Another List: Just Unacceptable, Just Absolute Dogshit

So Musicradar, the same individuals who told us the greatest bassist of all time was Dream Theater's John Myung, have released another list, this one the greatest lead singer...ever. There are a lot of worthy candidates for number 1, obviously, and I won't fault them for picking somebody I don't agree with because there are so many criteria for what makes a good singer and holy sweet fuck they picked Axl Rose. Real actual people voted Axl Rose as the greatest lead singer of all time ahead of Roger Daltry, Robert Plant and Freddy Mercury and somehow, somehow, the universe decided not to kill everyone in the world.

What's stunning is that Musicradar is a really big site. A few thousand people voted for this thing and that's no small potatoes. There was a group consensus that Axl Rose was the greatest singer ever and that James Labrie deserves to be on the list at all. James Labrie! He's such a bad singer he wouldn't even get on a list of the worst singers of all time! He would be too bad for it! He is just that bad at singing!

It doesn't even matter that the people who belong on the list are on the list for the most part. When you say Axl Rose is the best at anything besides Turding either you thought the guitar solo from "Paradise City" was somebody singing or the things you loved from your childhood have completely stopped you from processing art on an objective level. The rest of the list could be the word FART written over and over again and if Axl Rose was still #1 it would have the same level of validity.

So. Here are ten that should've been on the list, as per usual. I trimmed this list down from like a billion, and like the list it attempts to correct didn't qualify solo acts or groups that relied on harmonizing, so I'm sorry for all the country and Philadelphia Soul I couldn't consider. Other than that, yeah, here we go.

1. Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy has spent the last 30 years of his life being a professional wad, but before that he used to be known as the lead singer for Black Sabbath, when being a wad was only his hobby. Ozzy pretty much typifies the "singer who can't sing" department along with Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis, but on Sabbath's first few albums he sang with a morbid soul that hasn't been replicated since. Along with Iommi's immaculate riffage, Ozzy's specterly wails and groans covered metal in its first sheet of real mystique, and yeah, his vocals could even be downright eerie at times. He's a laughingstock now, but his contributions to metal shouldn't be forgotten, and neither should the fact that his talent was once more than incidental.

2. Damo Suzuki(Can)

Damo Suzuki is another singular entity in the canon of rock singers, mostly because nobody but nobody does crazy like he can. Suzuki was literally a random person that Can picked off the street to replace their first lead singer, which should mean that it would be no surprise to anyone to find that his voice is the sonic equivalent of a mushroom trip. Furious one instant, crazed beyond reason another and occasionally winding up at downright sedate, it's impossible to predict what the vocals are going to sound like when you first listen to a Can album, yet it's Suzuki's seeming tunelessness that proves to be the perfect counter to the rest of Can's immaculate musicianship, the incongruity drawing you ever deeper into their psychedelic freakshow vision trip. Damo Suzuki's voice is relentlessly schizophrenic and, as such, incredibly captivating.

Essential Tracks: Vitamin C, Peking-O, I'm So Green
3. Mike Patton(Faith No More, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle, etc.)

To refer to Mike Patton's range as being "incredible" would be a gross understatement-from rap-metal to avant-garde scat experimentations, to Italian pop ballads through voice work as the monsters from I Am Legend and Left 4 Dead, there is seemingly nothing that Mike Patton cannot do with his voice. It isn't all technical virtuosity, either: Patton fills every vocal role required of him with emotion and unmatchable character and wit, rendering his most mainstream-oriented Faith No More tracks an artful lean and giving even his most threshold-testing vocal experiments a relatable hook. Bottom line: Nobody alive today can manipulate their vocal chords like Mike Patton, and nobody can push the boundaries of what a performer can-or should-do with their voice like him, either.

4. Bryan Ferry(Roxy Music)

Simply put, and in the least homoerotic/most homoerotic way I can say it, Bryan Ferry sounds like an angel. In terms of having a bonafide, 100% indisputably beautiful voice, Ferry is a hard if not impossible to match entry in the rock canon. He works in the time proven Soul tradition of making every booty call sound like a marriage proposal and every marriage proposal sound like a booty call and does so at a pitch that's inhumanly high, unbelievably soft and unquestionably jaw-dropping. If you're a straight woman or a gay man, Bryan Ferry will make love to you through your headphones. If you're a gay woman or a straight man, you will change your orientation just to receive the pleasure of Bryan Ferry making love to your through your headphones. I am bicurious for Bryan Ferry's voice, and you should be too.

5. Shane MacGowan(The Pogues)

Shane MacGowan is known less for being a singer and more for being a dirty stinkin' drunk, but it's that propensity of his for dirty stinkin' drunkenness that lends his voice the authority it needs when he sings about how much American police love to billyclub him. MacGowan might have the punkest voice in rock and roll history, even moreso than Strummer, Ramone and Rotten: His vocal parts are a mix of snarls, barks and shrieks that if paired with typical hardcore instruments would've been recognizable as some of the most fierce and outrageous of the era. Instead of sounding desperate or self involved, however, it simply sounds honest, the folk instruments lending MacGowan's rage, misery and drunken joy a legitimacy lacking from many traditional punk acts. If there's a man alive who can make up for a lack of technical talent with sheer energy it's Shane MacGowan, and it's that same energy which catapulted the Pogues to the top of the charts and launched a thousand Celtic punk bands that, for better or for worse, have never matched MacGowan's intense, straightforward delivery.

6. Chris Cornell(Soundgarden, Audioslave)

There's no such thing as a picture of Chris Cornell not looking like a douchebag, and indeed, much like the venerable Ozzman before him, Cornell succumbed to a full time career as Douche in Chief during the past five years or so. But make no mistake: During the grunge years nobody's voice could top that of Chris Cornell's. Many of his vocal parts could be described less as "singing" and more as "stuntwork", as you're left wondering how the man can even stand up after belting such an incredible melody. Cornell's strength as a vocalist is his dedication to his style: He never softened up or toned it down, roaring battle anthems and ballads alike as though his life depended on delivering the most Biblically intense performance possible. If anyone makes the argument that grunge doesn't take any talent to preform, Chris Cornell is the perfect voice to shut them up.

7. Jeff Mangum(Neutral Milk Hotel)

Is this going to be the first time someone compares Jeff Mangum to Damo Suzuki? Probably. I don't think anyone likes Mangum's voice the first time they hear it. It's nasal, seemingly tuneless and largely divorced from the music accompanying it. All of these factors, however, are what lend Jeff Mangum's voice its starkness. He's a folk songwriter second and a psychedelic songwriter first, and to get to that trip-like state, you have to be completely alienated from the world around you. That's what Jeff Mangum's voice is good at. It pairs itself up with an acoustic guitar, or a pipe organ, or a trombone, and strikes your brain in places you didn't know were there and pulls you into a greenish-grey world of his own making, where the body functions differently and every symbol is made real, everything real made a symbol. Many people don't like Jeff Mangum's voice, and to that I say you're not supposed to like his voice. You're supposed to like the effect of his voice.

8. Rob Halford(Judas Priest)

How a website made up largely of metalheads and prog fanatics failed to include Rob Halford on their list of all time greatest frontmen is both stupefying and shameful. Long story short, Rob Halford is the godking of classical metal vocals. Not even Bruce Dickinson can match his falsetto and the speed with which he can jump from high to gravely low is neck-snappingly fast. He is the master of the operatic metal singing style, infusing each song with a personality all its own and making even the most bombastic, cheesy ideas seem Goddamn Virgil-esque in scope. Bottom line: Bow down to Rob Halford, folks. Even Pavarotti loves the guy.

9. John Fogerty(Creedence Clearwater Revival)

I'm not gonna front: I decided to write this pretty much on an impulse and I'm getting kind of tired of doing so, plus I wanna have some energy to write about the last guy who I don't think most of you will have heard of. You all know who John Fogerty is, you all know why you like him or you don't. The dude has a ridiculously unique voice and sounds like a gifted hillbilly from the Georgia mountains instead of a nerd from El Cerrito. That weird yowly thing he does might not appeal to you but try doing it yourself, it's super hard and you wouldn't be able to do it with any sort of melodious outcome.

...John Fogerty's pretty great I guess is what I'm saying.

10. Demis Roussos(Aphrodite's Child)

Demis Roussos is a big chubby dude who sings, and like many big singing chubby dudes he can pull off incredible feats with his voice. His music changed from straightforward '60s psychadelia to pop to prog to easy listening, and here's the weird part: He didn't change his voice at all for any of those genres, and yet he always ended up sounding like he was right where he belonged. His lush crooning proves as appropriate for hitting the bong as it is as a soundtrack for driving to church with grandma and even his corniest ballads will move you to tears if you're drunk enough. Rousso's voice hits you right in that sappy part of your soul that you don't want to admit exists, and you'll be hard pressed to not come away from his songs feeling weirdly contented every time.


  • Peter Gabriel(Genesis)
  • Zach de la Rocha(Rage Against the Machine)
  • Phil Lynott(Thin Lizzy)
  • Jon Anderson(Yes)
  • Colin Blunstone(The Zombies)
  • Lou Reed(The Velvet Underground)
  • David Byrne(Talking Heads)
  • Mikael Akerfeldt(Opeth)
  • Lemmy(Motorhead)
  • Ian Curtis(Joy Division)
  • Cedric Bixler-Zavala(At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta)
  • Dave Mustaine(Megadeth)
  • Wayne Coyne(The Flaming Lips)
  • Elvis Costello(Elvis Costello and the Attractions/Impostors/etc.)
  • Henry Rollins(Black Flag)
  • Sly Stone(Sly and the Family Stone)
  • Ron Isley(The Isley Brothers)
  • Ric Ocasek(The Cars)
  • Annie Haslam(Renaissance)


  1. Lovin #9
    and big time respection on the considerations

  2. weird list mate, and thoroughly entertaining. Thanks!

  3. There seems to be a bit of a scrap in the comments over there about "frontman" vs. "lead singer" votes. If you were to go with the former, I can understand the votes for Rose.

    But I think in either case, Freddie Mercury still wins. Incredible voice, incredible presence and never a letdown. I don't know how that can be topped.

    As for your list, I would also have Cornell, Ozzy, Fogerty, Halford, Rollins and Anderson right up there. Although I can't stand him, Morrison makes it as a front man for me, and I feel the same way about Steven Tyler.

    I'll throw out the Wilsons fronting Heart and my choice for best frot man of all-time, mothergrabbin' David Lee Roth.

  4. What about Gunnar Christian Älvestam, ex-lead singer of Scar Symmetry? Dude had amazing vocal acrobatics. When he and the band split they had to replace him with TWO dudes to fill his shoes. Otherwise (except for the creepy guy coming in at #10) your list is wicked.