From the hums to the belts, and everything in between.
I must apologize, it’s been far too long since my last entertainment based post. What can I say? Life’s been a doozy lately (in a very very good way). But jumping back in the writing game, I figured I’d share my thoughts on a subject that’s been long on my mind. I grew up with a great desire to be apt to sing the highs and lows like the “stars.” Needless to say, I settled for listening to and admiring the best of them. While it might be fun to one day list off my favorite all time singers, I figured that’d be too strenuous. For now, however, I figured I’d settle for my favorites in the business as of right now. I’m hoping to look at those that might bring the boldest power, who’s unique abilities might most easily captivate, who might best compliment their own style/sound, and who ultimately catch my fancy. The only rule I have is that I cannot select a Talent Show voice IF that individual does not have much of a career to back up said talents (sorry, Tessanne Chin!).
As you know, my selections are rarely controversy free (as all opinions are), but sometimes even that controversy can be against ones self. That is the case with me today, seeing I had to leave off MANY incredible performers. Here are a few of the Honorable Mentions: P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Nate Reuss (fun.), Sia, Hayley Williams (Paramore), Alicia Keys, Chris Daughtry, Charles Kelley (Lady Antebellum), Ray LaMontague, and just barely missing it is Mitch Grassi (barely still in that talent show category, may get on his own two feet in the near future).
Without further ado, here are my selections…
10. Tie: John Paul White & Joy Williams (AKA. The Former Civil Wars)
I suppose I’m cheating a bit with this one. While the two respected artists have ongoing and (to an extent) respected careers at this point, let’s be honest, these two make up about one of the finest vocal duo’s of recent history, and if you were to ask me, one of the tops ever conjured. Never has a duo better complimented the other, in both the subtle whispers and in the full fledged rock melodies, as these two musical magicians. In short, it was a short-lived match made in heaven.
9. Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic)
Is this a bias selection? Most indubitably. But does that make it any less of an option? Heavens no! While other grand groups such as Coldplay and U2 have paved the way for such groups as OneRepublic to make a stand, there has always been one (of many) thing that has made me prefer them more, Ryan. His alluring, raspy, and Gospel infused vocals make it ideal for nearly any music genre. On top of that, while he may not make “pitch” his priority come live events, still, he has one of the most versatile and powerful vocal ranges in the business.
8. Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge)
Much like my last vocal summary, there’s just something about Kennedy. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest Creed fan, but when I first heard Alter Bridge (essentially Creed with a new lead vocalist), it all just jived together. While it is easy to go on about his range and power, sometimes it just comes down to the fact that, well…he just sounds awesome. There are many cool and raspy voices in the Rock scene, but none are as massive, ear-pleasing, and spine-chill inducing as when Myles just completely belts it.
7. Brendon Urie (Panic! At The Disco)
Being a punk fan, it was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to a favorite from that field. And while Hayley Williams and Patrick Stump have equally unique and standout voices, let’s be honest here, the greatest asset Panic! has ever had has been Brendon (hence his being the sole member now). The boy essentially lives and dies by his falsettos, and when he’s on point, it is a true spectacle. But not just that, listening to his softer and lower “Sinatra” impressions last year shows what stellar range he has. All this goes to show why he is one of the few to get away with imitating Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and not be considered an abomination (which is rare indeed).
6. Tie: Aloe Blacc and Leon Bridges
Not to say they are “oh-so similar” in which their reputations cannot stand on their own two feet, I’m just wishing to point out their very fantastic similarities is all. They each have effortlessly smooth and silky voices that just scream old-school R&B, and both of whom are true artists who never overly flaunt their pipes, because there is so much art going on in each song. Not to criticize the more “power-house” performers, but subtlety and formation to one’s own genre and music is something that really oughta be appreciated, and these blokes kill it here, respectively.
5. Sam Smith
As you’ll come to find, I have a soft spot in my heart for the British powerhouse vocalists. Smith is just one of the ensemble, if you will. There are a number of things one can point out about Mr. Smith. For one, he’s one of the few artists today to go Platinum with very little to do with anything besides his vocals. He didn’t hit the industry with suave style, looks, or even musician skills. He got popular solely with his powerful, soulful, and all together unique pipes. That in and of itself in our American Idol/The Voice loving society, where few winners go on to much success, is truly extraordinary. And he’s been taking us and the entertainment world by storm ever since, all thanks to his moving and rich ability to make us swoon.
4. Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)
As far as music genres are concerned, Southern Rock is not my forte (though it has as of late been growing on me). And while my ignorance may appear glaring from time to time, there is one thing you can rest assure I understand; Brittany Howard is a living legend, through and through. While technique and range is key in the industry, sometimes it all comes down to the fact that someone’s voice just stands out in the crowd, thanks to sheer cool and flawless originality. Her power, low whispers, and crazy cool “rock shrieks” show that any given Southern Group privileged enough to have her at the head is going to go places.
3. Sameer Gadhia (Young the Giant)
Now talk about uniqueness and originality. I’ll admit this one is wholly and utterly a “preference” choice (though which ones aren’t, really?), but Gadhia’s vocals just sing to my soul (mostly figuratively, but perhaps slightly literal). As far as the indie/alternative scene is concerned, there may be a number of standout individuals in the bunch, but few have made the impact on me as Sameer has. While Young The Giant‘s band members contribute brilliantly in their own right, one can’t help their conviction that they’d be missing their secret ingredient without him. What with a dash of rasp, grit, poignancy, and a bit exoticism, you just can’t help but believe every word that Sameer cries out (no matter how corny it sounds). . Check out his “In The Open” performances, if you don’t believe me…
Who didn’t see this one coming? While I had been a rather dedicated fan to begin with, it was first when I heard Set Fire To The Rain that I knew for certain there would be few like her. There may have been a minor backlash when 21 came out by a minor yet loud crowd (as there always is with phenomenons), but can anyone really say she doesn’t have one of the most illustrious and revolutionary voices of the decade? I thought not. While her range may get in the way slightly, there is no denying that Adele is the queen of soul, emotion, and sheer authenticity, which is something the most polished of performers are often incapable of. In short, she’s a living icon, and one we’ll be marveling at for decades to come.
1. Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine)
Ah, now we get down to the best of the best. While some may slightly disagree, there would be few who would deny the chilling and stirring spectacle, which is Florence Welch and her God-sent vocal abilities. What I find so fantastic and groundbreaking about Florence is that she can do nearly anything. While her specialty might be the more classical, theatrical, and symphony, and perhaps (dare I say) nerdy based setting, she still has no trouble whatsoever dipping her feet elsewhere. Her crystal clear, versatile, and powerhouse vocals go well with 80’s rock, alternative blues, and even chart-topping dance beats. Each she easily maneuvers such class, range, and boldness, that it is impossible for her to fail, let along not top my list.
Well, that’s it folks. Those are my selections for the greatest lead vocals we have in modern music. And since it comes from me, you know the selections are bullet-proof. But if I were to have left off anyone of mention, who might it have been? Let me know! As always, thanks for checking it out.
P.S. The 1975’s new track By Your Side, while different, is a nice change of pace.