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Backing vocalists or backup singers are singers who provide vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing vocalist may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. Backing vocalists are used in a broad range of popular music, traditional music, and world music styles.
Solo artists may employ professional backing vocalists in studio recording sessions as well as during concerts. In many rock and metal bands (e.g., the power trio), the musicians doing backing vocals also play instruments, such as guitar, electric bass, drums or keyboards. In Latin or Afro-Cuban groups, backing singers may play percussion instruments or shakers while singing. In some pop and hip hop groups and in musical theater, the backing singers may be required to perform elaborately choreographed dance routines while they sing through headset microphones.
The style of singing used by backing singers varies according to the type of song and the genre of music the band plays. In pop and country songs, backing vocalists may perform vocal harmony parts to support the lead vocalist. In hardcore punk or rockabilly, other band members who play instruments may sing or shout backing vocals during the chorus (refrain) section of the songs.
Alternative terms for backing vocalists include backing singers, backing vocals, additional vocals or, particularly in the United States and Canada, backup singers or sometimes background singers, or harmony vocalists.
While some bands use performers whose sole on-stage role is performing backing vocals, it is common for backing singers to have other roles. Two notable examples of band members who sang back-up are The Beach Boys and The Beatles. The Beach Boys were well known for their close vocal harmonies, occasionally with all five members singing at once such as "In My Room" and "Surfer Girl".
The Beatles were also known for their close style of vocal harmonies[opinion] – all Beatles members sang both lead and backing vocals at some point, especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who frequently supported each other with harmonies, often with fellow Beatle George Harrison joining in. Ringo Starr, while not as prominent in the role of backing singer as his three bandmates due to his distinctive voice, can be heard singing backing vocals in such tracks as "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" and "Carry That Weight". Examples of three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison include "Nowhere Man", "Because", "Day Tripper", and "This Boy". The members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Bee Gees all each wrote songs and sang back-up or lead vocals and played various instruments on their albums and various collaborations with each other.
Lead singers who record backing vocals
In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals by overdubbing with a multitrack recording system. A multitrack recording system enables the record producer to add many layers of recordings over top of each other. Using a multitrack system, a lead vocalist can record his or her own backing vocals, and then record the lead vocal part over top. Some lead vocalists prefer this approach because the sound of their own harmonies will blend well with their main vocal.
One famous example is Freddie Mercury of Queen singing the first part of "Bohemian Rhapsody" himself by overdubbing. Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Tom DeLonge of Angels and Airwaves, Wednesday 13 in his own band and Murderdolls, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, and Brad Delp of Boston, also recorded lead and backing vocals for their albums.
With the exception of a few songs on each album, Michael Jackson, Prince, Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Rabbitt, David Bowie, and Richard Marx sing all of the background vocals for their songs. Robert Smith of the Cure not only sings his own backing vocals in the studio, but also doesn't perform with backing vocalists when playing live.
Uncredited backing vocals
Notable uncredited background vocals appear in the following songs:
- John Lennon and Paul McCartney performed on the Rolling Stones' "We Love You".
- Patti Labelle on Kanye West's "Roses" from the album Late Registration. She said the liner notes were already printed when she lent her vocals to the track.
- Ronnie Spector on Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight", from the Ronettes' 1963 hit "Be My Baby".
- "Roll with Me, Henry" by Etta James includes Richard Berry, author of "Louie Louie", performing the role of "Henry".
- Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me" has vocal responses by Lou Rawls matching Cooke word for word and note for note.
- Mick Jagger performs background vocals on Carly Simon's recording of "You're So Vain", which led to the apparently erroneous theory that the song was about Jagger.
- Jonathan Richman's "The Neighbors" features Jody Ross.
- Andrew Gold's "Never Let Her Slip Away" features harmony vocals from Freddie Mercury.
- Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" featured backing vocals by Jermaine Jackson and Michael Jackson.
- "Bad Blood" by Neil Sedaka features backing vocals by Elton John.
- Usher's "Superstar" feature vocals from Faith Evans.
- Paul McCartney can be heard as one of the background revellers on Donovan's 1966 "Mellow Yellow". (Contrary to popular belief, it is not McCartney whispering the "quite rightly" answering lines in the chorus, but rather Donovan himself).
- Mýa performs background vocals on "Get None", the debut single released by singer Tamar Braxton.
- Al B. Sure! contributed background vocals to Guy's song "You Can Call Me Crazy". According to producer Teddy Riley, the song was originally planned for Sure!'s debut album In Effect Mode but the song never made the final cut.
- Mint Condition frontman Stokley Williams performs background vocals on "The Curse Of The Gifted", from Wale's 2013 album The Gifted.
- Eric Roberson performs background vocals on Cam'ron's song "Tomorrow" from his 2002 album, Come Home with Me.
- Anelia performs vocals on Andrea's 2014 song Най-добрата (Nay-dobrata).
- Jamie Foxx performs vocals on Ariana Grande's 2015 single "Focus".
- Ina Wroldsen performs vocals on Calvin Harris's and Disciples's 2015 song "How Deep Is Your Love".
- Iselin Solheim performs vocals on Alan Walker's 2015 song "Faded", and his 2016 song "Sing Me to Sleep".
- List of backing groups
- 20 Feet from Stardom (2013 documentary film on backing singers)
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- "Best Songs We Heard This Week: Jeremih, The 1975, Alan Walker + More". Popcrush.com.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Backing vocalists.|
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T - The Art of Backing Vocals (BBC Radio 4 programme)