The 20 best male singers of all time, ranked in order of pure vocal ability

29 January 2020, 12:42 | Updated: 29 January 2020, 12:46

Freddie Mercury, George Michael and Stevie Wonder
Freddie Mercury, George Michael and Stevie Wonder. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Who is the greatest of them all?

There have been countless amazing male artists across the decades, but only a handful of them can claim to be truly gifted vocalists.

We've ranked who we reckon are the greatest male singers of all time, in terms of ability, pitch and power. And we're only picking pop and rock artists, so if you're wondering where the heck Andrea Boccelli is, there's your answer.

  1. Elton John

    For all of Sir Elton John's many talents, one area that he isn't always celebrated for is his unique vocal ability.

    Throughout his career, Elton has always had an impressive range, from a soothing falsetto to a hard-rock roar.

  2. Paul McCartney

    Out of all the Beatles, Sir Paul's vocals was the most easy to listen to, and like Sir Elton is often overlooked when it came to pure ability.

    In fact, we'd argue Sir Paul's vocals have improved with age, especially when hearing his laid back tracks on albums such as Kisses on the Bottom. He can do both quiet and raucous with ease.

  3. Rod Stewart

    Sure, Sir Rod's voice might be a tad on the raspy side, but that's what makes it so special.

    Rod has proved that he can perfectly take on everything from big band swing to '80s synthpop to disco to classic rock.

  4. Andy Williams

    We reckon Andy is the cruelly ignored classic crooner when compared to his peers like Bing, Frank or Dean.

    Andy had such an easy voice to listen to, and it was so silky smooth that he could sing pretty much anything and make it sound amazing.

  5. Tom Jones

    Welsh icon Sir Tom Jones has been entertaining audiences for six decades, and there's a reason for that.

    Sir Tom has such a powerful voice, yet manages to control it too. He can go high or low, sing ballads or go for raucous anthems. He has the only voice in the world that wins free underwear every night.

  6. Michael Bublé

    For an artist to score such huge success with a jazz-style vocal over the past 10 years, you need to be truly gifted, and that's what Michael Bublé certainly is.

    He has a fantastic tone to his voice, and similar to Andy Williams before him, makes it incredibly easy and relaxing to listen to. He has one of those voices where you assume he's lip-syncing, but nope, he's just that good.

  7. Art Garfunkel

    Paul Simon may have written the majority of Simon & Garfunkel's songs, but he needed Art around the convey them with stunning emotion.

    Art's voice at his peak was mesmerising and still stops you in your tracks whenever you listen to him.

  8. Stevie Wonder

    Stevie Wonder has so many strings to bow, it's easy to forget that he's also gifted with an amazing singing voice, too!

    He always has such an incredible amount of emotion in his voice, but without straying too far off the song's melody or message.

  9. Bing Crosby

    Bing truly stood alone for decades when popular music transferred from the airwaves and sheet music into albums and singles.

    And there's a reason for that, Bing's voice was perfect for the early days of radio, and his low and easy-going voice was incredibly soothing. He made it look like singing that well was no effort whatsoever.

  10. Elvis Presley

    Elvis Presley really did have it all. The looks, the charisma, the showmanship. But he backed it all up with an amazing voice.

    Even when it seemed he'd lost his way, his powerful voice still shone through. Just watch the performance above as proof.

  11. Luther Vandross

    Luther's voice has been called "flawless" and "as smooth as silk" in the past, and along with Barry White is best known for creating the mood of pure romance.

    From heartfelt ballads like 'Dance With My Father' to disco classics like 'Never Too Much', Luther's voice was always nothing short of stunning.

  12. Marvin Gaye

    The late, great Marvin Gaye would have the amazing ability of singing gently yet with a huge amount of power.

    You really believed whatever he was singing about, whether it was social injustices or just gettin' it on.

  13. Al Green

    Al Green is a true soul legend, whose voice has worked wonders on seductive ballads like 'Let's Stay Together' to his more recent passionate gospel output.

    He could even give country music a run for its money. The phrase 'they could sing the phonebook' was created for people like him.

  14. Sam Cooke

    Sam Cooke was known as the King of Soul for a reason: his distinctive and super smooth voice.

    Biographer Bruce Eder wrote that Cooke was "the inventor of soul music", and possessed "an incredible natural singing voice and a smooth, effortless delivery that has never been surpassed".

  15. Otis Redding

    Soul legend Otis Redding died at cruelly young age, but in his short time he set the world alight with his impressive vocal ability.

    He was such a strong and powerful man, but he also made relaxing songs sound so effortless. Just listen to 'Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay' as a perfect example.

  16. Frank Sinatra

    Frank was the crooner for decades. Whether it was belting out 'New York, New York' or drowning his sorrows at a bar, no-one else had a voice like him.

    He also had a particular way of phrasing and emphasising words, giving his songs a far more personal feel than his contemporaries.

  17. Nat King Cole

    If we were to pick one of the iconic jazz crooners above any other, we'd go for Nat King Cole.

    You don't get much smoother than him, and his records will be forever be timeless because of it. His voice still sounds rather magical, and it's impossible not to feel totally relaxed by it.

  18. Michael Jackson

    Michael Jackson had impeccable pitch from a very young age, and that's what made his songs so iconic and timeless.

    Considering he often had to perform spellbinding dance routines while still singing live, just goes to show what a one-off talent he truly was.

  19. George Michael

    Not many people could come from the world of boybands and then totally take over the pop landscape with your voice.

    George Michael always sounded great with Wham!, but when he went solo, people suddenly stood up and noticed just how amazing his voice was. If anything, it got better with age.

  20. Freddie Mercury

    The greatest frontman of all time, also just so happened to possess the greatest male voice of all time.

    Freddie was able to perfectly tackle rock, pop, jazz, opera, soul, folk, you name it. Even when he was fading, he still managed to blow everyone away.

    Queen's Brian May once said that Freddie could hardly walk when they recorded 'The Show Must Go On' in 1990. "I said, 'Fred, I don't know if this is going to be possible to sing'. And he went, 'I'll f***ing do it, darling', vodka down, and went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal."