Lead vocalist

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The lead vocalist (or main vocalist, lead vocals, or lead singer) in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent in a performance where multiple voices may be heard. [1] The lead singer either leads the vocal ensemble, or sets against the ensemble as the dominant sound. [1] In vocal group performances, notably in soul and gospel music, and early rock and roll, the lead singer takes the main vocal part, with a chorus provided by other band members as backing vocalists.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

Soul music is a popular music genre that originated in the African American community in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz. Soul music became popular for dancing and listening in the United States, where record labels such as Motown, Atlantic and Stax were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. Soul also became popular around the world, directly influencing rock music and the music of Africa.

Gospel music is a genre of Christian music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music usually has dominant vocals with Christian lyrics. Gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century, with roots in the black oral tradition. Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment. Most of the singing was done a cappella. The first published use of the term "gospel song" probably appeared in 1874. The original gospel songs were written and composed by authors such as George F. Root, Philip Bliss, Charles H. Gabriel, William Howard Doane, and Fanny Crosby. Gospel music publishing houses emerged. The advent of radio in the 1920s greatly increased the audience for gospel music. Following World War II, gospel music moved into major auditoriums, and gospel music concerts became quite elaborate.

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Especially in rock music, the lead singer or solo singer is often the front man [2] or front woman, who may also play one or more instruments and is often seen as the leader or spokesman of the band by the public. As an example in rock music, Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of Queen. Similarly in soul music, Smokey Robinson was the lead singer of The Miracles.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Freddie Mercury British singer-songwriter and record producer

Freddie Mercury was a British singer-songwriter, record producer and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest lead singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range.

Queen (band) British rock band

Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970. Their classic line-up was Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. Their earliest works were influenced by progressive rock, hard rock and heavy metal, but the band gradually ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly works by incorporating further styles, such as arena rock and pop rock.

History

Queen performs in a typical rock band layout during a 1984 concert. Lead singer (front man) Freddie Mercury stands centre-stage in front of drummer Roger Taylor and positioned between bass guitarist John Deacon and lead guitarist Brian May. Queen 1984 011.jpg
Queen performs in a typical rock band layout during a 1984 concert. Lead singer (front man) Freddie Mercury stands centre-stage in front of drummer Roger Taylor and positioned between bass guitarist John Deacon and lead guitarist Brian May.

It is uncertain when the term "lead vocals" was first used, but it may have emerged in the late 1930s, when rich vocal interplay with multiple voices where one or more voices may dominate began to impact on North American popular music, which was previously dominated by solo vocals. [1] The practice of using a lead singer in vocal groups, however, has a longer history: an early form is the "call and response" found in work songs and spirituals sung by African-American slaves. Songs of the late nineteenth century frequently used a leading solo voice (or "call"), followed by a choral response by other singers. As the style developed through early commercial recordings and performances in the early 20th century, the role of the lead vocalist became more established, although popular groups of the 1930s and 1940s such as the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers generally used different lead singers on different songs rather than keeping the same lead singer throughout. By the 1950s, singers such as Sam Cooke (with the Soul Stirrers) and Clyde McPhatter (with the Drifters) took on more clearly defined roles as lead singers, and by the end of the decade credited group names often changed to reflect the leading roles of the main vocalists, with examples such as Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Dion & the Belmonts. [3]

Call and response is a form of interaction between a speaker and an audience in which the speaker's statements ("calls") are punctuated by responses from the listeners. This form is also used in music, in which it falls in the general category of antiphony.

A work song is a piece of music closely connected to a form of work, either sung while conducting a task or a song linked to a task which might be a connected narrative, description, or protest song.

The Ink Spots American pop vocal band

The Ink Spots were an American pop vocal group who gained international fame in the 1930s and 1940s. Their unique musical style presaged the rhythm and blues and rock and roll musical genres, and the subgenre doo-wop. The Ink Spots were widely accepted in both the white and black communities, largely due to the ballad style introduced to the group by lead singer Bill Kenny.

Academic David Horn has written:

The influence of US rhythm and blues recordings may well be a crucial one in the assimilation of the format of lead singer plus backing group into the guitar-based British 'beat' groups of the 1960s, and in US groups such as The Beach Boys. From these various points - including Motown - it went on to become a standard device in much rock and pop music. In some bands - most famously, The Beatles - the role of lead singer alternated (in this case, principally between two performers), while in others - for example, Herman's Hermits - one lead singer dominated. [3]

Rhythm and blues, commonly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.

Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat is a popular music genre that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s.

The Beach Boys Rock band from Hawthorne, California

The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The group's original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine. Distinguished by their vocal harmonies and early surf songs, they are one of the most influential acts of the rock era. The band drew on the music of jazz-based vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and black R&B to create their unique sound, and with Brian as composer, arranger, producer, and de facto leader, they often incorporated classical elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways.

Characteristics and exceptions in rock and pop music

There are as many types and styles of lead singer as there are styles and genres of music. However, the lead singer of a group or band is usually the main focus of audiences' attention. [4] The lead vocalist of band is sometimes called the "front man" or "front woman", as the most visible performer in a group. While most bands have a singular lead singer, many others have dual lead singers, or other member of the band that occasionally sing lead on particular songs. While the lead singer often defines the group's image and personality to the general public, this is not always the case.

In modern rock music, the lead singer is often, but not always, also the band's leader and spokesperson. While lead singers or spokespersons for any musical ensembles can be called a front man, the term is used very widely in rock music. Since the position commonly has an expanded role from simple lead vocalists, there have been cases in which the front man for a band is someone other than the lead vocalist. For example, while the lead vocalist for the band Fall Out Boy is guitarist Patrick Stump, the bassist and lyricist, Pete Wentz, is generally called the front man, both in the media and by the band members themselves, since he represents the band in most interviews and contributes most to the band's image in the popular media. [5] Another example is Angus Young of AC/DC, who is the band's lead guitarist, and co-leader with his brother Malcolm Young (until the latter's death in 2017); while lead singer Brian Johnson (and before him Bon Scott) is the band's front man, Angus Young can be thought to share the front man position with Johnson, due to his on-stage antics and his role as the band's mascot, frequently featuring on album covers and promotional materials.

Fall Out Boy American pop punk band

Fall Out Boy is an American rock band formed in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, in 2001. The band consists of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist Pete Wentz, lead guitarist Joe Trohman, and drummer Andy Hurley. The band originated from Chicago's hardcore punk scene, with which all members were involved at one point. The group was formed by Wentz and Trohman as a pop punk side project of the members' respective hardcore bands, and Stump joined shortly thereafter. The group went through a succession of drummers before landing Hurley and recording the group's debut album, Take This to Your Grave (2003). The album became an underground success and helped the band gain a dedicated fanbase through heavy touring, as well as some moderate commercial success. Take This to Your Grave has commonly been cited as an influential blueprint for pop punk music in the 2000s.

Patrick Stump American musician

Patrick Martin Stumph, known professionally as Patrick Vaughn Stump, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He is the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the rock band Fall Out Boy, originally from Wilmette, Illinois.

Pete Wentz American musician

Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known for being the bassist, lyricist, and backing vocalist for the American rock band Fall Out Boy. Before Fall Out Boy's inception in 2001, Wentz was a fixture of the Chicago hardcore scene and was the lead vocalist and lyricist for Arma Angelus. During Fall Out Boy's hiatus from 2009 to 2012, Wentz formed the experimental, electropop and dubstep group Black Cards. He owns a record label, DCD2 Records, which has signed bands including Panic! at the Disco and Gym Class Heroes.

In many bands, such as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Living Colour, Queen, The Stone Roses and Oasis, the lead guitarist may share spokesman responsibilities with the lead singer. Usually, this is derived from that guitarist's specific role as a co-songwriter, co-founder and/or co-vocalist. Also in some cases, there are two frontmen, such as Alice in Chains, with singer Layne Staley (and later William DuVall) sharing vocal duties with guitarist Jerry Cantrell, [6] or Underoath, with singers Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie (drummer) sharing vocal duties. Another example is Blink-182, in which vocal duties are split between bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge. Hoppus usually carries out most media either by himself or together with DeLonge, while the band's other member, drummer Travis Barker, usually remains quiet. Linkin Park had two vocalists as well, Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, both considered as frontmen. Another example is the thrash metal band Metallica, in which James Hetfield (lead singer and rhythm guitarist) and Lars Ulrich (drummer) share the spokesperson duties for being both founders and the only members who have never left the band.

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 3 John Shepherd, ed. (May 8, 2003). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Volume II: Performance and Production. Continuum. pp. 634–635. ISBN   978-0826463227.
  2. "Definition of FRONT MAN". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  3. 1 2 David Horn, '"Lead Singer", in Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Volume II: Performance and Production, A&C Black, 2003, pp.103-104
  4. "Role of the Lead Vocalist", Vocalist.org.uk. Accessed 2 May 2015
  5. CARAMANICA, JON (December 12, 2008), "The Frontman in the Background". The New York Times . (accessed 2009-01-19)
  6. "Jerry Cantrell Recalls How Alice in Chains Developed Their Twin-Vocal Sound". Diffuser.fm. April 25, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2018.