I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a female vocal. I can’t place my finger on why exactly, but for whatever reason, I always tend to favor the gentler gender when it comes to music. That’s not to say I can’t listen to male singers, au contraire, it simply means that when I do come across a record with male vocals taking the reigns that I do like, it’s a big deal. Whereas other people seem to think Coldplay or U2 are genius’ in their artistic endeavors, I simply find them dull. I never got the Beatles and Bob Dylan leaves me reaching for shuffle on my iPod. The male singers I do like however earn their status by performing lustrous airs with body that avoids pigeonholing them into generic rock stars. You might notice some common traits- over half of them are raging queers, and know doubt many will disagree with it, but here it is…
10 Barry White
The man with the chocolate voice, Barry White’s music hangs on the verge of guilty pleasure. His is the cd you stick on during a date, after you’ve dimmed the lights and after you’ve poured the wine, but before you run the bath. Your The First, The Last, My Everything (which was originally written as a country song by White fyi) is still a floor filler more then 30 years after it was released. His ability to talk in that sultry baritone voice before he began singing manages to avoid the corniness it has so much potential to be. Personally, I think he is far better then Elvis, his often compared white parallel. Elvis was cool, but Mr White was just Uber chic.
9. Marc Bolan
I first heard T.Rex as a kid, but the first time I actually registered them was in an ad for bottled water. Cosmic Dancer-“I danced myself right out the womb”. I pictured this elderly Native American woman singing it, and couldn’t believe it was a British pioneer of Glam Rock. In exploring Mr Bolan’s back catalogue I fell in love with his bizarre vocals and simple yet effective song writing abilities. None of them sounded similar, yet all of them could only ever have been T.Rex- Children Of The Revolution being deliciously daft, Ride A White Swan emitting more rock-meets-children’s-nursery-rhyme. I don’t have a clue what most of them are about, neither did he most likely but that didn’t matter, they were simple and more importantly fun songs. One of the most underrated British bands of times past, T.Rex should be up there with the Beatles and Stones.
8. Jake Sheers
A more modern addition to the list then the previous two, Jake Sheers is best known for fronting Scissor Sisters, the queerest band to hit the airwaves since Abba. With a range that reaches so high you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d just had a groin injury, his tackling of Comfortably Numb was controversial and Pink Floyd themselves were vocal about it’s bastardization. I liked it myself, but the Scissor Sister’s own material was strong enough that it’s a wonder they decided to release a cover as their debut single. There isn’t one song on that beautiful first album that hinted filler. From the retro camp Take Your Mama to the epic and terrifying Return To Oz it is easily one of the classics of the naughties. Their follow up Ta-Dah didn’t get quite as warm a reception but I still stand firmly beside it. Yes there are one or two stuffing tracks but I Can’t Decide and Transister are up there with their best stuff. It’s been a while since we heard from Jake and the gang, but my fingers are crossed that we haven’t seen the last of them. They deserve legend status.
7. Antony Hegarty
Another queer entry, Antony might not actually appreciate being on this list, seeing as he identifies with being a woman, as mentioned in his hauntingly beautiful song For Today I Am A Bouy. His music is difficult to define, slightly Kate Bush, slightly Patrick Wolf with plenty of his own ingredients, I first heard his enchanting vocals on The Rufus Wainwright track Old Whore’s Diet. He exploded onto the already bizarre song with this weird sound, almost echoing a pervy drugged up pimp. I had to investigate the origin of this voice and I came across I Am A Bird Now, The second album by Antony (and The Johnsons). It’s not an album, nor is he a singer I can listen to for hours on end, but the anomalous of his material is absorbing and wonderful. His latest album The Crying Light is slightly more produced and the simplistic piano ballads are faintly missed, however it is still a Gem(as long as your not already feeling a bit blue).
6. Damon Albarn
That lovely little accent, that cute red hoody, and the gorgeous cheeky face, Damon Albarn didn’t need to be a great musician to be loved, but lucky for us his is.
Britpop was a immense time for music, and Blur were out there ruling over their peers such as Pulp, Suede (and maybe even Mel C). I still can’t believe there are people out there who prefer Oasis to Blur, and Damon (unlike Noel and Liam) has transgressed his musical talents into the modern music scene with ease and with Gorillaz, has had more success now then he ever did with his boys. His music is incontestably fun, and that’s all music ever needs to be really. I much prefer when Boys And Girls comes on in a club then let’s say “Sexy Back”, and he’s invented a new genre of cartoon funk with his ingenious animated band. A musical multitasker, I’m disgusted they aren’t headlining a show of their own this summer. Nothing would drag me down to the Barbaric festival that is Oxegen.
5. Patrick Wolf
There seems to be somewhat of a trend with the number 5 on my top ten lists. Like Amanda Palmer in my top ten female singers, Wolf in my mind writes and sings amazing songs set in a genre of his own, but as a person he comes of as such a gobshite (Bette Davis was also famous for being a bitch i.e. gay icon number 5). You know that irritating self-indulgent “so cool” attitude that some popstars seem to share? Well any interview or live performance I’ve seen of Paddy have contained that air of blah…Still I continue to buy Patrick’s records and listen to him profusely because he’s an amazingly talented man who knows how to make a decent album. Looking like a bad guy from a Final Fantasy game, one would expect him to start singing all high ala Mika, however his deep Baritone chanting may be the contributing factor to his originality. The Childcatcher is possibly the most terrifying piece of music to graze my ears. Dripping with a cocktail of Myra Hindly and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang evilness, it’s a drastic difference from the sweet Magic Position, which is gloriously underrated pop. My personal favorite is his duet with Marianne Faithful-Magpie, which is ever so Kate Bush.
4. Freddie Mercury
I love the name Freddie. It has so much character; I mean how could you not love a Freddie? I kind of wish I was called Freddie actually…but I’m not, I’m stuck with Paul the most generic name known to mankind.
So you see with a name like Freddie Mercury how could the man anything but a legend? My early memories of Queen’s hits are at my uncles wedding as a 5 year old, seeing old ladies and drunk 2nd cousins all playing air guitar in synch. How could anyone not love his unending catalogue of feel good rock? Bohemian Rhapsody may just be the best song of all time, Don’t Stop Me Now Still sounds as fresh as the day it was released. I find it amazing that a band as colourful and dramatic as Queen are still considered second fiddle to the Beatles who in my mind are grey in a sea of rainbow melodies beside Queen. I think were I to have a singing voice. Freddie’s would be that ultimate set of vocal chords and it is one of the tragedies of my life that I will never get to see him live in concert.
I sulked with David Bowie a few years ago. I was all set to see him headlining Oxegen but the man had a bad heart or something, so instead The Darkness headlined…THE DARKNESS? Where are they now eh? To be honest they actually weren’t bad but I’m still bitter I haven’t seen Bowie on stage yet. Yet being the all-important word. I’ll never forgive him if he pulls a Freddie. I need a Bowie fix every few days, he’s not someone I can listen to for hours on end. He’s more like an old reliable that puts me in a good mood with the world. His croaky voice shouldn’t really work, but it does and adds a haunting depth to the lyrics that is completely absent from modern music. Ashes to Ashes is possibly my favorite Bowie song before it was raped by Samantha Mumba (who by the way admitted to not knowing who Bowie was). He’s become a bit of a Kate Bush in his later years with the speed of his new material, but allegedly he currently has a new album in the recording factory so it won’t be too long before we’ve another batch of Bowie goodness to stick on our iPods.
Ok I first want to mention that although I only got around to writing this a week after Jackson’s untimely death, I actually compiled the list the same time I did my list of female singers and Michael earned the number two slot on his own. Not simply because he’s fashionably nostalgic at the moment. Michael Jackson remains one of my earliest memories of music. I was 6 when he released Dangerous and there is a dusty home video of my cousin and I moonwalking to Black or White hidden somewhere in my Nana’s house. There is something universally likeable about his music. Whereas Madonna and U2 distil opinion with fiery distain, very little music fans are critical of Mr Jackson’s output. Find me one person who sits through Billie Jean in a nightclub, ditto for Dirty Diana. True Earth Song and countless of his ballads are corny as fuck and are sweeter then marshmallows steeped in maple syrup, but they’re all still great examples of pop. Thriller is the ultimate song that all others must measure themselves up against-the audio golden chalice. He destroyed his beautiful face (just look at him in Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough) and his short life was drenched in tragedy and sadness. I don’t know or care about his morals as they don’t effect his records, and in an odd way, now that he’s dead we’ll probably gain access to far more unreleased tracks that we never would have heard had he died an old man. RIP Michael
- Rufus Wainwright
The order of this list is fairly stellar, but in a few months time I may feel someone deserved a place higher, or lower (I still feel guilty about bumping George Michael for Barry White) but I know there will never be any doubt on who deserves the golden position.
I think Rufus Wainwright is the paramount songwriter in the music business today-perhaps it’s because he is more of a composer then a writer. At first I wasn’t charmed by his voice, I thought it was slightly nasally and harsh on the ear, but as his albums progressed it got softer and far easier to listen to. Want One is my personal favorite of his albums. It restrains his most captivating moments with Beautiful Child, 14 Street and Go Or Go Ahead. However as a whole Want Two probably flows better. While my favorite tracks are on the previous, the later as a whole contains not one song that requires the skip button. His latest album Release The Stars was another celebration of how an album should sound-It was also the album he was promoting when I saw him in concert, twice actually. The first was in San Francisco where he was supported by Sean Lennon and they dueted on Across The Universe. It was the number one live music moment of my life (aside perhaps from my first Pink gig in 2002 when she got topless). He came to Ireland a few months later and he played a similar set, which ended with a drag performance of Judy Garland’s Get Happy. It was the perfect mix of humour and musical genius, which sums up Rufus as a whole. He’s camp and flamboyant, but never naff. His lengthy catalogue is completely sparse of any stinkers whatsoever and as he’s only in his mid thirties and even bigger due to his opera debuting in London, he is really only beginning the musical career I believe he’ll continue into his old age.