Remember when Mariah Carey first came out? The woman could SANG. She could even do the Minnie Ripperton Super High Falsetto note to great effect. Her first 3 albums were packed with great singing, passion and emotion. The girl had talent and the chops and complete control of her insturment.
Flashforward to now, Mariah's music still has the great singing, but it seems overly slick and lacking real passion and emotion, like she's phoning her vocals in.
Which leads me to my point: A singer who is singing from their heart and giving the best that they have, even if they're not in Mariah's or Whitney's league, will always be better than somebody who's technically proficient, but ultimately, lacking honesty and emotion.
Take Erykah Badu, for instance. She's doesn't have Mariah's vocal range, but you won't find someone who puts more passion or soul into their performance. Chrisette Michelle is another example. She has the vocal range and the chops, but she doesn't just coast when it comes to her performance, she's singing from her heart and you can feel it.
And need I mention Jill Scott or Corinne Bailey Rae or Nikka Costa or Anita Baker or Gabrielle or Bjork?
On the male side of things, Luther Vandross was undoubtably the Gold Standard. Any of his songs fron the late 70's to the early 90's were instant classics. But, like Miss Carey (Or should I say Mrs. Cannon), his more recent recordings were slick and had his trademark vocals, but not as much of the emotion or passion of his earlier stuff.
Now, Seal may not have as much of a range as Luther, but he's got so much more soul. (Not a shameless plug of his latest release by the same name) Listen to every song on his 2nd album (The one with 'Kiss From A Rose' on it) and there is passion, soul and great emotion coming through on each track.
Sting is another performer who, though he's white, has a lot of soul in his performances. He sings from his heart and so does D'angelo, Rob Thomas, Musiq Soulchild, Bono from U2, Adam Levine, Stokley, Boys II Men, Brandon Boyd and John Legend.
Maybe I'm just picky, but when it comes to music, you can't fake it. To quote Ms. Cheryl Lynn,
It's got to be real.