By Kristi Kates
Some of the men making the biggest steps in the rock world this year were U.S. radio favorites, while others were conquering the market overseas. Some were making giant steps well under the radar (but just you wait...), while others were maintaining their already-established status among the worlds biggest bands. Still others were striking out into unknown territory in order to achieve new accomplishments - while the rest were keeping it simple and maximizing what they already do best.
And its the perfect balance of all of the above that helps us select who will be this years Top Ten Men of Rock.
10. CHRIS CORNELL
After a 12-year break, Chris Cornell has reconvened with his Soundgarden bandmates to bring the band back into action, an event that many fans thought would never happen. While Soundgarden were on hiatus, Cornell, ever the dedicated performer, songwriter, and multi-tasker, achieved plenty of accomplishments of his own; not only did he complete two of his own solo albums (Euphoria Morning and Scream) as well as extensive work with his Audioslave side band project, but he also revamped an old 70s bar in Paris, and is now the proud (and rockin) owner of Black Calavados, his black-velvet/stainless-steel themed restaurant. And Soundgardens return performance at Chicagos Lollapalooza fest this year was just like old times, with Cornells voice as powerful as ever.
9. BRITT DANIEL
The serious-faced lead singer of Spoon is a man of many bands and projects, including solo work (as Drake Tungsten) - but its for Spoon that he writes most of his best songs. Yet another standout performer at this years Lollapalooza, Daniels band put forth a solid, compelling set, with the singer himself decked out in a white T-shirt and white pants against the summer Lolla heat. As a record producer, Daniel is becoming more and more in demand; hes produced and/or mixed albums and/or songs for the likes of Bright Eyes, Interpol, and most recently the White Rabbits album Its Frightening. Hes dabbling in computer games, too, and has done work for the computer game company Origin Systems. The diversity of his career, though, remains firmly focused on musical pursuits; and thats just how he likes it.
Shawn Corey Carter - aka rapper Jay-Z - is one heck of an overachiever, albeit a quiet one. While his stage presence is commanding, the rest of his life is kept quietly busy, between his relationship with Beyonce to his various entrepreneurships, which include clothing lines and an NBA team (we kid you not.) Musically, of course, his accomplishments are also many - he was ranked the 10th best overall artist of the 20002009 decade by Billboard, and has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and racked up 10 Grammy Awards. Most recently, Jay-Z released the track Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour) with U2s Bono and The Edge plus Rihanna, which was performed at the Hope for Haiti Now telethon, and hell publish a book of his memoirs, titled Decoded, this November.
7. BRANDON FLOWERS
Flowers makes a repeat appearance on our list this year, having amped up his musical persona even more in 2010. In addition to, of course, being the first necessary component of his band The Killers hit album, Day & Age (and being repeatedly named Most Stylish and Best-Dressed man in rock), Flowers also stepped out as a solo artist for the first time this year. His debut solo set, Flamingo, was released on Flowers birthday, June 21, accompanied by the single Crossfire, which showcases his distinctive vocals. The songs, very Killers-like for the most part, also showcase Flowers strong songwriting skills, and bestows a different kind of attention (other than gambling) on Flowers hometown of Las Vegas, for which the album is named (specifically after Flamingo Road), and from which he has achieved perhaps the only exportation of a successful indie-rock band.
6. JOSIAH LEMING
Singer-songwriter Leming appeared on the seventh season of American Idol in 2008, playing piano as part of his audition and performing his own surprisingly good songs in addition to hip, left-field covers. But hes not your typical Idol-er, so dont stop reading just yet. Idol ended up being the wrong venue for Leming - he was booted just before the semifinals - but all for the good, actually, as the shows cheese factor was far too high for the sincere, sensitive musician. Idol did, however, get him noticed, which was exactly what he needed; now signed to Warner Bros. Records, Lemings full-length album, Come On, Kid, features his smart, well-written Brit-rock influenced songs and is set to drop this September - while many of his Idol co-auditioners are probably still languishing as waiters in corny L.A. theme restaurants. You go, kid.
5. BRIAN WILSON
Not much has to be said about Wilsons legendary status as one of the most influential songwriters and musicians of our time. But something that does have to be pointed out about Wilson is that he somehow manages to keep his musical projects fresh, current, and innovative, even though hes been crafting music since somewhere around 1958. Wilsons latest endeavor, the ambitious re-imagining of an albums worth of covers of classic Gershwin songs (plus two piano pieces left unfinished when Gershwin passed away), is a lush, respectful, creative take on Gershwins masterful works, and lines up right alongside Wilsons other albums as groundbreakers. Lets hope he keeps making music until 2058.
4. JULIAN CASABLANCAS
The Strokes frontman turned solo artist is returning to the band, which is now in the studio working on a brand new Strokes album thats slated for release in 2011. Casablancas achievements this year have primarily been of the stealthy sort - in June, The Strokes played a secret show in London, and much speculation has surrounded that aforementioned album. But Casablancas remains the bands principal songwriter, and in fact also released his own solo album while The Strokes were on hiatus (which theyve been on since 2006). More publicly, he and his bandmates bombarded the crowd with an impressively deft and catchy set at their Lollapalooza headlining spot this year, easily rivaling flashy cross-field Friday night co-headliner Lady Gaga to impress even the most jaded indie-rock fan on the Lollapalooza grounds.
3. DAMON ALBARN
Recently voted the 4th Greatest Frontman of All Time in a national Q Magazine poll, Albarn, frontman of Blur and defacto leader of animated popsters Gorillaz, has a way of not only showcasing his substantial songwriter and singing skills, but also enlisting the help of a remarkably varied lineup of fellow musicians to help bring Gorillaz to life. The latest Blur single, Fools Day, sold out its UK pressing, and Albarns latest Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach, includes appearances by Gruff Rhys, Mos Def, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon (The Clash), among others, and fields the topics of both consumerism and ecology in its tracklisting of uber-catchy songs.
2. JOHNNY MARR
English guitarist Johnny Marr, best known for his long-time work as guitarist for The Smiths, where he wrote dozens of songs with Morrissey in the 80s, just wont quit. And thats a good thing. Marrs floated from The Smiths to co-writing and session work with everyone from The Pretenders to Talking Heads, Beck, and Oasis, worked at length with The The and Modest Mouse, and a couple of years ago actually joined The Cribs after briefly touring with them; The Cribs should be so lucky (and they are) as evidenced by their live dates with Marr in tow this summer. Most recently, Marr utilized a 12-string guitar to craft the character theme for Leonardo DiCaprios character in the hit film Inception - so you can thank him both for all that rawk onstage with The Cribs, and for all that suspense whenever DiCaprios character, Dom Cobb, hits the screen.
Frontman for the band that Rolling Stone named one of eight Artists of the Decade in 2009, Bono Vox - aka Paul Hewson - is literally the Energizer Rocker. He just keeps going and going, in spite of whatever gets thrown his bands way - and he helps keep that very band on the top of the alterna-arena-rock heap. Currently promoting U2s latest album, No Line on the Horizon, Bono got temporarily thrown off course by a back injury that caused the band to cancel several of their big-time summer concert dates - but hes healed now and is back in force, rescheduling those U2 concert dates and spending his spare time (the man has spare time?) co-writing music for the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark with bandmate, The Edge. The Nobel Peace Prize nominee and honorary knight also continues his expansive roster of charity efforts, from the socially-conscious fashion line (EDUN) he runs with his wife, to his humanitarian work for Product Red and various African charities. Now this is a man whos using his rockstar status for the greater good.