41 – Captain Beefheart
41 – Captain Beefheart Beefheart, who sadly passed away last year, was a true individual, a bizarre and talented songwriter beloved of most musicians. Shortly after his death, everyone from Tom Waits to Matt Groening paid tribute online.
37 – David Byrne
37 – David Byrne From his early days in Talking Heads to his recent shows involving synchronised dancing with office chairs, David Byrne has always known how to put on a show. Vote for your favourite frontmen and women now.
34 – Courtney Love
34 – Courtney Love Her legendary performance at last year’s Shockwaves NME Awards reminded everyone in the room what a set of pipes the old girl has.
Credit: Andy Willsher/NME
33 – Thom Yorke
33 – Thom Yorke Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is a captivating performer, whether alone onstage at Glastonbury 2010 during sunset or busting moves for the new video to ‘Lotus Flower’.
28 – Chuck D
28 – Chuck D Champion of socially concious rap and main man for Public Enemy, Chuck D has a remarkable career. He was even in Anchorman. Although the scene got cut. Vote for your favourite frontmen and women now.
27 – Tom Petty
27 – Tom Petty Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ Tom Petty has had US radio in the palm of his hand for three decades, and his rule extended as far as the Superbowl three years ago. Big league stuff. Vote for your favourite frontmen and women now.
25 – Brett Anderson
25 – Brett Anderson No wacky arse-smacking dummy in Britpop’s museum, the Suede singer’s thin, white, tortured convulsions lit up the dark days of the early ’90s like a magnesium flare. Brett Anderson’s depraved delicacy and hinted thuggery was pan-gender magnetic, that ugly-lovely Sussex yowl as sharp as his cheekbones.
Credit: Emilie Bailey/NME
24 – Matt Bellamy
24 – Matt Bellamy Muse’s leader plays the guitar as though it were a part of his body, and he gabbles in a voice like Pavarotti’s. And the best thing of all? If he walked down the street in a pair of jeans, you would barely notice. He is living the ultimate bedroom geek fantasy, and for that he is to be celebrated.
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23 – Nick Cave
23 – Nick Cave Grinderman tourmate Anna Calvi says of Nick Cave: “The way he just enters a room and electrifies everybody – such a presence! It’s that persona which is exactly what I saw onstage night after night. He’s someone who does exactly what he wants to, and as a result of that he gets this strange power that makes his performances incredible.”
21 – Ian Curtis
21 – Ian Curtis Deathly pale, staring into the middle distance (or future?), in the eyes of Ian Curtis is an absolute primal terror that’s utterly chilling. This was a guy who really did mean it. Suicide wasn’t necessary to get that message across, it was already plain to see.
20 – Karen O
20 – Karen O Sure, anyone can throw a mic around and scream like a larynx-jabbed banshee. But sheer force of energy – no matter how unhinged you are – does not a frontwoman make. Karen O may well be one of the most shoe-scorchingly kinetic singers around, but what elevates her to superhuman status is how her jabber-whirl antics intertwine with YYY’s music.
Credit: Andy Willsher/NME
19 – Damon Albarn
19 – Damon Albarn His Blur bandmate Graham Coxon said of the singer: “He’s always been a frontman because he’s just that sort of bloke. He was like that when I first met him at school at 12 – there’s just something in his nature where he has to be a constant performer.”
Credit: Danny North/NME
18 – Jack White
18 – Jack White Jimmy page calls him a hero. He’s the frontman of not one but three successful bands. He is, quite simply, a true rock’n’roll great, able to reach out with a tortured howl or an erratic guitar solo deep into the broken heart of his performance. It’s his unique ability to channel a century of blues into every performance that marks him out as a modern legend.
Credit: Andy Whitton/NME
15 – Mark Bolan
15 – Mark Bolan Taking his cues from early rockers such as Little Richard, Marc Bolan invented the idea of the alien megastar beamed down from space. Of course, he could write incredible songs, but his true genius was in simply being a star, a beautiful thing of his own creation.
14 – Joe Strummer
14 – Joe Strummer Strummer wasn’t the most technically competent guitarist, and he was far from being the world’s best singer, but it really didn’t matter. What you got from The Clash frontman was a passion, energy and total commitment to the cause that very few have been able to match. He was a brash, intense, Elvis-leg-twitching punk-rock superstar.
13 – Jarvis Cocker
13 – Jarvis Cocker No one could copy Jarvis. It would be simply impossible. The retro yet stylish clothes, his lyrics, the sleaze and the ability to always write in a way that made you wonder how no-one else had done it before. He’s the last true eccentric genius we have left in British pop music.
12 – Mark E Smith
12 – Mark E Smith After 35 years of being in the business, Mark E Smith told NME, “I get very nervous before I go onstage. I drink two bottles of whiskey. Haha, no, not really. I do an anti-clockwise walk though. It’s what boxers used to do in Victorian times. No one knows that.”
11 – Jim Morrison
11 – Jim Morrison Carl Barat says of the Doors frontman: “Everything Jim did, he was the first of his kind. He wrote what was arguably A-level poetry , but he was the first to do so and the bravery that that took exonerates anything else. He was a showman in the classic sense.”
7 – Liam Gallagher
7 – Liam Gallagher Fellow great frontman Bobby Gillespie says: “There’s not many good ones left – but Liam Gallagher is one. The guy is unmarketable because he’s confrontational and he doesn’t give a fuck. And that’s the attitude you’ve gotta have if you wanna be a frontman.”
5 – Morrissey
5 – Morrissey “What made Morrissey really interesting was that he inverted all of the traditional concepts of what it was to be a rock star,” says Brett Anderson. “He made it possible that you could be a sexually inadequate loser. And he championed qualities such as depression and illness, all of those things that were so far away from what a rock star was supposed to be.”
4 – Debbie Harry
4 – Debbie Harry The Blondie lynchpin was much more than a mere sex symbol. Here was someone who had the intellect, the swagger, the grace and the sheer coolness to match the Monroe-like outer persona. Before Harry, women in mainstream music were rarely allowed to be anything other than one-dimensional.
Credit: PA Photos
3 – John Lydon
3 – John Lydon What makes a great frontman? “Honesty,” says punk’s numero uno. “And telling it exactly like is. Not how you want it to be. The thing people don’t get about me is that the things I’m angry with are not human beings. It’s the shit-stem itself, and I think my songs express that. I’m not about angst, you know? I do this because I really want the world to be a better place.”