Ladies first, now it’s time for the guys to shine.
It’s only right that the guys get their turn.
Before we dive in, a reminder of the rules – here’s how the rankings are determined:
- To be eligible for the list, the artist must be considered active, meaning they’ve released a project with in the past three years or they’ve been visible in high-profile live performances or guest spots. So no Luther Vandross or Donny Hathaway.
- Artists were ranked by vocal power and ability, not their level of fame or album quality.
- And on that note, legacy artists are ranked on their current ability, not the songpower they possessed in their prime. That’s especially important later in the list.
Now, let’s salute the most compelling male voices in R&B today.
Honorable mentions: Stokley Williams, Johnny Gill, Kenny Lattimore, R. Kelly, Brian McKnight
10. Anthony Hamilton
Anthony Hamilton’s trademark rasp sounds like it hopped right out of the baptismal pool and headed right for the choir stand. This, of course, isn’t a bad thing. Hamilton’s gospel-drenched notes have long been his hallmark. His delivery is rarely pitch-perfect but it’s emotional – and that’s what good music is all about.
Lord knows Tyrese’s mouth gets him in enough trouble these days, but when he replaces his usual heresy with harmonies, magic happens. Tyrese possess a surprising amount of power, giving him a keen advantage over the lightweight voices that tend to populate radio playlists.
8. Eric Benet
We don’t talk enough about Eric Benet’s flawless delivery. Benet’s effortless control makes him the envy of his peers. His smooth, pure vocals are absolutely alluring and his range is nearly off the charts. Benet is a singer’s singer.
Tank is so underrated – even by me. While researching this post, I wound up bumping him up a few spots because of his incredible tone and control. His rock-solid tenor often fuels the stories of his emotional ballads and, when the time is right, can even liven up a party. It’s time to stop sleeping on this guy.
Maxwell’s long been one of R&B’s greatest enigmas. He’s the Halley’s comet of the game, only gracing our presence every few years. But even when he finally comes down to Earth his voice is downright heavenly. His high-pitched falsetto has fueled some of the most romantic songs of our generation.
I made this very statement a few years back and I stand by it: If I could steal a singing voice Ursula-style, I’d want to sound like Joe Thomas. His tenor has been a staple in R&B since the early ’90s and still remains as rock solid today as it was when it first graced our eardrums.
Yeah, I know, if you’ve been hanging around SoulInStereo.com for the past year or so, I haven’t been too kind to Mr. Raymond’s most recent efforts. And while I haven’t been a big fan of his song choices, one thing that’s undeniable is his voice. He still possesses some of the most recognizable and stirring vocals in the game today. From pop hits to bedroom ballads, his versatility is his greatest strength.
3. Charlie Wilson
Y’all love throwing around terms like “timeless” and “legendary” but the only person on this list who deserves that lofty praise is Uncle Charlie. Wilson’s a good four decades into his iconic career and his distinct vocals STILL outshine his peers. The richness in his tone only cements his spot as R&B’s elder statesman.
Many mainstream listeners are just now becoming acquainted with Gallant, thanks to his stellar 2016 debut. But trust me, his matchless vocals aren’t new and they seem to get stronger with each release. His falsetto is his secret weapon – he’s capable of airy, ethereal notes but is able to belt them out with impressive power. Few are in his league.
1. Luke James
Luke’s show-stealing portrayal of Johnny Gill on BET’s New Edition biopic may have raised his stock, but long-time R&B fans knew he was the truth LONG before last January. Luke’s lower register is a treat and his seemingly endless range is absolutely unearthly – his notes will send chills down your spine. You won’t find a better voice in modern R&B.
Who did we miss? Let us know below. And check out the top 10 female vocalists in R&B today.