My Favorite Vocalists of All Time

As the kids say, put some respect on her name!

On my Facebook memories, a post from 10 years ago (and don’t let me digress about how disgusting time is) was one I made listing my top 10 favorite songs and a few of them involved a certain singer-songwriter and it got me to thinking: Who has the best voice in music?

A few names instantly come to mind. I’m no musical aficionado; I only know what I like upon my ears. And this is absolutely not an exhaustive list. I’ve only had one cup of coffee so far, cut me some slack!

Freddie Mercury, of course. I’m not sure anyone can do both the power ballad quite like him or the intimacy quite like him, and the fact that he can pull both off is an incredible testament to his vocals. We know the ballads, but for intimacy, I always think about, “Who Wants to Live Forever,” which has its soaring moments, but also is so deeply intimate and personal.

Kurt Cobain, who might be a controversial take because I know some people find his voice too scratchy or whiny. But I love his voice and I think I’m not alone in that. It wasn’t merely his personality or the angst he sang about as to why a whole generation latched onto him; I think it was the power in his vocals. As a great example of such vocals, listen to the live MTV Unplugged performance from 1993 and in particular, “Where Did You Sleep Last night?”

Damien Jurado, who also had a song or two on my list, such as, “Sheets.” Or check out, “I Am Still Here,” one of the most heartbreaking songs you will ever hear and not just because of the lyrics, but because of Jurado’s somber vocals. He’s also one of those emotive guys, so if you can find live performances to watch his face as he sings … man, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!

Damien Rice, who I actually first was introduced to through American Idol, if you can believe it. One of the contestants sang a cover of, “Volcano,” which led me to Rice and the rest is music history. He’s become one of my favorites and is another guy whose vocals just breaks your dang heart. Among his best vocal performances are, “The Blower’s Daughter,” “Cheers Darlin’,” and, “I Don’t Want To Change You.”

Sarah McLachlan, who I know has become something of a meme because of being associated with those sad ASPCA videos, but her voice is incredible. “I Will Remember You” gives me goosebumps every single time.

Christina Aguilera. Yes, I said it! She’s fantastic and I have my moments where I go deep into her music because her voice is just unbelievable the places it can reach. I mean, her part in A Great Big World’s, “Say Something,” is absolute goosebumps personified. She does a great cover of, “Hurt,” and of course, “Beautiful,” is a classic. I also love, “The Voice Within.”

Anyhow, I could keep going on here. My two favorites though and I’m going to chicken out on picking between them are:

Thom Yorke of Radiohead, who I could spend the next 10 minutes listing basically every Radiohead song because he’s brilliant on all of them and breaks and re-builds and break my soul again with all of them, but of course everyone knows, “Creep,” but there’s also, “No Surprises,” “High and Dry,” “Daydreaming,” and some of his solo efforts, such as, “Unmade,” which I think is one of the most gorgeous songs I’ve ever heard.

Ray LaMontagne, a singer-songwriter, who has the honor (lol) of being the only musical act I’ve seen in-person at a concert … twice! My all-time favorite song, for which he sings, is, “Burn.” The vocals speak for themselves. They make me cry. Unbelievable. But other songs worth your time include, “Jolene,” “Empty,” “Let It Be Me,” and “All the Wild Horses.”

I find it hard to even explain what LaMontagne’s voice does to me. The other vocalists make my heart soar, or give me goosebumps, or get into my bone marrow, or make me cry, but LaMontagne is the only one who can capture of all it into one essence that obliterates me. It’s why I can’t always listen to him, counter-intuitively.

Try “Lesson Learned” on your ears, if nothing else:

That whispery soul-aching sound he gives, “Shall we call this a lesson learned?” Whew. Goodness.

Who are some of your favorite vocalists?

9 thoughts

  1. We each have our own tastes, so I can’t really disagree with your list. The top two are solid for sure. I agree about The National. Listen to “Wasp Nest” live if you can find it. Talk about goosebumps. Axl Rose would be on mine. Such a unique but familiar voice. Jack White would be there somewhere. I’m drawing a blank now lol. Good list, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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