Skip to main content

12 of the Best Voices Across All Music Genres

Debby Wong/Shutterstock

In music, there is no shortage of high-quality singers. The best among them, though, stop the listener in their tracks, filling their ears with sonic gold. 

Some names pop right up. Marvin Gaye and his smooth-as-marble delivery. Dolly Parton, with her signature twang and immediate recognizability. Aretha Franklin’s sheer might and unbelievable range. Brian Wilson and the hallowed harmonies of his band, the Beach Boys. Stevie Wonder and everything his epic voice touched. But what of the other golden-voiced acts out there?

When the topic is golden vocal cords, we’re not just considering those with rare ability. These vocalists and band leaders sing so supremely that their voice is an instrument — if not a host of instruments — in its own right. To experience some of this brilliant ear candy, look no further than the following list.

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke - Bring It On Home to Me - with lyrics

Holder of some of the best pipes to ever grace a stage, Sam Cooke seemed to never miss a note. His voice managed to be spotless while having just a touch of smokiness, a recipe for timelessness.

Essential track: You can’t go wrong with any of Cooke’s work, but “Bring it On Home to Me” is especially breathtaking.

Luciano Pavarotti

La Boheme - Pavarotti- "Che gelida manina" Fiamma Izzo d' Amico "Si, mi chiamano Mimi"

Late opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti earned his acclaim through the intricacy and complexity inherent to his well-trained voice. It was enough for the Italian to become viewed as perhaps one of the best tenors that ever lived.

Essential track: It’s almost impossible to pick but many critics point to his brilliant tackling of “La Bohème.”

Neko Case

Margaret vs. Pauline ~ Neko Case

You may know Neko Case from her work with Canadian indie-rock supergroup The New Pornographers. But she’s also responsible for a stellar solo career built around her resonating voice. Case has the kind of vocal gusto that can fill entire canyons from horizon to horizon. While certainly influenced by Patsy Cline, Case’s voice is wondrous and meanders into new territory altogether.

Essential track: Case’s discography is great start to finish but “Margaret vs. Pauline” is a particularly powerful number showcasing her vocal prowess.

Leon Bridges

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas Sun (Official Video)

Not many can sound so effortlessly retro as Leon Bridges. The soul and classic rhythm and blues maestro are blessed with a voice that seems plucked straight from the biggest stages of a couple of generations ago. But it’s not just nostalgia, as his collaborative work and successful dabbling in different genres attests.

Essential track: While “Coming Home” is a modern classic, it’s the new track “Texas Sun,” a collaboration with fellow Texas musicians Khruangbin, that really elevates Bridges.

Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley The Way Young Lovers Do (Amazing!)

Jeff Buckley lived a relatively short life but managed to leave a lasting vocal impression. He’s perhaps best known for his incredible Leonard Cohen cover, but Buckley turned out some incredible original blues-rock material as well, at a time when many were expecting grunge.

Essential track: “The Way Young Lovers Do” from Buckley’s Live at Sin-é record is practically untouchable from a vocal standpoint (keep in mind he’s also playing a mean guitar throughout).

Katie Crutchfield

Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) SXSW2018

The lead singer of Waxahatchee, Crutchfield has a voice that’s compelling partly because it’s tough to put a finger on. A little rugged, a little Bonnie Raitt, and all kinds of confident, it commands your speakers and freezes the listener in place.

Essential track: While the latest record, St. Cloud, is near-perfect, Crutchfield’s collaboration with Kevin Morby is arguably her best, especially “Farewell Transmission.”

Caetano Veloso

Caetano Veloso Cucurrucucu Paloma (Hable Con Ella)

Veloso is a South American legend, having helped create the Tropicalismo scene. His gorgeous Portuguese lyrics and elegant accompanying sounds can be enough to make you cry.

Essential track: Despite a great body of work that helped define Brazilian music, his show-stopping performance in the film Talk to Her is utter magic (seen above).

Rihanna

Rihanna - Work (Explicit) ft. Drake

Rihanna’s voice sticks to your soul. Sure, sometimes it’s tinkered with in the studio, but even on its own, it’s nimble, evocative, pure, and lasting. She’s proven her immense worth via solo records like Anti and, most recently, the playful summertime film she made with Donald Glover called Guava Island (which is worth a view or two). Records form around her voice, not the other way around.

Essential track: “Work.” Enough said.

Jim James

My Morning Jacket - Wordless Chorus (Live on Letterman)

Frontman for My Morning Jacket, a crucial part of Monsters of Folk, solo artist, and possessor of an outstanding beard, Jim James does it all. His soaring voice functions like an electric guitar solo that can steal an already busy and noisy stage.

Essential track: In “Wordless Chorus” from 2005’s outstanding Z record by My Morning Jacket, James exhibits his force as well as his heavenly falsetto.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac) - Beautiful Child

Maybe this one is obvious, but Stevie Nicks truly offers something singularly her own with a mic in hand. For years, her voice managed to beat out the many other talented sounds emanating from her band Fleetwood Mac.

Essential track: “Beautiful Child” from the amazing Tusk album remains a vision in terms of vocal ability.

Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams - Dark Child (Official Video)

Most of us know of the robust vocals offered by the iconic Roy Orbison. Marlon Williams can rightfully be called his apprentice, with a similar tone and signature howl that harkens back to the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. Like Orbison, Williams manages to perfectly weave in elements of country. The New Zealander is as confident yodeling as he is singing an impassioned folk ballad.

Essential track: “Dark Child,” a haunting song that flexes the spirited nature of Williams’ approach.

Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak - Make It Better (ft. Smokey Robinson) (Official Video)

There’s no doubting the cool-as-a-cucumber factor at play with Anderson .Paak’s work. A percussionist and vocalist, the young Californian musician has already accrued an esteemed portfolio of records, most revolving around groove-ridden pop, hip-hop, and Golden State motifs.

Essential track: “Make it Better,” which features the legend Smokey Robinson, is dripping with sweet-as-honey vocals that will make you, too, want to “make love at the drop of a hat,” as he sings.


Honorable mentions
: CeeLo Green, Diane Coffee, Tupac Shakur

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Brunswick to Olhausen: The 12 best pool table brands in 2024
Imperial Pool Tables the Nouveau best pool table

Pool is a lot of fun, but also requires a lot of practice. You could always visit your local bar or billiard and play there, or you could get your own pool table for your home. The best part is that it's a classic game with no screens, no modern tech, but still offers an incredibly fun experience to all, and would be a great way to spend some family time. Even if you just want to kick back with some drinks, cigars, and have a little fun with your buds, it's fantastic for that, too. A guide on How to Play Pool Like a Pro will only take you so far. At some point, you'll need to pick up a pool cue and shoot some balls into pockets. So, this guide will explore some of the best pool table brands, from brand1 to brand2, to help you choose the perfect table for your home.
Brunswick

Brunswick has been in the pool scene since 1845, which is one hell of a track record. It also makes some fantastic tables, many of them the industry's top-sellers, including those used for championship games. We're talking about real wood tables, premium slate, enhanced rail sights, and high-performance exceptional materials all around. From the seven-foot Allenton to the 9-foot Glenwood, there are a host of options to choose from, and really, you can't go wrong with any of Brunswick's tables. Brunswick also sells a variety of pool accessories, furniture, and other recreational products, like shuffleboard or foosball tables.

Read more
The best Jason Bateman movies of all time
From Game Night to This Is Where I Leave You, these are the very best Jason Bateman movies to watch right now
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in Game Night.

If you know Jason Bateman, you likely know him from his roles on TV. From Arrested Development through to the Netflix smash Ozark, Bateman has proven that he can fit comfortably in a wide number of different genres. Even as he's built up a great career on TV, though, Bateman has also worked regularly on the big screen, and some of those roles have become just as important to his career as anything he did on TV.

Generally, Bateman is known for playing the straight man. He's the regular guy in an absurd situation who's just trying to make it through the day. He's not trying to make waves or cause a fuss, and he's built an entire career around that averageness. On the big screen, though, he's occasionally allowed himself to cut loose. His best film roles reflect the enormous diversity of his career, and also cement him as one of the most undersung actors of his generation.

Read more
These are the best music podcasts to cue up in 2023
There are tons of great music podcasts out there. This list sums up the very best of the best.
woman listening to podcast and smiling

If we're living in a golden age for television and food delivery services, then we must be living in one for podcasts too. Simply put, there are tons out there, many offering compelling content you can dig into hands-free, while knocking out another hobby.

Music podcasts are some of the best of the bunch. Yeah, there are great food podcasts and comedy and science ones too, but the shows devoted to tunes tend to really bring the entertainment. They cover all the great stories, from tales of rags-to-riches to burning out entirely. They give us a different glimpse of people we idolize and backstories for the ages. The best ones even turn us on to great new music or unearth new songs from favorite artists that we've never heard before.

Read more