Bono (And Not So Bono) Vox

I haven’t picked up a copy of Q magazine in some time, but from what I remember, it was an inoffensive, nice little British magazine that covered Pop and Rock stars favorable to English audiences. Not quite Blender, but far from Mojo, if you know what I mean. Anyway, they’ve gotten into the “list” act with their recent “poll” (of Q writers and editors), giving us the Ten Best and Worst Singers of All Time rundown. (Presumably, this is a leaked-to-the-press part of their new issue, which features the 100 Best Singers and the 1000 Best Songs — they’re going all out with this one.)

I like lists like these (they’re down below if you want to check them out … I’ll wait …) solely because they get people talking about music. Though the list crafters are probably usually doing it more for the self-promotion. They know it gets people talking … about their product. So maybe I’ll get paid for mentioning this. I’ll ask for 1,000 pounds — what’s that, like $4?

Anyway, for me, the Best Singer list is fine, maybe even a little too safe. Certainly confusing at parts. Elvis could sing, but … all time best? Aretha and Sinatra came in second and third, respectively. For a technical best voice (which would seem like this list should be), you’d have to go with Aretha. But maybe they were factoring in something else that I just don’t understand. If you’re factoring in charisma or the ability to communicate pure, unfiltered emotion … well, I’d probably go with someone like Howlin’ Wolf. But it’s not my list, so I’ll just have to deal. They did pick Cobain (iffy on the tech side, almost perfect on the other). But, c’mon — is John Lennon really a better singer than Marvin Gaye?

The Worst list is even more confusing. Again, are we talking technically here? Much as it pains my heart to say anything remotely positive about these people — Celine Dion and Mariah Carey can indeed sing. Quite well. The inclusion of Bobby Gillespie and Nick Heyward shows how very British the list is (and I think Gillespie does an alright knock-about with his voice in Primal Scream).

I’ll give ’em Yoko Ono and Einar, the Fred Schneider of the Sugarcubes (the Soundgarden to Bjork’s Chris Cornell). The inclusion of Fred Durst seems like a waste of ink, breath, brain usage, etc. — folks, if we ignore him, he will go away. I like Ozzy’s voice, though it seems to be thoroughly manipulated these days with effects. The total dismissal of a very popular genre of music with their inclusion of “any death metal singer” is just mean. And very old-timerly — “Those kids just listen to that dag nab racket!”

I will give them this — this is the first time in a long time that I’ve seen an “all time” music list from England that had no mention of Oasis (though I’m sure Liam’s all over the print edition).

Q‘s Best Singers Of All Time

1. Elvis Presley

2. Aretha Franklin

3. Frank Sinatra

4. Otis Redding

5. John Lennon

6. Marvin Gaye

7. Kurt Cobain

8. Robert Plant

9. Mick Jagger

10. Jeff Buckley

Q‘s Worst Singers of All Time

Now I’m not sure of the order here, but it appears to be (from the different reports) something like this:

1. Ozzy Osbourne

2.Mariah Carey

3. Céline Dion

4. Yoko Ono

5. Fred Durst

6. Sugarcubes singer Einar

7. M People’s Heather Small

8. Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie

9. Haircut 100’s Nick Heyward

10. “any death metal singer”

— Mike Breen

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6 Comments on “Bono (And Not So Bono) Vox”

  1. trey Says:

    Joey Ramone should be in the best list. In my eyes, he was probably the first guy who figured out how to sound cool singing over hard rock. Which makes me sort of agree with Ozzy on the worst list (maybe not #1): he always sounded half-retarded. And Robert Plant and Roger Daltry just screamed. Kurt Cobain: perfect in the emotional part? Is suicidal, self-absorption a valid emotion?

  2. Kenny Says:

    I actually agree with the Kurt Cobain thing, on the emotional end. Depression and anger are certainly valid emotions. He was singing from the depths of his soul, like an old blues shouter. Or at least he was good at making it sound like he was.

    Some more for the best list: Nina Simone, Antony (from Antony and the Johnsons), Neko Case. They all have powerful and unique voices that seem almost supernatural.

    Worst: Enrique Iglesias, J-Lo and who can forget little Ashlee Simpson?

  3. Julie Mullins Says:

    Amen on the Nina Simone suggestion…But where the hell is Ella Fitzgerald? Her range, her emotion, her power to play with and transform average (even dull) standards into extraordinary creations uniquely her own – not to mention her technical abilities and masterful scat singing. She kept things fresh and real, and had quite the long track record to boot.

  4. citybeat Says:

    That’s another thing that’s kind of unclear — where is the cut-off? I suppose they are speaking of “Pop” music, which would excuse the absence of Ella (I guess). I mean, we could be getting into Maria Callas and Pavorati if it’s across time and genre borders. Heck, what about Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn?

    I’ve had a few long (friendly) arguments with people about Ella and Billlie Holiday. That’s kind of my “Ginger or Mary Ann?” I’m a Billie guy myself, for pure emotioinal output and creativity, though, of course, Ella was technically miles ahead.

    — breen

  5. Julie Mullins Says:

    I did consider the genre cut-offs, but I wouldn’t say Sinatra’s any less “Pop” than Ella.

    I agree that by rights, Billie should certainly be in there too, but would likely be considered even more squarely in the Jazz camp than Ella. Indeed, Billie stands alone in her most moving raw expressiveness. I adore her vocals too…

    Your “Ginger or Mary Ann” – LOL!

  6. N. Says:

    Kurt Cobain and Mick Jagger over Jeff Buckley? This is kinda a strange best list… to my ears, JB had the technical AND the emotionally resonant ends covered. I guess the effectiveness of one voice over another is all very subjective though. Maybe that’s the beauty of it.

    Still, though. No Freddie Mercury? Maybe a bit early to put Thom Yorke up there, but I’d throw him in too. And I also agree on the Billie Holiday tip.


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