On New Year’s Day 2023, Rolling Stone released the article “200 Best Singers of All Time,” a comprehensive list of the best singers throughout the music industry which, as the article states, “encompasses 100 years of pop music as an ongoing global conversation, where iconic Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar lands between Amy Winehouse and Johnny Cash, and salsa queen Celia Cruz is up there in the rankings with Prince and Marvin Gaye.”
The article goes on to explain its criteria for the list:
“Before you start scrolling (and commenting), keep in mind that this is the Greatest Singers list, not the Greatest Voices List. Talent is impressive; genius is transcendent. Sure, many of the people here were born with massive pipes, perfect pitch, and boundless range. Others have rougher, stranger, or more delicate instruments…. In all cases, what mattered most to us was originality, influence, the depth of an artist’s catalog, and the breadth of their musical legacy. A voice can be gorgeous like Mariah Carey’s, rugged like Toots Hibbert’s, understated like Willie Nelson’s, slippery and sumptuous like D’Angelo’s, or bracing like Bob Dylan’s. But in the end, the singers behind it are here for one reason: They can remake the world just by opening their mouths.”
The list is veritable who’s who of the music industry, from current iconic artists like Taylor Swift, Arianna Grande, and The Weeknd to legendary singers like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, Brenda Lee, and Frank Sinatra. Among the top 10 of the iconic magazine’s list are powerhouse legends such as Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and Billie Holiday, to name a few.
The list also recognizes some renowned LGBTQ artists.
- Frank Ocean
Michaelangelo Matos writes:
Sylvester James, who died of AIDS in 1988, was a trailblazer in every way — an out gay man at a time when even Elton John would cop only to bisexuality, a Black innovator whose Seventies and Eighties dance hits are among the first in the all-synthesized, “high-energy” disco style. Most importantly, Sylvester was disco’s most preternaturally gifted male vocalist — from surprisingly husky spoken-word passages to a tweeter-shattering falsetto that humanized all those synths.
Rob Sheffield rationalizes Morrissey’s place on the list:
If all Morrissey aspired to be was the voice of Eighties teen misery, he would’ve sealed the deal in the early days of the Smiths. But he wanted more. He quickly bloomed into one of pop’s most emotionally articulate singers, flaunting his wit in classics like “Cemetry Gates” and “Suedehead,” sending high notes to heaven with an ironic kiss.
- Michael Stipe
- Rob Halford
- Elton John
Concerning John’s place on the list of the best singers of all time, Maura Johnston expounds:
Elton John’s over-the-top pop-rock gets an added jolt from his voice, which can highlight the impish glee or profound emotion in his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin’s lyrics. John’s nonpiano instrument has evolved over the years; in 1987, he had surgery to remove what he said to Billboard were “nine cancerous … whatever it was on my vocal cords,” deepening his range and modulating the falsetto that gave emotional oomph to ‘70s hits like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
- George Michael
- Lady Gaga
- David Bowie
- Luther Vandross
- Freddie Mercury
- Little Richard
- Whitney Houston
It is easy to understand why many of the artists are included, yet it makes you wonder why these artists are on the list.
- Chris Stapleton
- Axl Rose
- Ozzy Osbourne
The top ten of the “200 Best Singers of All Time” according to Rolling Stone are:
- Al Green
- Otis Redding
- Stevie Wonder
- Ray Charles
- Mariah Carey
- Billie Holiday
- Sam Cooke
- Whitney Houston
- Aretha Franklin
It comes as no surprise to anyone that this list has caused major controversy. Many have taken to the internet to voice their displeasure over the list.
While others are furious about the exclusion of one singer in particular.
What are your thoughts on Rolling Stone’s “200 Best Singers of All Time”? Were there artists on the list that you don’t agree with? What artists should be on the list that are not? Let us know in the comments or on our social media accounts.
Sources: Rolling Stone,