Whenever the conversation of singing comes up, the main argument is whether or not a specific singer deserves the praise they receive. While this may seem like a crap shoot, there’s some legitimacy to the arguments people make. During the evolution of music, we’ve seen our fair share of singers come and go and make not only their name known, but leave a lasting effect on the music world entirely. Singers across all genres, whether it’s rock n roll, or country, or even pop; they change our lives in more ways than one, and open our eyes to the legendary features that make them who they are today.
What I’m here to discuss today is the singers deemed legendary that don’t necessarily need to stick around much longer. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve done their part. Once your name is fairly well known within a specific genre, you can consider yourself a huge success. Though, to continue going forward when you know your voice is either shot or you feel you’re losing it, there’s no point to keep going, but unfortunately some do. This is in no way meant to offend people in regards to their musical choices, everyone has their own opinion, but I’m willing to share mine. I anticipate disagreements among many platforms and while I’ve prepared myself with the nature of this article, some singers may not even deserve to be displayed in this list, but that’s to each person’s perception of what makes a singer good or not. Enjoy 15 singers who just don’t have it anymore.
15. James Hetfield
James Hetfield, lead vocalist for Metallica, while once being one of the most prominent vocalist in the thrash metal genre has seen a bit of wear and tear with his voice throughout the recent years. During the 80’s and early 90’s, James Hetfield had a true grasp of what it meant to be a sure fired thrash metal vocalist, but as time went on, we’ve seen him lose that confidence and has dumbed his voice down more and more to somehow fit in with what the mass audience wants out of him. Although this has been good for him as he ages, it has not been good for his fan base. During the early and late 2000’s, the slow decline of Metallica followed along as James Hetfield lost track of what he wanted to accomplish with his thrash’y vocals. Only recently we’ve seen him attempt to do what he was once good at, but at some point it’ll be time for him to pack it in and say “I’m done.”
14. Bob Dylan
You could argue that Bob Dylan has never had a stellar voice, and I’d be inclined to agree with you. Some may think that including Bob Dylan in this list is a straight up cop-out, however in that case I disagree. If you were to lay out his entire musical career, and you listened to him from start to finish, you’d understand that upon releasing Tempest, people really started to see what age has done to this man’s once most recognizable voice. As an example, take someone that has been smoking their entire life and let them sing. That is the unfortunate truth with what you’ll expect with Bob Dylan today. Age has taken a huge toll on him, but he continues to press forward while still releasing music today. Although this may be true, we can’t look past his accomplishments, especially when he’s continued to stay relevant in the music scene since the 60’s. There’s something to be said about someone sticking to their guns and continuing to press forward regardless of what the enormous fan base has to say.
13. Bruce Dickinson
I’m going into this with the preconceived notion that Bruce Dickinson hasn’t really gotten out of the little funk he’s been in with his most recent work. A few years back, I saw Iron Maiden perform live, and while this was during the time when Bruce Dickinson was still at his peak, as far as I know, I couldn’t help but notice his voice sounding a bit strained, more than usual. Bruce Dickinson has the profound accomplishment of being able to have an incredibly unique approach to singing and gain success doing so. Brian Johnson from AC/DC followed this same school of thought. Whether or not it’s agreed that Bruce Dickinson has been met with the sense of vocal aging, he continues to press forward. Unfortunately, it’s the same curse with Metallica where the most recent work, at least since A Matter of Life and Death, has seen a decline in originality and style.
12. Axl Rose
Quite possibly one of the most recognizable voices in rock n roll history, Axl Rose has to come to a point where he says, “Alright, I’ll stop.” Most recently, we’ve seen him attempt to regroup with AC/DC while Brian Johnson takes a hiatus. While I’m of the opinion that it does sound halfway decent, I can’t get behind the notion that Axl Rose can still sing. I don’t want to be the guy to deny that he’s still a talented singer, but he’s definitely nowhere near what he once was, not even close as a matter of fact. During his early years, the high notes were close to nothing for him and didn’t seem to take any strain on him. Nowadays, that seems to be the opposite. There is live footage of him singing with AC/DC, and again, while I disagree that he’s lost his ability completely, I can go on record as saying that at some point, he’s going to lose the credibility he has by not being able to hit the notes he’s been able to somehow keep to for as long as he has.
11. Ozzy Osbourne
You must know by now that Ozzy Osbourne has been able to find a profound amount of success in his solo career. If you weren’t aware of this, he’s been solo for quite some time. Up until recently however, we’ve seen what age has done to this man’s once great vocal style. While I’m not necessarily in agreement with the masses that Ozzy Osbourne has lost his schtick, I can see where people come from especially after listening to Scream (2010) and 13 (2013). It’s one of those cases where you really don’t want to watch the decline of the master, but you just sit idly by while he immerses himself in the imminent decline. Whether or not Ozzy Osbourne will retire his voice any time soon is up for grabs of interpretation, but for the time being, I really don’t think he’s anywhere near what he once was, and that’s met with popular agreement.
10. Thom Yorke
I’m going into this example fully expecting the Radiohead fans to come out with guns blazing and rightfully so. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second, Thom Yorke cannot sing. While this may be true for some, I’m not despairing his ability completely. Although Thom Yorke can’t sing, he’s continued to be able to use the voice he has to fit with the music him and his band mates continue to create and accomplish success simultaneously each time. I’ve recently been bit with the Radiohead bug as most have throughout their lives and I stick with the opinion that I really don’t think Thom Yorke can sing himself out of a paper bag. This has been a common argument throughout the existence of Radiohead and while I was on the bandwagon of hating Radiohead for a long time, I’ve come to realize that what they do is what they do best, and they’re going to continue to do so throughout the future of their careers. Unfortunately, the recent release of A Moon Shaped Pool shows that Thom Yorke is taking a step back from his typical vocal style and attempts to find a medium with harmonies and ambiance.
9. Roger Waters
I didn’t want to believe it at first, but after seeing a live performance on YouTube of Roger Waters singing In The Flesh, my mind was made up. As he has gotten older, we’ve seen the depressing decline in admiration for Pink Floyd and the vocalists respectively. His voice has not followed him in age and that much is clear in his recent attempts at keeping the Pink Floyd name alive. It’s unfortunate to say the least, but this is further confirmed by the fact that the most recent Pink Floyd album we got was completely instrumental and ambient. While he’s made an incredible living for himself, I don’t see him being able to maintain the vocal ability that he seems to think he still has much longer. Roger Waters is the Pink Floyd I’ve come to know and love for many years. I’m not a big fan of Syd Barrett, so I’ve never really listened to the Pink Floyd era with Syd Barrett.
8. Elton John
Quite possibly one of the most successful singers to date, Elton John has also seen the effects of aging, more specifically to his voice if nothing else. This one is certainly unfortunate as he’s seen nothing but great success ever since his debut album in the 60’s. I can’t say for fact how much his voice has changed over the years due to not really being the biggest fan of his, but I’ve read from multiple sources that his stage presence and live voice nowadays has shown a turn for the worse. As unfortunate as this is, it’s pretty common to see the singers we’ve watched for many years start to reach that point in their life where it becomes a slow decline. Although his voice is taking a toll, that didn’t stop him from releasing his 32nd album this year titled Wonderful Crazy Night. During the album, he has a great control of his voice, but it’s noticeably different.
7. Don McLean
C’mon, you guys know Don McLean. The guy that wrote the big hit American Pie. Anyway, Don McLean unfortunately makes this list and joins a lot of other artists that are also shown in this list because of aging. While I don’t think he’s not listenable as some of the artists featured here, you can tell that he’s lost some control of his voice, while simultaneously losing some of the satisfaction that he once had during his prime years. He’s got the unfortunate curse for being most famous for one album, and more specifically one song, so I would also grow tired of singing the same song repetitively through the years. As unfortunate as this may seem, it’s still worth looking into his live performances as an old man, because seeing an old Don McLean is not only mind blowing, but cute in its own weird way. Let’s hope we never get to the day when “this’ll be the day that I die” becomes relevant. At least anytime soon.
6. David Bowie
I would like to preface this by stating that I’m in no way trying to disrespect the passing of David Bowie. The opinion laid out here is strictly based on his 2016 release of Blackstar. Now, David Bowie was easily in the top 5 of most successful artists that continued to gain success throughout his later years. Although I never really considered him one of my all time favorite singers, I can understand that people loved him because of that. Now, basing this strictly on Blackstar, you can see that his voice tends to go a different route, and while the album is more focused on the songwriting than anything else, I imagine the reason for that is for people to understand that he didn’t want people to see the age affecting his voice. He does the same thing Thom Yorke does where instead of trying to do something he can’t, he uses what he has to create harmonies and ambiance.
5. Britney Spears
Britney Spears is still relevant believe it or not. Anyway, if you haven’t heard, Britney Spears is still touring and releasing music. Unbelievable, right? Well, along those same lines, her voice is terrible. Though, you wouldn’t really know that since every performance you see her in over the past couple years, she’s lip-syncing or using auto tune. Now, I’ve never really been a big fan of Britney Spears even in her hay-day, but at some point you gotta say to yourself, “Maybe I should stop trying to fool people.” Credit where credit is due, she doesn’t seem to be letting anything get in her way. On that same point, her fan base will dwindle alongside her downward spiralling career. However, she ability to coat her downward spiral will be up to her and whether or not she can keep her little ounce of success from falling face flat on the ground.
4. Steven Tyler
I can understand why people like Steven Tyler, he was the lead singer of Aerosmith, he’s charismatic, and he’s easy to spot in a crowded room. Now, I understand the reasoning behind an artist not wanting to quit because they have a loyal fan base. Steven Tyler is pushing 70, and in his later years he’s been touring, and judging American Idol (whether that’s a sign of a good career choice, I’ll never know). He did receive throat surgery back in 2006, and if you’ve been singing for so long that you’re forced to receive surgery on one of the most important parts of your body, I feel that’s a point where you need to step back and think about your career. Steven Tyler has done enough in his life to be considered a success, and he doesn’t need to kill himself to further prove that point. At least in my opinion, he’s one of the most memorable singers the world has ever seen, but may need to hang it up soon.
3. Bobby Brown
Although not having a vast discography in his name, Bobby Brown falls on this list for a reason we’ve seen happen time and time again. When the R&B singer made his debut in New Edition, he moved onto a solo career which led to multiple singles and became a huge success. Unfortunately with that success comes an unfortunate truth of being involved in substance abuse. Along with the mental illnesses and legal problems, back in 2012 he was pulled over multiple times for alcohol addiction and drug possession. What comes with the drug usage came the fall in vocal talent. Unfortunately, while on tour, he’d be arrested for a number of different things. The horrible ratings on his 2012 release of The Masterpiece showcases this as true. Evidently, the drug related issues took him away from being able to meet the vocal standard that he set for himself years before.
2. Alice Cooper
One of the most prolific figures in rock n’ roll history, Alice Cooper makes it on this list for many reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for someone loving what they do their entire lives and never letting it get you down. Alice Cooper on the other hand really needs to look at himself and realize that his style isn’t what it used to be. Among the marriage and relationship issues and drug problems, Alice Cooper has never let petty insults or arguments get him off his high horse, but when you’re pushing 70 and still trying to continue the success that’s been beaten to death, at some point it has to come to an end. I’m not necessarily a big fan of Alice Cooper in the first place, so maybe what I’m saying is biased. I mean, why stop when you’ve already got all this success under your belt?
1. Rob Zombie
Whether or not Rob Zombie is considered legendary, I’m not entirely sure. I’m adding him to his list for quite possibly one of the most declining artists I’ve ever seen in regards to both talent and individuality. Back near the beginning of 2000 and a few years prior, we were blessed with Hellbilly Deluxe, The Sinister Urge, and Educated Horses. However, more recently, his music career has seen a steady decline in creativity. While Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is a great album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser are sad excuses for music. Granted, his movies continue to be great and I’m always looking forward to what he’ll produce next in the film industry, but as far as his music career is concerned, he needs to take a step back and rethink how he’s going to continue forward. It’s incredibly disappointing to see someone with such a great hold on music fall so far.