Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage (Getty).
When I say that a voice is distinctly unique, what I really mean is that it’s unusual, out of the ordinary, against the grain, or sometimes just downright grainy. Basically, the artists below are instantly recognizable because no one else in the world sounds at all like them. Their sound cannot be replicated no matter how many other artists attempt to
cover their tunes. That singular sound is a testament to how hard these artists rock, because if you’re doing your thing, your way, then you’re essentially rocking at its core. It’s the number one ingredient, followed closely by Jack Daniels.
The Most Distinctly Unique Voices In Rock:
The Most Distinctly Unique Voices In Rock
The Angry Canadian -- as those up north like to call him -- sounds like he’s snorting vitriol out his nostrils. Pissed off, indignant, luminescent vitriol. Neil’s nasal twang is as quirky and distinctive as any voice in rock, but would you give the voice a chance if it wasn’t reciting such stirring poetry? Probably not. This may wind up being a common feature on this list, as the truth is often spouted by those who don’t necessarily fit in.
Photo: Mick Gold/Redferns (Getty).
Hamilton, who benefits from a very en vogue name at the moment, used to be the lead singer of The Walkmen, a group easily discernible due to Hamilton’s harrowing howling. But we didn’t know his name until he went and paired up with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij on a recent brilliant endeavor titled “I Had A Dream That You Were Mine.” When you first hear it, you immediately know that voice, which sounds as if sustained by the ghosts of a 1000 sacrificed larynges.
Photo: Richard Mcblane/Getty Images for SXSW
Sure, he’s a Nobel Laureate, but he also sounds like he’s a frog being milked. Perhaps that’s why his poetry penetrates so deeply, because it’s obviously earnest. How else can you explain a voice like that? Especially when he proved he could do it in a more traditionally “beautiful” style, as he did on “Lay Lady Lay.” And though some critics might lament that Dylan’s voice has only gotten worse over time, but the raspier and more well-travelled it gets, the more you believe him.
Photo: Val Wilmer/Redferns (Getty).
Tom sounds like he drank an ash tray. But not just any old ash tray -- a really stuffed one, that was left out in the rain, and then forgotten. Then the sun came out, and baked it into ash tray soup. And then Tom drank it. For breakfast.
Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns (Getty).
A lot of singers on this list seem to sing through their noses at times, which can be hard to do if you have allergies, or a cocaine problem. But none of them do as rancorously as Axl. That snarl isn’t fake, either; Axl’s always had a mean streak. Or an asshole streak, if you prefer. Either way, his attitude comes out in his voice, which perfectly and distinctively projects GnR’s "we don’t give a f--k" sound.
Photo: Ke.Mazur/WireImage (Getty).
Alright, raise your hand if the first time you heard the Alabama Shakes, you were listening to “Hold On,” digging the old, soulful bluesman’s uncanny wail right up until the point where it goes, “come on, Brittany, you got to come on up.” Obviously no proper bluesman is going to be named Brittany, and you soon realize that noise is coming from Brittany Howard, who, according to her
Wikipedia page, was also the lead singer and guitarist for a band called Thunderbitch. I would venture to say that is an appropriate way to describe Brittany’s voice -- more thunderous than bitchy though. Photo: Josh Brasted/Getty Images
Though he uses effects to great effect, there’s no wondering about who’s singing when you hear Jane’s Addiction (or that “Pets” song, for that matter). Perhaps Perry should get bonus points for taking the reverb route, because his hollowed timbre floats to ascendant heights because of it. That ethereal wizardry is probably what makes people so devotedly praise Dionysus at Jane’s shows. And the world could definitely use more orgies right about now.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Getty).
I’m still not even sure if I like Alt-J, but I keep trying because all the radio stations I respect (KEXP, KCSN, NPR) tend to praise him. Perhaps the reason I don’t know if I like him is because he sounds like he’s purposefully trying to sound stupid, like Adam Sandler trying to be funny. But it’s not.
Photo: Redferns (Getty).
Whether Mike took hormones to keep his voice high -- as his disreputable former doctor has
claimed -- is neither here nor there. Regardless of how, the what is unnegotiable: MJ’s got one of the most uniquely distinct high male voices ever. Yes, I know Mike’s the King of Pop, but that doesn’t keep him off this rocking list. If you should require further proof than “Beat It,” then perhaps you’d like to meet me out back for a dance-rumble? Photo: Dave Hogan (Getty).
She’s so punk, she doesn’t even have to scream. Courtney’s cool affect is just as piercing as any yelling. But again, it’s the quality of the words that makes it work. Her voice may be pedestrian at times, but it can also be sweet, always honest, and piercingly scathing. It may be a bit early in her career for such accolades as placement on this esteemed list, but I think she’s one to keep your ears on for the next 30 years or so as she proves me right (also, I already wrote this whole paragraph before I realized as much, and I get paid by the word.)
Photo: Mark Metcalfe (Getty).