News Column

Sweeten-Shults: Octave leaping isn't greatness

May 30, 2014

By Lana Sweeten-Shults, Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas

May 30--Axl Rose "The World's Greatest Singer"?


The Guns 'N Roses frontman tops the virally popular, though somewhat controversial, "The World's Greatest Singers" list, compiled by Concert Hotels (, a site that helps music lovers find hotels near concert venues.

Talk about a list that needs a good slash.

A lot of people don't see Rose as the best singer ever, not that everyone has looked at the criteria involved in picking "The World's Greatest Singers," which, by the way, also is a very unscientific compilation.

The choices are based solely on vocal range, and to narrow that down further, it's based on vocal range only on recorded material. So maybe the list should just have been called "The World's Singers With the Greatest Vocal Range on Recorded Materials and Not Live Because We Can't Possibly Attend Every Live Concert."

Who knows how many times it took for Rose to hit some of those high and low notes before the track was laid down and made it to vinyl (note to some younger readers: Vinyl is what the recording industry used before CDs in the "olden days").

And if basing picks on recorded material alone, I wonder if Concert Hotels includes any entries that may have been auto-tuned -- that would knock Kanye West and Lil Wayne out of the running, and a slew of other artists.

Based on those criteria alone, Rose is a good pick. He even landed higher on the list than Mariah Carey, who has a four- or five-octave range (depending on whom you ask).

He is a strong, powerhouse vocalist in a musical genre that celebrates crunchy guitar solos, drum solos and leather pants -- oftentimes more than vocal prowess.

According to Concert Hotels, Rose touts a seven-octave range, hitting the lowest note in his recorded career on 2008's "Chinese Democracy" and the highest on 1994's Dead Boys cover of "Ain't It Fun."

But even Rose has said he wouldn't pick himself to sit at the top of the heap.

There's more to an amazing vocalist than range, after all. Uniqueness, hitting the right pitch, consistency, sass.

Rose told Spin magazine that this kind of thing is subjective, and he tends toward rockers. He would pick the likes of Freddie Mercury, Elvis Presley, Roger Daltry, Johnny Cash and Elton John, to name a few, over himself.

He wisely picks one of my all-time favorites, Janis Joplin, a powerhouse singer with one of the most gravely unique, rough-and-tumble, in-your-gut kind of voice.

If we're talking female rockers, besides Joplin, Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks know their way around a microphone.

Other impressive female vocalists: Patsy Cline and, once upon a time, LeAnn Rimes, along with Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Adele, Jennifer Hudson, Etta James, Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, Patti Labelle, Karen Carpenter, Idina Menzel, Julie Andrews, Jennifer Holliday and the great Aretha Franklin.

Strong male vocalists: Robert Plant, Randy Travis and that baritone of his, George Strait, Elvis Presley, Vernon native Roy Orbison, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and as Rose said, Freddie Mercury.

Any of them could easily top Rose on "The World's Greatest Singers" list.

And if we're talking maybe not "The World's Greatest Singers" but "Mom's Favorite Singers," might I direct you to Wednesday's Crockett Elementary School talent show, where one painfully shy Chocolate Pie Eater had enough gumption to get onstage and sing "Let It Go," from "Frozen," in front of the whole school with her two friends.

It wasn't an Aretha Franklin- or even Axl Rose-worthy performance, but it's one I wouldn't slash.


(c)2014 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)

Visit the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Wichita Falls Times Record News (TX)

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters