think we got it wrong? Have a better movie? Share your picks on Twitter and Instagram with #GlobeFilm (We’ll add our favourite arguments to this list.)

How often do groundhogs accurately predict the forecast on Feb 2?

While winter was reminding parts of Canada that it’s not going anywhere, groundhogs across the country were busy predicting how much longer we have to endure the cold.  Nova Scotia’s groundhog Shubenacadie Sam and Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of winter, while in Ontario, Wiarton Willie failed to see his shadow, heralding an early spring.
Reader @emilyfrancesd asked The Globe about their track record: “How often do groundhogs guess correctly on Groundhog Day?” Gabe Pulver, part of The Globe’s analytics and marketing team, had a peek at the success rates of some famous rodents:

I looked at three groundhogs across Canada: Ontario’s Wiarton Willie, Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, and Alberta’s Balzac Billy.

I calculated each chuck’s prediction rate using Environment Canada’s average temperatures in each groundhog’s region for the months of February and March during the years surveyed. I define the “early spring” prediction success by a temperature that is above the overall regional average for February and March, and “six more weeks of winter” prediction success with below average temperatures.

Wiarton Willie’s official predictions go back sporadically to 1955 – there are plenty of missed years. The Globe has interviewed an Environment Canada climatologist who analyzed Wiarton Willie’s success rate to be exactly 50 per cent.

Shubenacadie Sam, who has a Twitter account and a live 24/7 webcam, has a track record since 2000 of 43 per cent – better than random, but not quite notably predictive.

Balzac Billy appears to be our clear winner: His historic record is difficult to verify, but since 2004 (the start of his publicly available predictions), he’s boasted a 58 per cent success rate.

So what makes Balzac Billy so good?  Billy, who calls himself the Prairie Prognosticator, is actually a grown man in a plush rodent costume complete with Letterman jacket, red sneakers, and sunglasses.

This probably has something to do with his success, in my professional opinion. Or maybe it’s because the Feb 2. weather in the Calgary region happens to be more predictive of the following two months than in the rest of the country.

I’d be remiss not to mention the ethical dilemma inherent in waking a hibernating animal in the calendar midpoint of winter to take part in a flighty human tradition, but Groundhog Day seems to be something that many Canadians enjoy – and take seriously.

Read more about today’s Groundhog predictions, and watch this clip (and then watch it again, and again, and again…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8Y1xLKHECQ

I’m sick of Christmas films. What great family movies do you recommend?

‘Tis the season for eggnog, advent chocolate and – bah, humbug – the same 6 Christmas movies you’ve seen a hundred times over. Reader Jason Hall asks on Twitter: “What entertaining, classic, non-holiday movies can I watch with my family this Christmas?”  For those of us who can’t stomach another ‘Santa! I know him!’ or ‘The Marleys were dead, to begin with’ –  Globe Arts writer Andrew Ryan offers hope:

Firstly, I’m assuming you define classic Christmas movies wherein the big day itself is peripheral and that feelgood holiday message isn’t hammered home with all the subtlety of a massive neon Santa Claus, as per A Christmas Story or It’s A Wonderful Life.

Toward that noble cause, here are five holiday-themed movies suitable for family viewing that won’t make you feel like you’ve consumed a month-old fruitcake.

Trading Places (1983)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjDbJQKDXCY

Two fantastically wealthy brothers (Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche) make a gentleman’s bet as to which human drive is stronger – nature versus nurture – midway into the festive season. Their experiment involves taking the crass street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and supplanting him directly into the life of yuppie broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), which includes the hiring of a hooker, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, to move the downfall along. Naturally, Billy Ray and Louis catch on to the plan and hatch their own scheme to make the two old coots pay where it hurts the most: In their bank accounts. Note: Most broadcast versions of the film have already excised the fleeting shot of Jamie Lee’s breasts.

Gremlins (1984)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nGd36NhmTE

Director Joe Dante steers wide of the usual festive sentimentality in this dark comedy that surfaces sporadically this time of year. The story: Dodgy inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) gifts his cleancut son Billy (Zach Galligan) with a tiny furry creature called a Mogwai for Christmas along with the proviso that the kid never, ever get it wet or feed it after midnight. Naturally, Billy fails to heed his father’s warning, the Mogwai start multiplying and before you know it there are hundreds of the bloodthirsty little monsters running amok in a small town. The lesson here: Always read those instructions.

The Ref (1994)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8uPvv3dj8E

The only thing that toxic couple Lloyd and Caroline (Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis) hate more than Christmas is each other, which partly explains why they’re at each other’s throats one snowy Christmas Eve. Enter petty criminal Gus (Denis Leary) who has the misfortune of breaking into the bickering duo’s home shortly before guests start arriving for their annual holiday shindig. Gus opts to attend the soiree – he pretends to be their marriage counselor – and maintains the ruse for as long as possible. Weirdly, this may be the only Christmas movie in which viewers actually root for the bad guy.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1xsTRG-O04

A few years before Robert Downey Jr. became Iron Man, he was still a working actor willing to take chances in offbeat projects like this dark comedy. Downey is letter-perfect as luckless thief named Harry who attempts to rob a toy store (he’s trying to get a Christmas present for his nephew) and somehow ends up in Los Angeles where he reunites with his high school sweetheart Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) and becomes the unwilling partner of a shrewd shamus named Gay Perry, played by Val Kilmer. It’s not really a movie for the kids, but it is wickedly funny.

Cooper’s Camera (2008)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG4OXSvJ3j4

You may have to scrounge through a few remainder bins to find this Canadian-made movie, but it’s worth the effort. Set in a mundane, obviously Canadian small town, circa 1985, the film stars Daily Show fixture Jason Jones as a hapless nitwit named Gord Cooper, who is thrilled with the state-of-the-art video camera he plans on giving his wife Nancy (Samantha Bee, who happens to be Jones’ wife in real life) for Christmas. Cooper’s plan falls to pieces before anyone even gets to carve the roast beast, courtesy of a crotchedy grandmother (Jayne Eastwood, never funnier) and a sleazy dinner guest (Peter Keleghan).

 

What are some great new bands in Canada?

The Canadian music scene is booming, but if you’re not in the know, the right bands to focus on may get lost in the noise. “What are some of the best up-and-coming bands in Canada?” asked @_Dowzer on Twitter. Good question.  Globe Arts reporter Brad Wheeler and business reporter  Josh O’Kane (who knows a thing or two about digital music streaming) share their best picks.

From Brad Wheeler:

July Talk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU5qp-cAtOU

Their dynamic self-titled debut from late 2013 is a dramatic expression of he-she blues-wild and razor-edged alt-rock excitement. Think sweet-and-sour Metric-meets-Tom Waits, though I’m never quite sure which of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay is the sweet and which is the other. They both have star power, and the Toronto quintet’s inventive videos advertise a striking live presentation. No flavour of the month here – sky’s the limit.

Steph Cameron

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCGsZnjgRzs

Here comes a B.C.-based songstress, finger picker and free spirit. From her debut album Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, Cameron has been likened to Dylan and Mitchell, but if I was in the comparison business – and I suppose I am – I’d see her as a young and bluesy Maria Muldaur. There’s a breezy longing to her fluid, folky material, and even if her characters are rumblin’ and tumblin’, one can hear the swagger as a front. Then again, when a suicide ballad has a line like “Give me a kiss and a good shotgun shell,” anything is possible. Johnny Cash smiles in hell.

Legato Vipers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_niJ63OWS68

I doubt these Ontario surf-rock boogie-meisters would know a surfboard from an ironing board. Hell, they probably wouldn’t even know an ironing board. Which means wrinkles, which is what Legato Vipers brings to the classic art of bad-ass beach music and careening psychedelic twang.  Their initial LV album glistens with stylish staccato and switchblade attitude – a soundtrack to a Tarantino lucid dream. Surf is so up.

From Josh O’Kane:

Alvvays:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAn3JdtSrnY

This Toronto band is reshaping what Canadiana can sound like. Through surf-pop songs and synth-y ballads, Alvvays can romanticize the Atlantic Ocean on one track and make sly hat-tips to iconic Toronto brunch spots the next. That is, in part, because of the band’s genetic makeup: the members hail from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, but call Canada’s largest city their home. Alvvays’s self-titled debut record is only a few months old, but there’s a heft to the band’s experience. Singer-guitarist Molly Rankin hails from, yes, that Rankin family, and translates generations of musical prowess into concise, biting pop songs; meanwhile, guitarist Alec O’Hanley has already served a tour of duty as a member of P.E.I.’s Two Hours Traffic. They’re touring through Western Canada, Quebec and Ontario in December.

Solids:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6RmyFFTlgk

Part punk, part garage, part rock and all fuzz. Solids are a Montreal duo that filter pop hooks through crunchy riffs that echo the best of their ‘90s brethren. Think Sonic Youth and Superchunk – or don’t; Solids make noisy rock’n’roll that is distinctly in the present, so you don’t need a history lesson. Guitarist Xavier Germain-Poitras and drummer Louis Guillemette run through 37 minutes of bliss on their debut album, Blame Confusion, released this past February on Dine Alone Records. Just don’t confuse them with American band The Solids, who wrote the theme for the sitcom How I Met Your Mother a decade ago.

Ryan Hemsworth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7y0iEQ_4iE

Hemsworth has emerged as one of Canada’s most engaging electronic producers, at times dabbling in the musical zeitgeist and other times defiantly ignoring it. While the 24-year-old first became known for producing southern-flavoured hip-hop and pop-scented R&B, his growing original catalog now casts a much wider net – don’t be surprised at the sound of 8-bit lasers from the unrepentant classic video-game fan. An Ontarian-by-way-of-Halifax,   his short sonic attention span is even more noticeable in live performances, with bursts of punk songs nestled among the rap samples and original tracks.  Hemsworth’s second album, Alone for the First Time, was released earlier this month.

 

 

 

What’s the best Canadian horror movie ever made?

Erin V asks on Twitter, “What’s the best Canadian horror movie?” Globe Arts writer Andrew Ryan says, “Talk about a loaded question!” He explains that “although Canada has never really had a reputation for classic cinema, there’s still a longstanding tradition of shock – and occasionally schlocky – films near and dear to horror fans.”  As one of those diehard fans, Ryan offers his top five Canadian horror movies of all time:

5. Pontypool (2008)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehq2a8lum_4

Renegade director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, Highway 61) clearly had a hoot making this splatter-fest with comedic flecks. Canadian character player Stephen McHattie shines as a formerly famous radio shock jock named Grant Mazzy, whose career has bottomed out in the miserable burg of Pontypool, where he broadcasts out of the basement of the town’s only church. In the wake of a freakish snow storm, reports start coming in about horrific acts of violence and people developing really strange speech patterns – such as saying the same word over and over. In short order, Mazzy and his ragtag staff come to realize the weird behaviour is part of a deadly virus being spread by the English language itself. Which is not good news for a radio station, obviously.

4. Fido (2006)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDvIcCoXpMk

Five years before The Walking Dead debuted on television, zombies were pretty darn funny in this offbeat horror feature directed by Andrew Currie. The story takes place in the alternate-universe town of Willard, several years after a cloud of space dust has turned a good percentage of the population into rotting zombies with a taste for human flesh. Not surprisingly, a company domesticates the undead, who are then conscripted to deliver the mail and perform other functions seemingly beneath regular folk. But at the same time, they’re still…zombies, which becomes an issue when a precocious kid named Timmy (K’Sun Ray) tries to become besties with his family’s newest acquisition named Fido, played by Scottish comic Billy Connolly. Weirdly wonderful in its own Canadian way.

3.  Ginger Snaps (2000)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRXT1J0kqdY

Creepy and compelling, this low-budget film has a massive cult following, and not just in Canada. Set in a drably generic Canadian suburb, the story casts Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins as the disaffected Goth teen sisters Ginger and Brigitte, whose lives take a turn when they’re attacked in the woods by a beast of local legend. Before you know it, Ginger is sprouting hair and simian features and – scarier still – she starts dating boys! Weirdly, the only method of suppressing Ginger’s aggressive new persona involves the ingestion of high-grade marijuana. Followed by the sequels Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back.

2. The Brood (1979)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSfZunKpRVM#t=131

Following breakout acclaim with Shivers and Rabid, David Cronenberg pushed the bar higher with this creepy amalgam of sci-fi and horror. Oliver Reed plays a controversial psychologist who encourages his patients to manifest their inner rage, which subsequently take physical shape in the form of cancers and extraneous organs. Enter new patient and bitter divorcee Nola (Samantha Eggar), who inexplicably starts birthing horrific little creatures to act out her fantasies of hate against her luckless ex (Art Hindle). Be warned: The shocking denouement still ranks among the most disgusting scenes ever committed to film.

1. Black Christmas (1974)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysBKrRtBuag  

Directed by the late Bob Clark (who ironically would later direct A Christmas Story), this low-budget entry stars Margot Kidder as sorority sister named Barb, who finds herself stuck in a gloomy sorority house with her best pal Jess (Olivia Hussey) during the festive season. Not a creature is stirring until Barb starts getting phone calls from some sicko threatening to chop her into bits. Although the movie looks crude today, it was one of the first homegrown films to feature graphic on-screen violence, which naturally made it one of the year’s highest-grossing movies.

How is the Globe 100 list compiled?

Over the weekend, Globe Books revealed the Globe 100, a comprehensive list featuring the 100 best books of 2014. Reader Anakana Schofiel asked us “Why so many US books on the Globe 100 list? How is this list compiled?” Globe Books editor Mark Medley explains:

The process of choosing the Globe 100 begins about a month before the results are published. I reached out to our regular columnists (Lauren Bride, Andrew Kaufman, Jade Colbert, Sean Rogers, Margaret Cannon) and asked them to each contribute a list of their five favourite books of the year, Canadian or otherwise.

I, along with arts editor Jared Bland and deputy books editor Lisan Jutras, produced our own top 5 list, as well. After that point we broke up the remaining 60 books into various categories – best debuts of the year, best poetry, best books we didn’t review – including fiction and non-fiction categories divided between Canadian and international titles.

I believe, if my math is correct, that there are 49 Canadian titles on the list, which is a rather substantial number considering Canada is perhaps the most competitive market for English-language books in the world.  In this country, Canadian books compete with titles from the United States, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, plus books in translation, for readers’ eyeballs.

Check out the Globe 100 list and the new Globe Bookshelf here.

What plays should I see this winter in Toronto?

Winter has arrived – with a very loud bang – and with it, the desire to do as many indoor activities as possible. asked our theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck about winter shows in Toronto. “I love Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” she wrote. “Any recommendations for plays on now or in the next few weeks?”  Nestruck has more than a few – but you’ll have to be patient:

Alas, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell’s 1998 rock musical about a transgender singer whose sex-change operation was botched, is not on stage in Toronto right now.

The Lower Ossington Theatre was the last local theatre to do Hedwig, but its production closed back in September. The LOT rotates through a roster of low-budget versions of rock musicals, however, so you could see Avenue Q, Evita or Jesus Christ Superstar there over the coming weeks. (Caveat emptor: The company is controversial in Toronto for only paying its actors honorariums – and the sound-proofing is shoddy – but it is a good place to catch up-and-coming musical-theatre talent.)

I’m afraid if it’s edgy, musical fare that you’re looking for, it’s the wrong time of year. Cinderella: The Gags to Riches Family (which does feature producer Ross Petty in a dress, mind you) opens on November 21 for the holiday season. Donny & Marie: Christmas in Toronto – essentially a live Osmond Family Christmas special – runs from December 9 to December 21 at the Princess of Wales. And James and the Giant Peach is on at Young People’s Theatre starting next week – not, despite what you might think from its title, a sequel to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but an adaptation from the Roald Dahl children’s story.

If it’s just plain edgy theatre that you seek, I really enjoyed Stephen Adly Guirgis’s profane comedy – cover any nearby children’s eyes –  The Motherf**ker in the Hat at the Coal Mine (until November 30), as did my colleague Martin Morrow. Likewise, Canadian Stage’s hit production of the S&M-themed comedy Venus in Fur returns for Christmas-time counter-programming on December 18; you can read my review from 2013 here.

Otherwise, I suspect the musical you’d most enjoy is still a couple of months off – Cannibal! The Musical,  a new stage adaptation of the cult film by South Park’s Trey Parker. It opens February 10, so get excited Book of Mormon fans.

Read more reviews from J. Kelly Nestruck here 

Why do British singers sing with American accents?

Reader Pamela Ross, from Toronto asks:  Why do British singers, like Mick Jagger, sing with American accents rather than the accents they have when they speak? I think they put on an accent when they sing, but husband thinks it’s natural. Globe Arts reporter Brad Wheeler has your answer:

The short answer is, of course, “A whop bop a-loo mop, a-lop bom bom.”  Could you imagine anyone singing the Little Richard’s emphatic Tutti Frutti scat with a cockney accent or an Irish lilt? Absolutely not.

The conventional wisdom when it comes to British singers losing their accents while singing is that the Mick Jaggers and Rod Stewarts and Elton Johns and Paul McCartneys of the world were heavily influenced by pioneering American blues, rock and R&B artists such as Big Bill Broonzy, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran. As such, it’s socially only natural that they would abandon their native enunciations in favour of their heroes’ iconic styles.

So, while Broonzy himself once said that “a cry’s a cry in any language,” it’s hard to imagine Robert Plant wailing  “Oh child, the way you shake that thing,” with his West Bromwich inflection attached.

Somewhere along the way, from the American singers of 1950s to the British Invasion singers and U.S. soulsters who came later, the American voice became pop music’s voice – i.e., the standard.  It carries on to this day, as witnessed by Adele: She speaks cockney and sings American, and probably doesn’t even give it a thought.

Doesn’t give it a thought because it’s probably also true that singing with a flat or neutral American accent is easier than singing any other way, modern linguists would argue. So, while an inherited American vocal aesthetic a social tick to a degree, more decisively it is an instinctive phonetic habit.

A 2010 study by New Zealand researcher Andy Gibson suggests there wasn’t any imitation typically involved when his Kiwi subjects sang American.  “We do it automatically,” Gibson has said. “It doesn’t require any effort to sing with an American-influenced accent.”

In contrast, the vocalists with the affectations are typically the British ones trying to sound British – looking at you Arctic Monkeys, Kate Nash, Lily Allen and, yes, Manchester’s Peter Noone, who went all cockney for the Herman’s Hermits hits I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am and Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter

In his blog entry, the linguist David Crystal explains that key identifying features of a regional accent tend to disappear when singing: the intonation (as a melody replaces it), vowel length (for many syllables are elongated) and the vocal cadence. Crystal goes on to say that vowel quality is also often affected, “especially in classical singing, where vowels are articulated with greater openness than in everyday speech.”

For elucidation, Crystal cites a quote from the English troubadour and activist Billy Bragg, who said “You can’t sing something like TheTracks of My Tears in a London accent. The cadences are all wrong. It’s also difficult to sing harmonies in a London accent. And you can’t sustain syllables for long.”

So, in answer to your question, Pamela Ross of Toronto, it would appear that your husband is probably more right than wrong when he argues for the naturalness of American accents while singing. For his win, perhaps you could take him out for a dish of ice cream – a tuttifrutti flavour, if available.

Read more from Wheeler here and follow Globe Arts music coverage here

What’s a good, adventurous book you’d recommend?

@Bowie_Kate on Twitter asked Globe Books editors for a good novel: She wanted a “captivating and adventurous read,” and said she’s a big fan of Haruki Murakami and John Steinbeck.  Deputy Books editor Lisan Justras and Arts editor Jared Bland couldn’t pick just one…

(Click the video above at any time to pause the screen.)