The NME office is currently being lulled by the sultry lilt of David Bowie on new track ‘When I Met You’ (released posthumously, of course). It’s remarkable how Bowie weaved such a mesmerising spell, given that he possessed, undoubtedly, a very odd voice.
It’s proof that having an unusual, untutored voice is no bar to creating extraordinary music. Here are a few more vocal eccentrics.
Like the phantom of some tragic chanteuse, old wobble-voice sounds permanently on the edge of tears – a quality that took on a thrilling intensity when combined with thrumming disco on Hercules & Love Affair’s ‘Blind’.
7. Jello Biafra
Post-The Mighty Boosh, it’s difficult to listen to the Dead Kennedys man’s wildly oscillating baritone without thinking of ‘Nanageddon’.
6. Joanna Newsom
Emitting weapons-grade levels of kook, the cult harpist’s kittenish squawk is either winningly idiosyncratic or wince-inducingly mannered, depending on your point of view.
5. Geddy Lee
“How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy?” pondered Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus on ‘Stereo’, marvelling at the Rush frontman’s preternaturally high-pitched voice.
4. Stuart Staples
Like an undertaker trying to swallow a gym mat, the lugubrious Tindersticks man’s indecipherable mumble brings an element of the Viv Reeves ‘club style’ to his band’s stately, velveteen jazz-waltzes.
3. Alec Ounsworth
The definition of ‘acquired taste’, listening to the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman’s shrill, hiccupping tenor can sometimes feel like being hectored by a teenage boy in the throes of puberty.
There’s a reason why Smiths covers rarely work – namely, that few singers can approximate Moz’s utterly distinctive, adenoidal vocal style. Tellingly, Jeff Buckley was a big fan.
1. Gary Numan
Like David Bowie crossed with a trapped boy, Numan’s weirdly terror-stricken voice is still one of pop’s strangest, most unsettling sounds.