Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Best Frontmen and Women of All Time

Note: This blog entry was modified on 7/2/11. Click here to see the original post, now archived on the DMDB Facebook page in the Notes section.

Wow. The latest list from Q Magazine (think British Rolling Stone – if RS actually devoted all their attention to music) is maddening. As a music list fanatic, I frame each list in context. It is important to know that Q debuted about the same time as the Britpop movement (helmed by acts such as the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays) in the late ‘80s. As a result, they have an understandable bias toward the acts that helped them establish their cred and, perhaps even more importantly, sell magazines.

Hence it is no surprise that the mag salivated over the Blur vs. Oasis rivalry of the ‘90s like the National Enquirer drools every time Brad and Angelina break wind. Q is similarly giddy over every noise that Thom Yorke and Radiohead fart out. I’m not a big fan, but there is no arguing with the success and influence they’ve mustered and Q embraces that like a proud parent.

It also is forgivable that Q has wet themselves all over again, thanks to the new breed of Britpop faves in the last decade. The over-hyped Coldplay leads the pack, but other bands, including Keane, Kasabian, Muse, and Razorlight also figure prominently.

This is all well and good when reporting on new music – what’s hot, what’s going to be hot, and what won’t really be hot at all. However, when making big and bold proclamations like “the best ever” or “greatest of all time,” biases should be set aside. Some of the aforementioned bands might merit inclusion on best-of lists somewhere. Even the best of these, however, don’t belong at or close to the top – not in the context of ALL TIME. Those lofty heights should be reserved for the established giants.

In this case, the list is for the greatest frontmen of all time. Even the title is a misnomer since it implies that 1) everyone on the list is male, and that 2) these males all front bands. The presence of both solo stars and female singers invalidates the term. Granted, “singer” is too simplistic – the term “frontman” suggests a quality beyond vocal talent; it is also about a stage presence that captivates an audience. I don’t have a better term yet; “singers who know how to command an audience” seems a bit too wordy, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, without further ado (‘cause God knows I’ve overloaded with you “ado”), here’s their list:

Q Magazine’s “Top 100 Greatest Frontmen” (May 2010 issue)

Liam Gallagher “picked” as the best frontman of all time.

1. Liam Gallagher (Oasis)
2. Bono (U2)
3. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
4. Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz)
5. Chris Martin (Coldplay)
6. Jim Morrison (The Doors)
7. Bob Marley
8. Matt Bellamy (Muse)
9. John Lennon/ (The Beatles)
10. Paul McCartney (The Beatles)

Q readers says Matt Bellamy is better than the Beatles’ John Lennon AND Paul McCartney. So there.

11. Robbie Williams (Take That)
12. Debbie Harry (Blondie)
13. Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones)
14. Morrissey (The Smiths)
15. John Lydon (Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd.)
16. James Brown
17. Bruce Springsteen
18. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
19. Tom Meighan (Kasabian)
20. Joe Strummer (The Clash)

Robbie Williams is prepared to challenge Mick Jagger to a sing-off any day, any time.

21. Chuck D (Public Enemy)
22. Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)
23. Ian Curtis (Joy Division)
24. Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses)
25. Jarvis Cocker (Pulp)
26. Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon)
27. Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode)
28. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
29. Roger Daltrey (The Who)
30. Thom Yorke (Radiohead)

Even Thom Yorke can’t get his head around the idea of being ranked higher than Elvis Presley.

31. Jack White (The White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather)
32. Mark E. Smith (The Fall)
33. Iggy Pop (The Stooges)
34. Elvis Presley
35. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana)
36. Ian Brown (Stone Roses)
37. Nick Cave
38. Florence Welch (Florence + the Machine)
39. Paul Weller (The Jam/Style Council)
40. Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)

41. Keith Flint (Prodigy)
42. Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music)
43. Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
44. Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi)
45. Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)
46. Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)
47. Bon Scott (AC/DC)
48. Michael Hutchence (INXS)
49. Sly Stone (Sly & The Family Stone)
50. Eminem

51. Rod Stewart
52. Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)
53. Julian Casablancas (The Strokes)
54. Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
55. David Bowie
56. Shane MacGowan (Pogues)
57. Prince
58. Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays)
59. Jay-Z
60. Richard Ashcroft (The Verve)

Yes! Chris Martin says that I, Richard Ashcroft, am the best singer of all time. He should know what he’s talking about – he’s ranked #5 while nobodies like Elton John are ranked below me.

61. James Hetfield (Metallica)
62. Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie & The Banshees)
63. Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age)
64. Courtney Love (Hole)
65. James Dean Bradfield (Manic Street Preachers)
66. Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd)
67. Lou Reed (Velvet Underground)
68. Steven Tyler (Aerosmith)
69. Joey Ramone (Ramones)
70. Peter Gabriel (Genesis)

71. Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips)
72. Terry Hall (The Specials)
73. Elton John
74. Lemmy (Motorhead)
75. George Clinton (Funkadelic/Parliament)
76. Marc Bolan (T-Rex)
77. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)
78. Kelly Jones (Stereophonics)
79. Little Richard
80. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)

81. Alice Cooper
82. Pete Doherty (The Libertines)
83. Kevin Rowland (Dexy’s Midnight Runners)
84. Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunnymen)
85. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist (The Hives)
86. Bjork (Sugarcubes)
87. Mike Patton (Faith No More)
88. Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
89. Gene Vincent
90. Brandon Flowers (The Killers)

I’m Kevin Rowland and I’m a better frontman than David Lee Roth.

91. George Michael (Wham!)
92. Noddy Holder (Slade)
93. Johnny Borrell (Razorlight)
94. Andre 3000 (Outkast)
95. Black Francis (Pixies)
96. Henry Rollins (Black Flag)
97. David Lee Roth (Van Halen)
98. Ian Dury (The Blockheads)
99. Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks)
100. Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction)

I’m not sure what planet Q lives on where Liam Gallagher outrates Freddie Mercury and James Brown is inferior to Chris Martin, but there you have it. In Q’s world, seeing Mick Jagger prancing about singing “Satisfaction” holds less appeal than seeing Robbie Williams (America can now sigh a collective “who?”). And who the hell would pay to see Robert Plant front Led Zeppelin when they can see Matt Bellamy with Muse? And don’t you really want to see Kasabian’s Tom Meighan instead of Roger Daltrey belting out Who songs? And let’s face it, if you gotta choose, aren’t you gonna opt for the Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones over Ozzy Osbourne and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell over David Lee Roth?

That’s right. I’m Tom Meighan and I beat Roger Daltrey on the Q poll. Screw your generation! We’re talkin’ ‘bout my generation now!

For those unfamiliar with Dave’s Music Database, let me clue you in to what happens next. It goes something like this – I find a list like the one above. Its imperfections spark frustration and I seek out other similar-themed lists. Then I average these lists together to create a still-imperfect list, but one which weeds out some of the most glaring errors. The end result is featured as a “best of…according to Dave’s Music Database.”

Note: that list was originally part of this blog entry. The DMDB list of The Top 100 Singers of All Time has now been updated and appears on the DMDB Facebook page. Click here to see the original post as archived on the DMDB Facebook page in the Notes section.

Here’s the commentary that followed the DMDB list and the differences between it and the Q list:

So just how flawed is the Q list? Well, more than half the Q list got bumped from the DMDB list. You’ll just have to contend with a list that opts for Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, Sam Cooke, and Ray Charles instead of Damon Albarn, Chris Martin, Robbie Williams, and Tom Mieghan. If that has you singing the blues, well, at least try to do it with stage presence.

Aretha Franklin got no “respect” on the Q list.

The DMDB list still absurdly short changes any singer who dared utter a note before Elvis came along – apparently Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Etta James, and many others existed before time began, at least according to some of the lists gathered by the DMDB. What other explanation is there for these vocal greats missing the cut on so many of these “all time” lists?

  • DMDB Facebook page
  • Original post for The Best Frontmen and Women of All Time (5/13/10)
  • The Top 100 Singers of All Time (updated version)


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