Here at Neon Limelight we love catchy tunes and the occasional mechanically enhanced vocal performance just like the next blog, but this list is all about the real vocalists–they span many genres but the one thing they have in common is they’reÂ artistsÂ whose voices give us chills with one note. They could sing the phone book and convince us we’re hearing the angels calling us home.
Here’s to our top 5Â favorite male vocalists of 2008!
Most of you may remember Jon McLaughlin from this little revelation, but Neon Limelight fell in love with the 25-year-old blue-eyed heartthrob when he crooned the pivotal “So Close” from Disney’s blockbuster Enchanted. The song was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song and Jon found himself performing the song for millions on the 80th annual awards show in February 2008. The novice never skipped a beat or dropped a note. His velvety voice sent shivers up our spines. Even though the song lost, Jon’s performance was an epic win. He won us over yet again with his eclectic sophomore album, OK Now. There was no way we could leave this dreamboat off our list. We promise it has more to do with his hypnotizing voice than his perfect face and wind-swept hair.
Watch and Listen: So CloseÂ – LiveÂ at the 80th Annual Academy Awards
When we were brainstorming to find a great rocker voice to make the list, the only name that immediately came to mind was David Cook. The American Idol season 7 winner doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his amazing range. Remember when he ripped the Andrew Lloyd Webber week on Idol? You ‘member, ‘member? He took what should have been the most difficult (and possibly boring) week and made it look like a cake walk, delivering a tear-inducing high note at the end of “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera. Even if he wasn’t an overall brilliant singer, that note alone would have put him on the list.
Watch and Listen: Music of the Night – Live on Idol
David Archuleta may be the youngest singer on our list, but he proves that age is nothing but a number when it comes to sheer talent. Young Archie’s voice has the clarity and range many adult singers never develop. He made grown men cry when he tackled the John Lennon classic “Imagine“Â during week two of American Idol season 7. Next to Fantasia‘s “Summertime,” it was single-handedly one of the best Idol performances ever. Hell, I wouldn’t feel bad about saying it’s one of the top televised vocal performances ever. He may not have won Idol, but you can clearly see he’s tops on our list.
Watch and Listen: Imagine – Live on Idol – Week 2
He’s modern R&B’s Captain Save ‘Em; the wordsmith of choice for all of your favorite stars from Beyonce to Celine Dion, but singer/songwriterÂ Ne-Yo has a thriving career of his own–well, only if you consider two platinum albums, one Grammy, numerous hits, and a butt-load of Grammy nominations for the upcoming awards ceremonyÂ (count ‘em, six!) thriving. Ne-Yo gets hit with criticism oftenÂ over his voice.Â Being in R&B, rich baritones and abusing runs are often commonplace. Ne-Yo is a simpler singer; his light voice, reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson, never tries too hard, and that’s why we love him.Â Even when he’s singing the hook on the latest rapper’s new joint, his voice could coo the bloomers off any lady (or the boxers off any man–we don’t judge).
Watch and Listen: So You Can Cry – Live on Walmart Soundcheck
After many years in the business, Gavin DeGraw still manages to fly under the radar of the pop masses, but anyone who has been lucky enough to witness his sheer brilliance live will tell you he’s even more incredible live than he is on CD–and that’s tough to beat since he’s pretty damn close to perfect in the studio. The NY native can effortlessly rock out like he does on the first single from his self-titled sophomore album, “In Love With A Girl,” and then ooze soul covering Marvin Gaye classics like “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing.” There’s no genre his eargasmic voice can’t tackle and this is why he’s numeral uno on our list.
Watch and Listen: All I Want For My Birthday – Live in Richmond, VA
Robin Thicke was criticized for being a vocal one-trick pony on his sophomore album, The Evolution of Robin Thicke. He was accused of abusing his falsetto and letting the strength of his full voice fall back. On his third album, Something Else, the R&B crooner decided to switch it up more and it worked for him. He sounds the best he ever did on the retro-soul tracks.
Watch and Listen: The Sweetest Love
Admittedly, we’ve caught on to ginger-haired folk/pop singer Brett Dennen late. He’s been in the business for quite a while playing gigs, but it took the appeal of a familiar pop tart, Mandy Moore, in his latest music video for us to expand our horizons and give him a listen–and boy, are we glad we did. His voice is a little unexpected and somewhat quirky, and that’s exactly why we love it.
Watch and Listen: Make You Crazy