Is there an English idiom that expresses the sentiment that a singer articulates the lyrics so badly that you'd better buy the text in the leaflet?
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Scat - singing in which the singer substitutes improvised nonsense syllables for the words of a song (and tries to sound and phrase like a musical instrument).
Brackets mine - the important thing is "nonsense syllables", which always applies. Attempting to sound like a musical instrument (esp., any particular instrument) is peripheral/optional.
I don't think there's any special word for the fuzziness you get from, say, Enya (mainly introduced by sound engineering/mixing), or for what you get from people like John Martyn, The Cure, etc., who (I assume) are actually singing real words, but often don't articulate clearly. That sort of thing can be called mumbling, moaning, droning, warbling, wailing, trilling, ululating, etc., but I think none of those terms specify whether real words are being sung or not.
You can use mumbling to describe inarticulate singing as well as speech.
Apologies for linking to a tabloid but it's the first thing I came across as an example:
diction is the word singers use when talking about enunciation. Someone who mumbles when singing would need to work on their diction.
I'm not aware of any particular idioms meaning exactly what you're asking for, but there is the somewhat dubious Urban Dictionary entry:
Of course nobody's diction could be worse than Dylan's!"
I'd go for garbling the lyrics.
Alternatively, if you're a fan of Weird Al Yankovic, you could call it bargling. (from his song Smells like Nirvana, "It's hard to bargle naudle zouss / with all these marbles in my mouth.")
As you see from the variety of answers, there are many terms for poor singing diction, but each tends to be restricted to a specific genre of music.
A more general phrase, but not restricted to singers, is He (or she) speaks/talks/sings like he has a mouth full of XXX; compare Hellion's answer. This has been around for a long time, having been famously used of the young (and middle-aged and old) Marlon Brando, with toilet paper for XXX.
XXX may be practically anything. In my youth mashed potatoes was common; today the favorite (vulgarities aside) seems to be marbles—a little ironic if you know the story of Demosthenes teaching himself to speak effectively by practicing with pebbles in his mouth.
protected by tchrist Nov 1 '14 at 23:19
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