Many of today’s most popular singers sell millions of albums, they are able to pack arenas full of fans, and every club you venture inside of will be playing their jams through the loud speakers. But behind the good beats and the catchy lyrics, many of these top singers can’t really sing that well. Their voices are the products of engineering effects and autotune that is used to turn their shaky vocals into musical masterpieces. When these stars are forced to sing live, that’s when the true condition of their horrible voices shine through.
Some of these celebs actually had good voices when they were in their prime, but Father Time hasn’t been kind to their vocal chords. Other celebs never had a good voice to begin with, but their record labels were able to market them and push them into the limelight successfully, and the public turned a deaf ear to their subpar singing skills.
Many of your faves are probably on this list, but it’s time to face the facts. These 14 popular singers have horrible voices, but that hasn’t put a damper on their popularity.
14 Mariah Carey
When Mariah Carey emerged on the music scene back in 1990, she blew the world away when she belted out her tunes “Vision of Love” and “Someday.” At the height of her music career, Mariah was praised for her 5 octave vocal range - a skill that most singers can only dream of. Every time she performed, she would always sing live with just a few backup singers helping her out for the chorus and the hooks. But after more than two decades in the music industry, Mariah’s angelic voice is like a distant memory. Listening to her earlier records and the songs she puts out today is like night and day.
Remember her disastrous 2014 Christmas performance at Rockefeller Center? Yeah, we wish we could forget it, too. It was at that moment when we realized Mariah’s vocals are horrendous, and the voice we all fell in love with is definitely a thing of the past.
13 Hilary Duff
Okay, don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love Hilary Duff. Every millennial was a fan of “Lizzie McGuire,” and many people hoped that after the show ended, Hilary would be able to transition into a bonafide, chart-topping singer. She and her sister, Haylie, recorded a cover of The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and the world literally listened in horror.
But we weren’t ready to give up on Hilary just yet. She bounced back with yet another cover. This time, she was belting out “My Generation” by The Who, and again, our ears bled profusely. How is it possible that Lizzie McGuire can’t carry a tune to save her life? Even as an adult, and as her voice matured, Hilary is still struggling with the most basic notes. We had high hopes with the 2015 release of her song “Sparks,” but Hilary has proven that perhaps singing just isn’t her thing.
12 Adam Levine
Maroon 5 took the world by storm when their debut album “Songs About Jane” was released in 2002. Sexy frontman Adam Levine helped propel the group to the top of the charts, and they even won a few Grammy awards in the process.
Over time, we’ve come to realize that listening to Adam’s voice is like having the movie “Groundhog Day” on repeat. I’m no singing coach, but I know a mediocre singer when I hear one. Adam’s voice basically remains the same on each and every track. There’s no change in inflection, and one of my friends has compared his singing voice to a cat in heat. Now, I wouldn’t go that far, but Adam’s voice is definitely a bit nasally and irritating to listen to. He has been training with a vocal coach for many years, which is kind of hard to believe considering his voice hasn’t matured or developed in more than 10 years.
11 Ashlee Simpson
Ashlee Simpson is to Jessica as Solange is to Beyoncé. The only difference is, Solange can actually sing, and Ashlee can’t. The Texas-native suffers from typical Little Sister Syndrome. She wanted to do everything big sis Jess was doing. It’s just too bad Ashlee didn’t inherit the ability to belt out a tune that sends shivers down listeners’ spines.
When it comes to Ashlee, she struggles with even the most elementary nursery rhymes. The lid was completely blown off of her singing career when she was exposed for lip synching on an episode of Saturday Night Live. As her vocals began playing in the background, Ashlee was completely caught off guard and began dancing awkwardly on stage before completely walking off the set. She later blamed the snafu on her band, but the truth is, Ashlee just isn’t a very good singer, and when her backup track failed her, she freaked out.
10 Janet Jackson
How is it possible for a horrible singer to sell over 100 million albums worldwide? Well, just ask Janet Jackson. Riding off her last name, and with some help from her father Joseph, Janet became an R&B princess when her self-titled debut album was released in 1982. To this day, she has a cult-like following and legions of fans that dance around and singalong to each and every tune - no matter how horrible Janet’s vocals are.
Her singing voice is almost like a whisper, but her catchy songs have cemented her as one of the greatest R&B singers of our time. Janet has been able to sell out arenas despite never singing live. Have you ever seen a Janet performance when she actually sang without a backup track helping and guiding her along the way? Yeah, me neither. Janet is proof that even if you suck at singing, you can still become a millionaire in the music industry as long as you look good and can dance on beat.
9 Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez has had a successful music career thanks to her good looks, her catchy songs, and some pretty decent songwriting skills, but Jenny from the block can’t sing worth a damn. She must be still feeling herself after capturing our hearts with her performance in Selena. To this day, I don’t think she even realizes it wasn’t her voice belting out “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Delusional Jennifer really thinks her voice can rival Selena’s - or any other talented singer in the industry.
Even though her singing voice is lackluster, JLo still managed to snag a gig as a judge on American Idol. WTF? How is it possible for someone who can’t sing to judge others who can? This just proves that it doesn’t take true talent to gain opportunities and to make a decent living in the entertainment industry. JLo can’t sing, her dancing is blah, and she can’t even act. So what is she good at? That’s yet to be discovered.
8 Lana Del Rey
Women worldwide have been cranking up the Lana Del Rey tunes and singing along to her breathy, whisper-like vocals since the 2010 release of her self-titled debut album. The singer has sold more than seven million albums worldwide, and just take a look at her videos on YouTube to get an idea of just how popular she is. With millions of views on songs such as “Blue Jeans,” you would think Lana was the second coming of Celine Dion. Sadly, the New York City native is more on the level of Mandy Moore.
Lana’s pitchy and shaky vocals are apparent when she’s forced to perform live. Remember when she appeared on Saturday Night Live and her isolated vocals were blasted all over the Internet? We felt sorry for her, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that Lana’s career is backed by some pretty aggressive marketing tactics that have helped her sell millions of albums.
7 Katy Perry
As Katy Perry’s popularity has increased, it makes us wonder what’s the real driving force behind her career. It’s not that she’s a powerhouse singer, she definitely can’t go up against some of the more seasoned balladeers, and when it comes to singing live, we’d much rather cover our ears to shield them from the auditory assault.
During a performance at the NRJ Music Awards in 2013, the singer experienced a malfunction while singing her song “Roar,” and she was forced to perform the track live. Let’s just say, Katy knew she was screwed. The look on her face said it all And we couldn’t help but to giggle at her desperate attempts to get the sound technician’s attention to save her from herself.
Despite a voice that sometimes sounds like nails on a chalkboard, Katy continues to land gigs, like her Super Bowl halftime show in 2015. Even though Missy Elliot practically stole her thunder, Katy and her screechy vocals put on a pretty entertaining performance.
6 Carly Rae Jepsen
Do you remember Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe”? Everyone from Selena Gomez to President Barack Obama were singing along to the catchy tune that took the world by storm. But Carly has yet to repeat the same success she had from that chart-topping song. Could it be due to her pitiful singing skills? We think so.
The Canadian singer performed her hit song live on Ellen Degeneres, but even with Justin Bieber standing alongside her for support, we couldn’t help but take notice to her whiny voice. Her performance was like watching a 7-year-old girl sing at a talent show. She has tried to make it big with new releases, like her song “Curiosity,” but at that point, people were on to her. You can only fake your way through a hit song once these days.
5 Britney Spears
You’re probably shouting “Leave Britney alone!” into your computer screen right now, but you know this list wouldn’t be complete without her. Britney Spears is the poster child of what it means to be at the right place at the right time. The year was 1998, and the world was obsessed with child stars - particularly those who came from a Disney background who were trying their hand in the music industry.
Britney emerged on the scene as the sweet, innocent and virginal counterpart to the raunchy and “Dirrty” Christina Aguilera. Brit’s early career was all about her girl next door charm, her killer dance moves, and her catchy lyrics. But she was nothing more than a facade. Her entire career was manufactured by her record label, and studio engineers definitely worked overtime to get her voice up to par so that it could be played on every radio station across the world.
But the jig is up, and Brit’s singing voice has been exposed as nothing more than a bunch of autotune. These days, she’s a shell of her former self, and she can’t even pull off lip synching that well, but her fans still run out to purchase every one of her albums. Brit is proof that even with a deteriorating voice and lazy dance moves, you can still be popular in the music industry.
Madonna is yet another anomaly in the music industry. When she debuted with her hits “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin,” not much was known about the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to engineer some artists’ voices. Over the years, Madonna has continued cranking out the hits, and she has sold 300 million records worldwide, but that doesn’t change the fact that she really can’t sing, and her voice may be one of the worst in the music industry.
At least she realizes her voice sucks. While filming the movie “Evita,” she received vocal training to help her nail many of the songs. Despite her efforts to better herself, her peers in the industry aren’t even impressed with her vocals. Singer Billy Joel once took a shot at Madonna when he used a soothing spray on his vocal chords during one of his concerts. He said he saw Madonna use the spray once, but “it didn’t help her much.” Ouch.
3 Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne sold 16 million copies of her debut album “Let Go” back in 2002. Since then, fans have realized the Canadian singer and songwriter is a pretty terrible singer. Her voice has improved from her “Sk8er Boi” days, but there’s nothing that will change the fact that Avril got lucky with a gimmick.
As one of the leaders in the female pop-punk era of the early-2000s, Avril had a good thing going for a few years, but these days, music fans are tired of her shaky vocals and her off-key performances. Her 2013 self-titled album sold only 650,000 copies worldwide - a stark contrast to the millions of albums sold in her heyday. We were hoping that perhaps her husband Chad Kroeger of Nickelback would hook her up with his singing coach, but then we realized his voice is just as bad as hers. It’s like the blind leading the blind, or the tone-deaf leading the tone-deaf in this case.
2 Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez is stunning, and she’s a pretty decent actress, too. Most of her appeal comes from her good looks, her train wreck of a love life, and her former Disney affiliation. Her albums have reached the #1 spot in the United States, but she barely moves units, with only 333,000 copies of her 2015 studio album “Revival” sold to date. So what causes fans to run out and buy her albums and pay hundreds of dollars to see her perform? We’re not quite sure. It’s definitely not her vocals, because her singing voice leaves much to be desired. She’s definitely the product of some crafty producers who have catapulted the careers of many subpar Disney stars, like Britney Spears and Hilary Duff.
No matter how many times she gets back together with Justin Bieber, and no matter how many times she’s in the news for everything other than her music, the truth remains the same: Selena should probably leave the singing to the pros.
Rihanna was just nominated for 8 Grammy awards, she has sold over 200 million records worldwide, her tours have sold out, and she has millions of followers that hang on to her every word on social media. She definitely deserves her spot at the top of the music industry, but she definitely can’t cite her singing as the reason for her success.
Many people have equated Rihanna’s voice to that of a billy goat’s. I’m not going to be so harsh on the singer, because I don’t think she’s that bad. I just don’t think her live vocals are spectacular. In fact, they downright suck. She admits she never took a vocal lesson when she started recording in the studio, so she’s pretty much wingin’ it. That’s like applying for a job as an astronaut when your work history includes a brief stint at McDonald’s. It doesn’t make any kind of sense, but Rihanna has made it work for her. She has been able to parlay her terrible singing voice into some pretty lucrative gigs outside of the music industry, including modeling contracts, and footwear collections. When the rest of the world catches on to her horrible singing abilities, at least she has a bunch of other business ventures she can fall back on.