Shawn Mendes’ hit song “If I Can’t Have You” is so ridiculously catchy that Charlie had it stuck in his head after the first chorus. How is that possible?! Declamation, or the way that text is set to music, is a big part of the song’s appeal—every word that Mendes sings is perfectly in rhythm. In this episode we use Mendes’ latest track to explore creative declamation throughout history. How do artists from Whitney Houston to Queen to Taylor Swift keep finding new ways to sing the word “somebody”? Why did the composer Georg Friedrich Handel get in trouble for a bit of awkward text setting in one of the most famous pieces of Baroque music? And, does Beyoncé even know how to pronounce “sandcastles”? Finally, Mendes’ hit leads us to ask: is “incorrect” declamation is something to celebrate, or criticize?
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