Kpopalypse presents The V Files Episode 2 – vocalists vs singers

Are you ready for another episode of paranormal k-pop vocal mysteries?  It’s the return of The V Files!


The first episode of The V Files (which has an introduction to what this is all about, if you’re new to it) tackled “resonance”, a bullshit term that k-pop vocal analysts use that doesn’t really mean anything all that specific.  The non-specificity is similar to wine-snobs talking about “fruity notes” or “a clean, crisp finish” – such vague descriptors really can’t be challenged, simply because they are so vague that they don’t really mean anything, and therefore can be twisted by the author to mean many different things.  Therefore, my post aimed to get very specific about what sonic resonance actually is, and also explained how it doesn’t really apply to vocals at all at least in a physiological “within the body” sense.  There are ways to create real resonance but they all happen outside the body, so these methods have nothing to do with singing technique and a lot more to do with acoustics and audio engineering technique.

Reactions to the post from vocal anal-cysts were predictable and basically amounted to either “you’re an asshole so I don’t care”, “you don’t have vocal training, you don’t know what you’re talking about” or “but when we use the word it has a different meaning”.  The first two points aren’t worth addressing as they have nothing to do with the actual argument, and the third point isn’t even actually a disagreement, it’s my point exactly!  K-pop vocal fans have attributed a different meaning to the word “resonance”, the nonsense definition that vocal teachers also use, which may well be in common use, but isn’t actually a correct way to describe anything that’s actually happening.  Vocal teachers are essentially calling a cat a dog, so for me the debate boils down to this: if people call a cat a dog enough times, does the cat actually become a dog?  There’s a case to argue that linguistically, yes the cat is now a dog – and all my post is suggesting is maybe think twice before you feed your cat dog food.

Readers should keep in mind that I didn’t set out to abuse anyone in particular and I don’t hate even the most deluded vocalfaggot (trust me I don’t have enough time or energy to actively hate on anybody) – I’m attacking the ideology of vocalfaggotry, not the people behind it, who I’m sure are nice folks.  Of course the people behind it probably can’t help but also feel a little attacked, and maybe that’s a healthy reaction.  Arguably such people should feel bad for making a subjective fairytale language of make-believe the dominant online paradigm for “serious” assessment of vocals in k-pop, but I can’t control other people’s feelings.  However what I am interested in is giving people who find themselves frustrated with the alienating preoccupations of vocalfaggotry a way to reconcile the disconnect between the “reality” of vocal analysis and the “real” world of k-pop.


What do k-pop vocal analysts believe is the difference between a vocalist and a singer?

We’re going to go to our three trusty sources, and see what they each have to say about this potentially confusing topic.

The vocalfaggot thread on OneHallyu

Akisame’s guide to vocalfaggotry on Anti Kpop-Fangirl parts one and two

I use these sources because they’re the most popular ones on the Internet that I can find, which give the best representation possible of what I believe to be current vocalfag opinion on this topic.  If one of these sources is you, rather than passively-aggressively bitching about it, why not take it as a compliment that you are a popular and loved pillar of the k-pop community?

Here’s the opinion of

Differences Between A Vocalist & A Singer

Vocalist: Someone who has COMPLETE control, manipulation, and authority over their voice, similar to an instrumentalist. Hence, they are judged by vocal technique and consistency.

Singer: Someone who uses their voice to deliver a message musically and convey emotions. They are partly judged by technique, but mostly subjectively judged by sense of interpretation wit, musical and vocal delivery, musicianship, and musical and vocal creativity.

And here’s what the OneHallyu vocal thread has to say:

Differences Between A Vocalist & A Singer

Vocalist: Someone who has COMPLETE control, manipulation, and authority over their voice, similar to an instrumentalist. Hence, they are judged by vocal technique and consistency.

Singer: Someone who uses their voice to deliver a message musically and convey emotions. They are partly judged by technique, but mostly subjectively judged by sense of interpretation wit, musical and vocal delivery, musicianship, and musical and vocal creativity.

Now let’s check out Akisame weighing in on this important issue:

Differences Between A Vocalist & A Singer

Vocalist: Someone who has COMPLETE control, manipulation, and authority over their voice, similar to an instrumentalist. Hence, they are judged by vocal technique and consistency.

Singer: Someone who uses their voice to deliver a message musically and convey emotions. They are partly judged by technique, but mostly subjectively judged by sense of interpretation wit, musical and vocal delivery, musicianship, and musical and vocal creativity.

I think I’m starting to notice a pattern forming.  There seems to be no debate whatsoever on the differences between vocalists and singers, the idea being that a singer is just “someone who sings” but a vocalist has “complete control” etc, someone more worthy to be judged on the technical aspect.  Sure, obviously all three definitions were written by the same person, but the fact that three different sites all seem to have no problem with using the same definition tells us a lot – it tells us that this is NOT a controversial topic for them, that there is a common consensus on this issue.  Since all the vocalfag sites are in complete 100% agreement about this, we definitely don’t need to worry about any possible inaccuracies of intent, or any messy arguments about who is “more correct” here as they are all equally correct… or not.

Okay, so what is the difference really?

While there seems be a 100% consensus on the idea of vocalists being more technically adept and “in control” than singers in the vocalfag community, other sources seem to see the same issue somewhat differently.  Google seems to think that a singer and a vocalist are in fact the same thing:

Gosh, that’s odd.  How could it be so?  Wikipedia also seems to think that singers and vocalists are the same, to the point where you’re not even allowed to search for “vocalist” as a separate entity and it just redirects you back to “singing” like a lost little lamb:

What about those designations of “lead vocalist” and “backing vocalist”?  Are they any differences between these and “lead singer” or “backing singer”?

Hmmm okay.  Well, what about backing vocalists?

Well, that can’t be more clear.  As far as Wikipedia is concerned, singers are vocalists are singers and that’s all there is to it.

Surely, someone out there must agree with the vocalfag theorem?  I continued my search and tried

Okay, so singers are vocalists according to them.  But, are vocalists singers?

Yep.  But maybe the dictionary is wrong?  Let’s try another dictionary.

And another…

And another…

And another…

I know what you vocalfaggots are going to say.  “But these are just general dictionaries!  They don’t have the specialist musical knowledge that I have gained through years of being a completely pedantic insufferable poo-pirate intense study in vocal pedagogy!  Music dictionaries will surely recognise the special status that vocalists have above singers!”

Nope.  OnMusic dictionary doesn’t even give enough of a fuck about the term “vocalist” to even list it as a real thing. also couldn’t be fucked listing “vocalist”, it’s simply not a significant enough musical term to be considered notable for inclusion.  But maybe sites like Naxos are a bit stuffy and something aimed at younger people would list a “vocalist” as something musically relevant:

Okay, nothing to see here.  Perhaps the problem is we’re looking at dictionaries devoted to classical music.  Some of the definitions did mention jazz bands, so what if we tried jazz sources?  Would they match up the definition of “vocalist” with the crazy k-poppers… or even list it at all?

Well there’s nothing at this page… hey, maybe it’s not an academic term at all, but a slang term of some sort?

Definitely not!  In the ultimate fuck-you to vocalfags, this site doesn’t even have a section for the letter V.

Well, there’s always that old fallback in the absence of hard data – netizen opinion.  What do random dickheads on the Internet say?  Does the average random dickhead agree with the average random dickhead k-pop vocalfag?  A question was asked on the “explain like I’m five” subreddit: “My so called musically inclined friends say there is a difference between the two.  Supposedly a singer sings in tune and with the music, while a vocalist is like a screamo or rock singer who instead just lays their vocals over a track.  I don’t fully trust their info.  But if this is true then what would a rapper be?”

The replies appeared to be all over the place.  The first answer listed roughly matches up with vocalfag opinion but also admits that “people do assign non-official meanings” (don’t we know it).  However, many of the other answers completely contradict this meaning, saying that “singer” refers to someone “singing” whereas “vocals” refer to someone “vocalising” which could mean singing, but it could mean something else too, such as screaming, growling, rapping, etc.  Maybe the true meaning of “vocalist” is actually the opposite of what k-pop vocal analysis sites believe?

It was at this point, that I realised that I was barking up the wrong tree completely.  What I really should have been looking at all along to find the mysterious answer to the “singer vs vocalist” question was not the definition of “singer” and “vocalist”, but the definition of “singing” and “vocalising”.  Surely, just as a singer is someone who sings, a vocalist is someone who vocalises – that’s just common sense, right?  Right.  But what’s vocalisation? says that vocalising is singing, but vocalisation is also speech, or in fact to use the voice in any capacity at all.  Could they be wrong, or just making this up?  What do other sources say?

Google agrees – to vocalise is to utter a sound, and they even use a child as an example.  Does this mean Little PSY is a “vocalist”?

Once again, singing is just one definition of vocalising, there are others including the simple utterance of sound.  All the other basic sources checked out the same… but you can’t trust general dictionaries for musical terms, right?  What about vocalfag-friendly classical music sources?  Surely they would at least back up the vocalfag definition to some degree?

Not in any way whatsoever!  This matches one of the dictionary definitions and it’s certainly got nothing to do with what k-pop fans give a shit about.

I was getting further and further away from the k-pop vocalfag meaning of a vocalist with each new search.  Why?  What could be the explanation?  Could any vocals at all really qualify someone to be a “vocalist”?  Turning off the Intertube for a while, I searched through the liner notes to my favourite albums for clues.  Not k-pop albums, I hasten to add – but albums of music as far removed from the singing style of k-pop as I could possibly think of.  Were my favourite albums of objectively “non-vocalfag” music where the singers don’t even really sing at all, actually full of “vocalists”?

Liner notes: Obituary – Cause Of Death

Rear cover: Slayer – Reign In Blood

Rear cover: GG Allin & The Murder Junkies – Brutality & Bloodshed For All

Rear cover: Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (it’s a bit hard to read, but on the left “lead vocals”, on the right “additional vocals”)

It appeared so!  Almost every album out of the hundreds that I own stipulates that one or more person’s responsibility is “vocals”, regardless of singing ability, and many of my favourite groups outside of the realm of k-pop objectively can’t sing much whatsoever (if there’s any doubt, click the images above to listen to the albums shown and you’ll quickly agree).  Notice how none of them are called “singers” in the liner notes, I could find plenty of “vocalists” but almost no “singers” in my collection at all!  However this designation of “vocalist” has never raised a problem in other music communities – all music fans can be as bitchy as k-pop fans at times, but the “vocalist” label is one of the only things that consistently remains non-controversial for fans of all different styles of music… except k-pop.


  • Singers sing.
  • Vocalists vocalise.
  • All singing is vocals, but not all vocals is singing.  Vocals can be growling, screaming, rapping, or any number of other vocal sounds.
  • The k-pop vocalfag idea that “vocals” are technically above “singing” is the exact reverse of reality.  Anyone who is not mute can vocalise, however not everyone can sing (without training).
  • As usual, vocalfags are making up definitions of words to suit their own agenda, and judging vocalists/singers using these definitions as criteria, as if they are the objective truth.

Does anyone in the world of k-pop actually care?

No, and here’s why not.

  1. Most k-pop singers are not massively vocally trained, and couldn’t give two fucks, they have enough problems just staying in tune
  2. Most k-pop singers are miming, most of the time
  3. When k-pop singers are not miming, they’re singing along to backing tracks with their own Autotuned voice on them
  4. When k-pop singers are actually singing legit live (rare), neither they, their companies nor the people who appreciate their “good singing” mostly aren’t pedantic enough to give a shit about a non-issue like this.

That’s all for this post!  If you’re actually a vocalfaggot and read down this far, I congratulate you for your tolerance and open-mindedness.  Feel free to downvote this post wherever it appears and passive-aggressively flame me with ad hominem attacks on your social media of choice, you’ve earned it!  For the rest of you, I hope you enjoyed this post and The V Files will return with more paranormal mysteries soon!

15 thoughts on “Kpopalypse presents The V Files Episode 2 – vocalists vs singers

  1. Fucking great. As a jazz singer myself, I’ll occasionally refer to myself as a vocalist, usually cuz I feel like it sounds more like I can actually read music and play a couple instruments, which I can. But yup, same dealio.

    Mainly shouting my praise because this was an actually interesting read! I didn’t scroll through as much of your never ending word vomit as usual 😀 Congrats. You’ll never be concise, but sometimes you’re almost not overly loquacious!

  2. good shit 🙂 Imagine my confused face when, many years ago, as I was trying to find out about my new obsession, I went to soshified dot com to find out who was who. People told me about who the lead, main, and supporting vocalists and singers were and I’m like… but… there’s just one girl pulling most of the singing weight, and the others mostly sound like crap. I wasn’t popular there.

  3. To all the people who want to argue about the difference between the two: Oh my god, who cares? Korean doesn’t even distinguish between these terms. Both of them translate to 가수.

  4. In-groups like to have their own lingo, so I’m not too upset that the k-pop-analysis kids are developing their own. That being said, because of that lingo I often get confused when I read articles about singing by those in the k-pop-osphere. Also, it annoys me that they seem to believe vocal trends in pop dictate the laws of good singing, though maybe I’m not giving them enough credit, and they recognize that a lot of what they argue about is fluff.

  5. Let me tell you why these two terms even exist: Idol A is good at singing technically, but no one likes to listen to him, probably because a tree can emote more than him. Idol B’s parts in a song are loved by the public, coz he can put some feelings into it, even though he has slightly lesser technique.
    A is labelled a vocalist and B a singer. Now these people can claim that A is a better vocalist than B, and this is an ‘objective’ opinion. And the opinions of people who like B are ‘subjective’ and ‘based on emotions’, basically less valid.

    • Except that the labels are wrong. They’re both singers. Vocalfags want to be snobs about it and give more technical singers the tag “vocalist” because they think it’s prestigious or something but as the post points out, their interpretation of the term is completely different to what it really means. Anyone who can use their voice can be a “vocalist” but only a singer can “sing”.

  6. Basically the terms are just a more polite way that they distinguish between people who sing but aren’t very good, and people who sing and actually know what they’re doing. Pisses off less fans than saying YASSS AILEE HIT THAT HIGH NOTE WHEN WILL YOUR FAVES EVER.

  7. It must be frustrating to write this sort of article. You tried so hard to find a difference even worthless enough to criticise. But there is even less worth than that, so in the end all you have to show for your efforts is a summary of how much these turkeys are wasting everybody’s time.

    No complaints, I got a laugh from the futility of it.

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