There are a lot of great rock records out there, albums that have changed lives for the better in countless ways. But we have all had the disappointment of a later experience: going to see the artist live and leaving disappointed. Being a great leader in a rock and roll band is a very different matter from being a great rock musician; the skill sets often overlap, but as anyone who’s seen Bob Dylan at a party can attest, there’s plenty of room for divergence.
Consider the following, then, a list of great leaders. When putting together this list of artists, the primary consideration wasn’t necessarily our favorite musicians or the music we love the most. It was about identifying performers with that indefinable quality of charismatic showmanship – people who go above and beyond to play the songs the best they can, with all the heart they can muster, to deliver something thing more. It’s about celebrating the musicians who view a live performance as a Pin up, first of all. They want to deliver a night you’ll never forget, whether through drama, explosive energy, or simply a degree of personal magnetism that makes it impossible to look away; these are the qualities of a great rock’n’roll leader.
In order to stay focused on the modern era (and keep the size manageable for this feature), we’ve made the arbitrary choice to only include bands and musicians who started releasing albums within the last 20 years. . In other words: Yes, Mick Jagger is still a great leader, but he doesn’t need our support. Likewise, artists who we consider to be great frontpeople, but who started their work before the deadline, were summarily disqualified. (Sorry, John Dwyer of The Osees; we all agreed you’d top any other list.) And finally, artists had exemptions if they started a brand new project within the previous two decades: so, the presence of Jenny Lewis as a soloist and Craig Finn as lead singer of The Hold Steady, despite their former bands Rilo Kiley and Lifter Puller.
Given that this is an obviously authoritative list, and not at all simply the votes of a handful of music critics who couldn’t have seen every frontperson that has blown your mind in recent years, we encourage everyone to make their own nominations in the comments. And if you’re particularly upset that someone didn’t make the cut, rest assured, they were. just there at number 21.