Thursday, November 13, 2008

Face Up and Sing

Don’t worry, I’m not being fooled into taking Rolling Stone seriously, but the magazine’s list of the best 100 singers -- compiled by asking luminaries like Scott Weiland (ugh), Carrie Underwood (double ugh), and James Blunt (triple-axel ugh) -- is grist for the blogger’s mill. They arguably get it right at the top, with Aretha at number one. And several others in the top 20 are of the “No, duh” variety: Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Freddie Mercury.

But overall, the list looks like just another hodgepodge of the increasingly senile magazine’s deities. Bob Dylan seventh? Even allowing for a (rightly) unstuffy definition of “singer,” and even given that the pre-rock era doesn’t appear to count (no Frank Sinatra, no Billie Holliday, etc.) . . . seventh?? Ahead of Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, and Etta James? And, Whitney Houston 18 places below Mick Jagger? And, Neil Young 39 places ahead of Steve Perry? Methinks we’re talking about more than singing here...

I won’t attempt any comprehensive list of my own, but here are a few mini-lists in reaction:

My five favorite ethereal female voices, a type of voice for which I have a notorious weakness: Natalie Merchant, Karen Peris (The Innocence Mission), Mimi Parker (Low), Lori Carson, Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl)

My three favorite falsettos: Maxwell, Barry Gibb, and Prince

Four singers who were on the Rolling Stone panel of voters who should have been on the list of singers: Sinead O’Connor, Daryl Hall, George Michael, and Sebastian Bach, a much better singer than Axl Rose, who represents metal screechers on the final list.

Pretty voices who were overlooked: Linda Ronstadt, Raul Malo (of The Mavericks and a solo career) and the perfect-pitched Alison Krauss

Young voices (among many) who were overlooked: Mark Kozelek, Neko Case, Amos Lee, and Ray LaMontagne

Six of my favorite voices who were overlooked, some more understandably than others: Tracy Chapman, Lyle Lovett, Michael Stipe, David Gray, Jay Farrar, and Neil Finn

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Blogger Laurie said...

Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater/Okkervil River fame?

3:01 PM  
Blogger Dan Carlson said...

Rolling Stone is about two years away from becoming a crotchety old man who yells when you walk across his lawn.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Mrs. White said...

I wouldn't have thought of it, but good call on Sebastian Bach. I (and maybe a bit embarrassingly) saw him in Jeckyll and Hyde a few years back, and that dude can legitimately sing.

And you're totally right. That list is lame, yo.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Turtle said...

i just ran through the list. here's what immediatley jumped out at me: art garfunkel but not paul simon? karen carpenter but not carol king? kurt cobain but neither eddie vedder nor chris cornell? jeff buckley but not jim james? mariah carey but not joan armatrading?
doesn't make any sense.

8:46 PM  
Blogger suzygirl said...

Pretty voices...Raul Malo, you nailed it.

6:24 AM  

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