singer singing on stage beside guitar player and bass player

Source: Pexels by Thibault Trillet

What one likes to listen to, see, or taste, differs a lot from person-to-person. So, when someone comes up with a ‘top 10 best vocalists of all time’ and presents their opinion objectively, well, people are not going to agree because music is clearly subjective. Rolling Stone is a magazine that has been getting it all wrong in recent times. If their constant search for the new King of Pop wasn’t affronting enough, they have yet again decided to drown themselves even further. 

Their recent article, 200 best singers of all time, highlights why this very statement is quite unnecessary. Right at the start, they clarify themselves with a disclaimer: “This is the greatest singers list, not voices. In all cases, what mattered most to us was originality, influence, the depth of an artist’s catalogue, and the breadth of their musical legacy.” 

So, what you are looking at, is not a list of the greatest singers, but an overall artist. An artist who is definitely talented with their voice but has also been marketed well, and has a better team backing their music. If we purely talk about vocals because it is a huge part of being a singer, we have Jung Kook (191) and SZA (180) standing ahead of Kelly Clarkson (194). Or Barbara Streisand (147) and LA India (113) ranking below Taylor swift (102). 

But for Rolling Stone, a singer is much more than vocals. So, let’s see if they justify their other criteria listed – the breadth of music legacy. Michael Jackson (86) and Robert Plant (63) were ranked behind Rihanna (68) and Ariana Grande (43). 

I must include some missing singers whom I consider great in my book, based on technicality or showmanship. Some people might not see them as such. Jennifer Hudson, Justin Timberlake, Christine McVie, Brendon Urie, Dimash Kudaibergen, Celine Dion, Jon Bon Jovi, Idina Menzel, Steven Tyler, Édith Piaf, Floor Jansen, Dolores O’Riordan, Amy Lee, and many more names that I might have forgotten (as did Rolling Stone).

By every means, all the artists in the list are talented and have well-deserved praise. But no one really knows greatness in terms of ranking. The mistake of the article was first, having a poor definition of what they are looking for, and second, the mistake was annihilating the first mistake even more. 

Though we should acknowledge their inclusion of artists from different music backgrounds, on what grounds can Michael Jackson (King of Pop) come at number 86 when we talk about legacy?

In no way am I inferring that some of these artists are better than the others, simply because I don’t know what I am basing it upon. Is Taylor Swift a better singer than Kelly Clarkson? Most people will simply say no. Is Taylor Swift a better songwriter than Kelly Clarkson? And the simple answer, here, is yes. Therefore, we can’t in any way rank artists against each other who excel in different things.

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