I set myself an unnecessary challenge this week. 4 tunes by great male vocalists. What sets some voices out from the crowd? Power, range, tone? is it feasible to say one voice is ‘better’ than another? Well.. yes clearly I can name a vast number of people with a better singing voice than mine.. But with this qualitative analysis of vocal talent the bigger question is raised again. Is quality a direct reflection of personal taste? I try to avoid using the labels ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when I talk about music. Repeat the mantra after me: ‘If I do not like something, it does not mean it is bad’ There are many reasons that people don’t connect with specific musical styles. I am not fond of Country and Western music. I let it be known.
I’m not entirely sure why I let it be known. Perhaps I am suffering from an innate fear that someone will buy me an album by Garth Brooks or offer to take me to a Keith Urban concert. There are maybe other less offensive ways to mitigate these risks than publicly dismissing an entire musical genre. However, I am careful to refrain from saying Country music is bad. It is just bad for me – this is very different. There are maybe some obvious cultural factors here than make it difficult for me to connect with the music, but this can’t entirely be accurate as an absolute theory, if I also have a love for blues. If something is loved and revered by so many then it becomes self-perpetuating and cannot accurately be described as low quality. In the case of Country and Western music, hundreds of millions of Americans can’t be wrong.. although the last election result is difficult alignment to that statement.
This utilitarian approach to appraisal of arts is often a blocker to discovery and true understanding of our own tastes and needs. Should I like Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ because 1.7 billion other people have listened to it on Spotify? Does me not liking it mean I am somehow swimming against the stream, being stubborn or making an awkward and controversial statement? Thankfully we don’t all like the same things, and from that deviation in tastes and understanding has spawned the variety and choice that we have in music and the arts today. There is something rare and pleasurable about sharing music with someone you love and finding an additional connection through a common admiration. Equally it can be hard to understand when someone you love and respect doesn’t embrace your deep obsession for Himalayan tribal electronica. I mean what the hell is wrong with you? Its genius.
So back to this week’s topic. I set out to find male vocalists whom I, and hundreds of millions of others, find to be aurally appealing. Individuals whom we could through our personal evaluation, tainted with all its prejudices and specific circumstance, appraise to be ‘good’ and worthy of adulation. In this case it appears 4 tunes is far too small a sample size, but I do hope you will agree that these are laudable individuals.
In no particular order, and recognising there are many who deserve a space on this list…
1.) Chris Cornell – sadly we lost this man last year. I had the honour of seeing him perform live with Audioslave some years ago and will never forget the power of his vocals enveloping the auditorium.
2.) Freddie Mercury – another one sadly no longer with us. Freddie was magnificent and no one really has come close to replicating his capability since.
3.) Eddie Vedder – the voice behind another Seattle legend – thankfully still rocking!
4.) Chris Robinson – this might be my most controversial selection but despite the Black Crowes being possibly the least famous of the bands fronted by the vocalists above, I believe Chris’s place to be well deserved up here.
I also appreciate that there is a distinct lack of diversity in that list. Perhaps we should reduce the criteria to white male vocalists called Christopher, Farrokh or Edward from who were actively performing in the 1980’s
Anyway I hope you enjoy these 4 tunes.
As has become the standard over the last few weeks I am also including a video. this one of a lesser known band, but to my mind another great voice of our times. Sameer Gadhia from ‘Young the Giant’.