In this day and age of hype over talent it's hard to get interested in vocalists, especially as someone who's experienced with the recording process. I can hear instantly when technology is doing the work for the artist. That being said, vocal talent is not always about technical ability. Sometimes just having a great voice can be more important than knowing how to sing. Anthony Kiedis is a good example of this. In my opinion he's not very talented, however he has a voice that's recognizable and notable singing style, the combination of these two things make him a good singer. Now, when you pair a unique voice with incredible skill, you get Freddy Mercury. For my money, he's the best rock vocalist who's ever lived.
But what about modern vocal sensations? Are they all somehow in the past? Is my opinion skewed because of my age? Maybe kind of yes to all of those things. Some modern voices that come to mind are singers like Adele, John Legend, Cee-Lo, Christina Aguilera, Matthew Bellamy (of muse), and Bruno Mars. They can all hit the high notes, have recognizable voices, and carry an even vibrato without using falsetto. Now, in my opinion if you need to use falsetto to hit a high note, you're not a great singer (Cough cough...Abel Tesfaye). In fact, unless i'm listening to the Bee Gees or Marvin Gaye (who used it for style even though he could really sing), I can't stand it. It's a kind of singing that anyone can do if they actually felt inclined to try. Just start talking like mickey mouse and then attempt to sing in that voice. There, now you're a just as good as these impostor vocalists (cough cough Adam Levine).
But then again, remember what I said earlier. You don't need to be a good singer to have a good voice. Take Drake for example. Instantly recognizable, but can sometimes be confused for Lil Wayne. In my opinion Drake basically jacked Lil Waynes style but has a deeper voice, therefore in my mind Lil Wayne is legit and Drake...Not as much. But Drake does have style.
Actually, I can't remember a time in hip hop (aside from the Puffy/Ma$e era) when so many artists sounded exactly the same. As a DJ I am constantly listening to new Hip Hop/R&B. I mean, it's one thing to have no lyrical or rhythmical talent as an MC, but to not even have a unique voice, I don't know how these guys sell records (2 chainz, Ace hood, Wiz Khalifa), and so maybe it's just my age. Maybe there's some intangible factor that i'm just not tuning into, or maybe standards are just lower now. This is the whole modern art debate of skill/talent vs x-factor/intrigue. Are there any unique current hip hop artists? I would say yes. Although I don't like his style, Rick Ross is pretty unique, I know he's MCing without even looking at who's on the track. Rae Stremmurd is another one. But are they unique like Snoop Dog? Like Jay Z? Like Chuck D? Like Nas? Like Treach? Like Q tip? Tupac? Like Busta? Method man? Eminem? like Sticky Fingas?...They are not. Not even close. I can't get passionate about these new guys because I know better. I feel almost as if everyone from my generation has been completely spoiled with the best of the best. It's the Michael Jordan scenario...There are a lot of talented rappers, but none of them can top those guys I named because they did it so well.
In conclusion, there is not a lot for me to be excited about vocally right now and that's really my issue. The tides have shifted from great vocals to great bands, with the vocals just being another piece of the band without being the primary focus. Although instruments like guitars and drums can occasionally invoke chills, they can't do it the way vocals can, and I seriously hope they make a comeback in mainstream music.
Bonus, some of my favorite all time vocalists:
Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler, Dave Gahan, Joan Baez, Art Garfunkel, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carrey, Celine Dion, Eddie Vedder, Sting, Bon Jovie, Axel Rose, Gord Downie, Scott Welland...I just realized the list will be very long but those are a few.