Liam Payne finally addresses accent-gate

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·Deputy Editor, Yahoo Life UK
·5-min read
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Watch: Liam Payne addresses unique accent in post-Oscars interview: 'I'm a social chameleon'

Liam Payne has finally opened up about the unusual blend of accents he used while being interviewed about the infamous Will Smith slap after the Oscars.

The singer, 28, admitted to having had "a lot to drink" on the night of his now-famous interview with a Good Morning Britain reporter, where he slipped into a plethora of hybrid accents, sending Twitter into total meltdown.

“Will Smith actually used to live behind my house,” he ventured, starting in Irish, morphing into American, before slipping into Dutch. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing his son and daughter very well. We did Men in Black III with him."

“I believe that he felt whatever he did, he had the right to do," Payne continued. "I also felt there were three losers in one fight. He didn’t know, being Chris Rock, he didn’t do what he had to do, being Will Smith, and she did nothing, being Jada.”

Addressing the whole #accentgate in an Instagram Live video on Monday night Payne joked: "I'm good at accents, I pride myself on them! I just wish sometimes I could do my own.

"No I mean, what can I say about that really? It was quite funny."

He went on describe himself as a "social chameleon" and explained that his accent is "ever-changing" depending on who he is around.

For proof of his ever-evolving voice, the star also urged fans to watch back his X Factor audition as he claims you couldn't even tell he was from Birmingham.

"I didn't know the Birmingham accent was going to become really cool because of Peaky Blinders, but I don't sound like I'm from Birmingham really [in the audition]," he said.

Thankfully Payne saw the hilarity in the whole furore.

"It was funny wasn't it?" he quipped.

"Don't have many drinks and address the country I think would be the only line I could say really."

Liam Payne at Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California, March 2022. (Getty Images)
Liam Payne at Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California, March 2022. (Getty Images)

What's in an accent?

Accents are of course an immensely powerful mode of communication. My partner Stuart of 25 years has a strong North Wales accent with hints of Mancunian and Scouse. Growing up in leafy Surrey, surrounded by men with either plummy Southern accents or pseudo cockney lilts, his Northern accent was one of the first things that drew me to him.

He’s proud of his Welsh roots but I soon learned that having a Welsh accent in London can be both a blessing and a curse. Every time we meet someone new, they comment on his voice, mainly, ‘But you don’t sound Welsh?!’ He inwardly rolls his eyes and explains that as England has multiple different accents, so does Wales.

Growing up in Surrey, Emma Elms says her partner's Welsh lilt made him stand out when they met at university.
Growing up in Surrey, Emma Elms says her partner's Welsh lilt made him stand out when they met at university.

North Wales is near Liverpool, Manchester and Chester so there’s a hint of these in his voice too, which gets stronger when he’s with his family or childhood friends. His parents share the same warm tones too.

His mum is softly spoken and calls me, "Sweetheart" and I remember when we first went for a family meal in London and his dad ordered a dish with "Gaaaaaaa-rlic". Even the waiter didn’t understand.

But the big difference is whereas some believed Payne's hybrid accent could be put down to the singer trying to reinvent himself with a new trans-Atlantic lilt, Stuart has no desire to soften the accent that makes him stand out in London. Working as a board director and meeting multiple clients, I suspect his distinctive accent makes him memorable. In one office, he was the only person without BBC English.

Read more: Sexiest accents revealed: Which ones did British men and women rank the most attractive?

To be fair, Payne has been travelling the world since One Direction began 12 years ago, and as he pointed out in his Instagram speech he accidentally acquired bits of other accents along the way.

We often adapt our voice in order to fit in, as the language experts at Ling App explain. “We unintentionally mirror others when interacting by copying the other person's gestures, body language, tone of voice and accent to bond with others and feel safe in social interactions.”

One Direction star Liam Payne performing outside Oxford Circus underground station in London. (Press Association)
One Direction star Liam Payne performing outside Oxford Circus underground station in London. (Press Association)

In his video Payne described himself as a "social chameleon" – spot on since the official term for his plight is the 'Chameleon Effect'. This trait is part of human nature, especially when we’re younger, but as we get older, our own accent is so embedded that adopting a new one becomes harder – hence Payne’s struggle to nail it.

Read more: Woman rejected for job because of her 'strong Welsh accent'

“Another theory is that a brain's innate ‘musicality’ may affect how easily a person can slip into the rhythms of another dialect or accent,” add the experts at Ling App.

“Accents are hugely musical; stresses, pauses and lilts on words are the real way in which one language speaker distinguishes themselves from another.” But if that’s the theory, then Payne’s musical background should help ease the transition.

I wasn’t the only one chuckling at Payne’s new voice, as he delivered his heartfelt thoughts on Will Smith’s infamous slap. One Twitter user quipped "Damn Will Smith slapped Chris Rock so hard it changed Liam Payne’s accent" and another deadpanned, "Always good to hear from Liam Payne of Wolverhampton, Netherland."

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