By on February 26, 2024

The 15 best musical acts

By Aaron Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

I confess. I’m a serial list maker. From time to time, I’ll share some rankings on the Outer Banks Voice. While I’ve ranked everything from NFL quarterbacks to movie directors, today the list includes the 15 musical acts (band/solo artists) I consider the best.

Honorable Mentions: Bruce Springsteen, America, The Bee Gees


  1. The Smiths

The best way I could describe The Smiths to someone who’s never listened to them is that they’re like The Cure for depressed people. Johnny Marr might be my favorite guitarist of all time. He has hauntingly beautiful riffs and an overall sound that I’ve never heard from any other guitar player ever. And then there’s Morrissey, the…interesting lead singer. Morrissey’s unique voice meshes very well with his dark and depressing lyrics.



  1. The Talking Heads 

I’m embracing my inner art school student with this one. The Talking Heads, fronted by lead singer David Bryne, are quite unique. They have an artsy sound and execute that sound as well as anyone else. This Must Be the Place is my favorite song because they managed to make a song feel like home.


  1. Billy Joel

Billy Joel is the definition of consistency. He doesn’t have any mind-blowing songs or albums, but overall is really good with very few misses. Even though he did make my list, this is why he’s not higher up. Piano Man, though, is a classic.


  1. The Beach Boys

I don’t know if there has ever been a bigger carry job in history than Brian Wilson for the Beach Boys. While Carl Wilson does have a nice voice, it’s safe to say the band wasn’t much without Brian, one of the greatest songwriters ever. While their beach music is good, it’s songs like Good Vibrations, God Only Knows, and Wouldn’t it be Nice that really elevate the Beach Boys to this level.


  1. Led Zeppelin

The most iconic band of the 70s and one of the most iconic of all time, Led Zeppelin made an undeniable impact on music. It is perhaps the most unique classic rock band of all time. Some swear that Jimmy Page is the greatest guitar player ever. That combines well with Robert Plant’s voice, which is basically another instrument. Stairway to Heaven is potentially the greatest song ever made.


  1. Marvin Gaye

My favorite Motown act, Marvin Gaye had one of the greatest voices in history. What’s Going On is a top-five favorite albums and the song itself is a top-five favorite song. They are both hauntingly beautiful and still ring true to this day.


  1. The Doors 

Often, the debate among 60’s bands is between the Beatles, The Stones, and the Beach Boys. But the second-best band of the 60s is The Doors. They have a perfect combination with Jim Morrison’s voice and lyrics and Ray Manzarek’s keyboarding. Creating masterpieces like Light My Fire and People are Strange, they seem to have almost a dreamy, distorted sound that only adds to Morrison’s mystique.


  1. Elton John

A beloved musician, Elton’s 1970s decade is one of the best for a musician in history. And he has had tremendous longevity. I was also lucky enough to see him on his farewell tour at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, and he was exceptional. My favorite song of his is Your Song, it’s just so simple, but beautiful at the same time.


  1. Madonna

Madonna is the undisputed queen of pop and one of the most polarizing figures in modern music history. Most people either love or hate her, and I’m on the love side. Not only does Madonna have an incredible discography, but she put on the best concert that I have ever been to. She has countless great pop and dance songs but also turned it up a notch with her album Ray of Light.


  1. Elvis

Perhaps the most influential figure in modern music history, Elvis is every manager’s dream: The look and the voice. He has arguably the best voice of any male musician, which helped him since he was not very technical nor a songwriter to any degree. But that didn’t matter because the quality of his music is still top tier. He has a great mix of both upbeat rock and roll and softer ballads—along with a phenomenal stage presence. There isn’t much more that needs to be said.


  1. Prince

Perhaps the most unique artist in history. A 5’2” man who did splits in high heels who also happens to be the most talented musician in history, in my opinion. I once saw a YouTube comment that described him perfectly: Prince was Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and David Bowie all wrapped up in one person. Obviously, the Purple Rain era is what he’s most known for, and rightfully so because it’s a great album. But I think Sign ‘O’ the Times is extremely underrated.


  1. Nirvana

No band has ever captured the “spirit” of being a teenager quite like Nirvana, and more specifically, Kurt Cobain. Nirvana was a much-needed band following the Hair Metal band of the 80s, which seemed so plastic. Smells Like Teen Spirit is arguably one the most iconic songs and is incredibly powerful despite the fact that it doesn’t even seem to be about much. And their MTV Unplugged concert may be the greatest singular concert, featuring Cobain in his memorable green cardigan.


  1. George Michael 

It may surprise many to know just how talented of a musician George Michael was. Most Americans know him more for his earlier career in WHAM! as well as his insanely successful first solo album: Faith. But after the release of Faith, Michael wanted to change his image and released Listen Without Prejudice. He followed that up with the arguably more impressive album Older. What most don’t know about Michael is that he was a brilliant songwriter, producer, and singer, and could play a wide variety of instruments. To me the most underrated musician.


  1. Michael Jackson 

Perhaps the most famous person in the modern era, period. Michael Jackson has arguably the greatest discography in history. Starting out as a young child in the Jackson 5, to his record-breaking decade in the 80s, and ending with an almost equally impressive run in the ‘90s, he is also the greatest performer in history, thanks to the fact that he is the greatest dancer ever.

1.The Beatles

Who else? While I like their early boy band music, what makes them number one is their later more experimental work—songs like A Day in the Life and Strawberry Fields Forever. A look at George, John and Paul’s solo careers only adds to the greatness of the band. An overlooked aspect of the band is George Martin, who played a huge role in the Beatles success as a brilliant producer. It is mind blowing that a band went from I Want to Hold Your Hand to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. To me, this is a no-brainer.


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