Music is such a personal journey, and everyone has their favorite genre and a couple of musicians that they can listen to all day. The top musicians may not be your favorite, but one thing about them is that they have earned their respect to be considered among the best.
Without further ado, here are the 20 best musicians in the world.
1. Michael Jackson
Popularly known as MJ, Michael Joseph Jackson was born in 1958 and died in 2009. He’s one of the best musicians to ever exist and his music continues to influence generations long after their deaths. It has been over a decade, and his songs continue to gain recognition across continents.
He wore many hats during his reign as a singer, songwriter, and dancer. When you mention ‘King of Pop,’ you are undoubtedly invoking the late MJ.
Some of his famous dances include the moonwalk, sidewalk, and lean. He has a long list of singles and successful albums to his name, but some of the top five songs include;
- Billie Jean
- Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough
- Off the Wall
- Man in The Mirror
- Beat it
Long after his death, people have tried to emulate him in his looks, music, and dance. In a bizarre case, a man even underwent surgery 11 times to look like Michael Jackson! That’s how cool he was!!
2. The Beatles
The Beatles is an English band made up of four members; Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. In the rock era, this was considered the most influential band.
Perhaps their quick rise to fame was their unmatched versatility in experimenting with different genres. They always found innovative ways to create classical music and keep their audience entertained.
In today’s musical era, musicians are somewhat afraid to get out of the box and experiment as they fear they will be cancelled or shelved. Today’s audience moves on quite quickly, and you may find yourself out of the market with one wrong move.
The Beatles have a collection of awards under their name, from Grammys to the Novello Awards. Some of their most famous albums include:
- The Beatles
- Abbey Road
- Rubber Soul
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
3. Elvis Presley
Despite being away from the world for almost half a century, his music lives on. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis enjoyed being alone but was teased by his peers. Elvis Presley is considered legendary in the music industry for his hit singles Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender.
One of the most striking things about Elvis Presley was his courage. In an era where gay rights were unheard of, he changed the world’s views musically, sexually, and politically. He was likened to a god by his fans and today he is considered the blueprint for rock and roll.
At some point in his life, he decided to focus on acting and singing took a back seat. However, he is remembered more for his music than for his acting career.
4. Whitney Houston
The late Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in 1963. She was a singer, model, actress, and producer.
The majority of her albums were used as soundtracks in movies, and all were nominated for prestigious certifications. Her singing prowess can be linked to her roots as her mother, Cissy Houston, was also a famous singer.
Whitney holds a Guinness World Record for the most awarded female act. Some of her famous songs include:
- Greatest love of all
- Saving all my love for you
- How will I know?
- You give good love
- I wanna dance with somebody
Whitney’s life was cut short in 2012 due to a drug overdose, but her music lives on. Her songs have been recreated, and numerous covers done by up-and-coming artists who are inspired by her work.
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is an English singer and songwriter. Adele’s breakthrough into the industry happened unexpectedly.
Her friend uploaded a simple demo to MySpace, and it was an instant hit. She was recognized by a big-time record label who offered her a music contract.
Her famous singles include Rolling In The Deep, Hello, Someone Like You, and Set Fire To The Rain. Her fans say her songs are highly relatable and they’re always looking forward to the release of her albums. The anticipation is what makes the songs worthwhile.
She releases a great piece of work then disappears as she works on the next one. Therein lies her power. After all, good things take time.
One thing undeniable about Prince was his talent. He may have rubbed people off the wrong way with his provocative tendencies, but this did not stop him from leaving behind a legacy.
Born in 1958, Prince was not only a singer but also a guitarist, songwriter, producer, dancer, and performer. He excelled exceptionally well in all his crafts and fit seamlessly into various music genres.
Some of his top hit songs include When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, Let’s Go Crazy, Cream, and Kiss. Prince died in 2016, but his music lives on. Perhaps the reason why he is considered one of the greatest musicians of all time is his hands-on approach to creativity.
He took full control of directing his work and did not conform to societal pressures. Instead, he stood for his individuality and encouraged others to embrace their uniqueness.
7. Tupac Shakur
Tupac is one of the greatest rappers to this day. Born in 1971 as Tupac Amaru Shakur, his lyrics impact society today and are continuously referenced in today’s real-life situations.
The lyrics are crafted to create rhythm while still maintaining emotional depth. When compared to today’s rappers, many argue that the new school rappers lack depth and only sing for view.
In his songs, his fans feel all sorts of emotions. He has a song for every feeling. So, whether you are feeling sad, happy, or grateful, you will find a Tupac song to suit the mood.
Arguably one of his greatest hits, dear mama, it continues to be played to appreciate mothers all around the world. Some of his other hit songs include Changes, Hit ‘Em Up, and All Eyes On Me.
Tupac died in 1996, but his fans continue to bask in his musical prowess as they blast his music on every occasion.
8. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Louise Franklin was born in 1942 and died in 2018. At the time of her death, she had amassed 42 studio albums. The soulstress had conquered sovereignty, and a majority of her songs are now considered classics.
When it comes to awards, Aretha is not one to play with. She was the first female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
She also has a couple of Grammy awards to her name and is one of the most honored musicians in Grammy awards. Some of her famous hits include:
- Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) Aretha Franklin.
- Chain of Fools.
- Freeway of Love.
- Amazing Grace.
- Who’s Zoomin’ Who?
Apart from being a music legend, she was also a civil rights activist.
Eminem is a rapper, producer, and actor. He was born in 1972 and is formally known as Marshall Bruce Mathers III. His fans commonly refer to him as Slim shady. His big breakthrough came in 1997 when he won a rap competition and impressed a record label which introduced him to Dr Dre.
One of the reasons a musician is considered among the best is having at least one classic album. Well, Eminem has three. Some of his famous hit songs include:
- Real slim shady
- Love the way you lie
- Without me
- Not afraid
- The monster
Although controversy follows Eminem for being antigay, his talent cannot be denied, and he is considered a musical genius. He can rhyme syllables, words, and sentences unlike most rappers and has multiple styles of making music, making him more versatile and appealing to his fans.
10. Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra was born in 1915 and died in 1998. He is considered one of the greatest performers of the 20th century. Frank makes it to this list because he was an intuitive and analytical musician.
His lyrics were considered to be from the heart, hence more sincere. One of the easiest ways of connecting with your audience is to be sincere, and he did this effortlessly.
He was one of the most sought-after performers in the American industry. His vocal prowess is unmatched and represents a ‘crooning’ style. His soft-spoken style of singing is calming and gives the perfect pitch.
Unfortunately, very few artists are able to do it perfectly. In fact, only 1 in 10000 people can do it.
Some of his hit songs include;
- You Make Me Feel So Young
- The Best Is Yet To Come
- I’ve Got The World On A String
- Almost Like Being In Love
- All Of Me
11. Bob Dylan
Robert Dylan is an American singer and was born in 1961. He is also a songwriter, author, and audio-visual artist.
One of the reasons Bob is considered among the best musicians and qualifies to be on this list is his ability to bring meaning to his lyrics in rock and roll. He has made a country-rock and confessional album.
At one point in his life, Bob was a born-again Christian and released a few gospel songs. This phase lasted for a few years, and he went off the grid for a while.
His comeback album led him to release a Grammy award-winning album. Some of his top hit songs include:
- Like A Rolling Stone
- Just Like A Woman
- Tangled Up In Blue
- It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Bob Dylan continues to inspire generations to come with his songwriting skills and musical creativity.
12. Elton John
A lot of people can agree that Elton John revolutionized music. He currently holds the record as the world’s best selling single of all time. To this day, he has 35 gold and 25 platinum albums.
In addition, his unique approach to music gives him an edge in the industry. He blends pop and rock styles and is considered a musical icon.
From a young age, he has been able to release impactful music, making him an international star. His greatest songs include:
- Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
- Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
- Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Fans say that the greatest pleasure of being an Elton John fan is rediscovering lesser-known songs and falling in love even more with them. He continues to release great music to date with his distinct and great vocals.
13. Bob Marley
When you mention ‘King of reggae,’ Bob Marley pops up in the minds of many people. This is because he is a reggae legend.
Born as Robert Nesta Marley OM in 1945, he was a Jamaican singer and songwriter. He is considered the pioneer of reggae music, and his distinct singing and writing style captured the hearts of many.
Although he died in his prime, he touched the hearts of many. He also accomplished several feats, such as an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1994 and serving as a world ambassador for reggae music.
He was also the first international star to emerge from a third-world country and paved the way for his successors. Some of the most well-known songs include:
- No Woman, No Cry
- Get Up Stand Up
- Redemption Song
- Is This Love
- Turn Your Lights Down Low
To this day, Bob Marley is still being quoted for his famous sayings and referenced in many books, articles, and literary works.
14. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd is an English rock band that was formed in 1964. Their live shows are mostly what won them some fans as it was considered an event not to be missed. Their compositions and philosophical lyrics were also considered the tip of the iceberg.
They have gone on to receive accolades for their unique sound and performance. They have been named as the biggest band of all time. Some of their biggest hits include:
- Shine On You Crazy Diamond
- Another brick in the Wall
- Echoes” From: ‘Meddle
It is worth noting that bands stayed put and stuck together for a long period back in the day. In today’s era, bands are formed and break up within a short period as members seek individual sounds. Nevertheless, Pink Floyd is still shaking up the industry and hitting new highs, affirming their position as one of the greatest rock bands.
Although Beyoncé is considered a new-age artiste, she has been very impactful and undoubtedly influenced several upcoming musicians. She started in a girl group and slowly transitioned to being a solo artiste to explore her own sound. She has reinvented herself and tried different sounds, affirming even further why she is a musical genius.
Born in 1981, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter took an interest in dancing and singing competitions ever since she was a child and has evolved through her musical journey. Her fan base is quite vibrant and even has their own name; ‘The beyhive.’ Her music has a lasting effect on the listeners, and her performances are inspiring.
Some of her top hit singles include:
- Crazy In Love
- All Night Long
- Love On Top
Her impact is so huge that she does not have to rely on album sales because any music she drops will undoubtedly be received with open arms.
Storytelling is an element of singing. Whereas music largely relies on rhythm, those who can incorporate storytelling stand out from the pack. Nas is one of the artists who effortlessly does it.
Storytelling is poetic and separates great artists from the rest. His simple rhymes fit in perfectly and keep the story going.
Nas is able to put the listener on the scene. When your fans feel included in the music, they relate more to you. Formally known as Nasir Jones, he was born in 1973 and came up paving the way for fellow artists.
He is considered one of the most influential rappers of all time, and his work ethic has allowed him to climb up the ladder. Some of his well-known songs include:
- If I Ruled The World
- I Can
- One Love
- Nas Is Like
He has a couple of Grammy awards to his name, including the best rap album.
17. Jay Z
The greatest rapper of all time will always be a debate depending on who you ask. Jay Z, however, deserves a seat at the table for his contribution to music. At the age of 50, Jay Z still inspires young artists.
A lot of artists tend to slow down and zone out after they have reached their peak. However, Jay Z has not let his fire die. He continues to have that spark that most artists let fade away after some time in the industry.
He has been a staple in the Hip-hop industry, making some classics, and continues to release more great music. He is also a record producer where, under his label, he has mentored other young musicians who have grown under his wings and become top musicians. Some of his top songs include;
- Hard Knock Life
- Bonnie And Clyde
- Empire State Of Mind
18. Ariana Grande
At just 28 years old, Ariana Grande has achieved most of what a lot of musicians at her age could only dream of. The sweet-mellowed singer has a number of awards to her name, including the Grammys, and she is this generation’s most-followed musician.
Some of her most famous works include:
- One Last Time
- Side To Side
- Bang Bang
- Just Like Magic
She is not only the most listened to female artiste on music streaming sites, but is also named as one of the most influential people in the world.
Born in 1958, Madonna Louise Ciccone is of American descent and is a singer, songwriter, and actress. Madonna has been described as the greatest woman in music. Although controversial, her talent in music is undeniable.
According to the Rock and Roll hall of fame, Madonna was the first female pop icon in multimedia. One of the reasons she made it to this list is her versatility in her vocal range. She can easily adapt her voice to any genre of music and can adapt to any song.
Some of her greatest hits include:
- Like a Virgin’
- Crazy For You
- Take a Bow
- Justify My Love
Her influence can be seen with stars such as Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa.
20. David Bowie
When it comes to revolutionizing music, David Bowie is the guy to look up to. He confronted sexual conformity and inspired others to follow suit.
David Bowie was born in 1947 and died in 2016. His greatest hits include; Space Oddity, Under Pressure, Moonage Daydream, and Life on Mars. He was a great rock star, and his fans attest to the fact that his performances were phenomenal.
In fact, it is said that if you were lost and attended a David Bowie concert, you would know where to go at the end. His music brought a clearer perspective to life.