So here's something that's been on my mind. First, a disclaimer. I do not claim to be a great singer. I'm not a frustrated American Idol wannabe. I can basically sing in tune along to my records in the privacy of my own home, and that's where it stays. I'm not better than the people I'm about to complain about. And of course musical taste is a highly individual thing.
But (you knew there was a big "but" coming) I've never understood what's so great about Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. Sure, they have a "gift" of some sort. But there's something robotic and unfeeling about their music. They scream and screech without nuance.
Particularly Whitney. She has some great material. Every note is on key. But it's all chillingly cold.
Mariah Carey attempts to impress with vocal acrobatics, but there too something is missing.
And don't get me started about Janet Jackson or Jennifer Lopez. Talk about weak voices! Their songs aren't even interesting. Janet is a good dancer who I'm told puts on an energetic, fun live show. JLo is not a bad actress, but I'm not sure she could sell records on the strength of her music alone, without all the hype from her other pursuits.
Of the newer darlings, Norah Jones sounds half-asleep. Alicia Keys... yawn. I don't get them either.
So who do I like? In my opinion, the BEST voice out there is Patti Austin. Who? Just listen to Quincy Jones's "The Dude" album; she's the female voice. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000002GC2/102-6418643-3569714?v=glance This is one of the most "unsung" performers around. Perfect AND soulful.
Honorable mention goes to Judy Collins. Clear as a bell. Put on her "Wildflowers" (or Joni Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon") and you had a dormful of crying girls.
I've only talked about female singers. I could go on about Michael Bolton sounding like he perpetually lost his voice, and Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder being truly talented, but I'll leave the guys for another time.