The presence of white male R&B singers is nothing that’s new to music fans. Blue-eyed soul has existed for decades, and while some singers may have sounded black on the radio, the artists on this list have paved their own way into the hearts of millions of fans. So let’s dive into the cream of the crop!
Best White Male R&B Singers Ever
Let’s first start off with Sam Smith.
Sam Smith is a relatively newer name to the music business, but his sound and music comes across very old school to my ears. In fact, on Sam’s very first album “In the Lonely Hour,” I honestly believe that if you listen closely to the track “Restart,” you can kind of hear shades of a vintage Luther Vandross track.
I’ll admit that’s an odd comparison, as Luther and Sam have no similarities when it comes to vocal talent. But it goes to show that Sam’s music can, at times, embody a lot of the soul of the many R&B music greats that have come before him.
Robin Thicke matches the description of white singers that sound black—especially in the world of R&B—so much that his biggest hit sounds very similar to a popular Marvin Gaye song.
Thicke has always been fairly adjacent to black culture when it comes to his music, which perhaps helped his career early on. When he dropped the smooth “Sex Therapy: The Session” album in 2009, his album featured the likes of Nicki Minaj, Estelle, and Jay-Z. And of course the single “Blurred Lines” a few years later saw Thicke working closely with Pharrell Williams.
It feels like it’s been a bit of a rocky road for Thicke over the past decade (factoring in the “Blurred Lines” controversy and even the “Paula” album that followed after his breakup with Paula Patton). Still, Robin’s talent is undeniable.
Now, if you’re looking for soulful white male singers, you’ve found perhaps the best one working today in music in Allen Stone. Allen is one of my favorites on this list because his music isn’t just fun to listen to, but also has excellent lyrics.
Allen can hit you with an uptempo jam like “Sleep” or “The Weekend,” but then slow it right down with a smooth R&B-like joint like “Lay It Down” or “Celebrate Tonight.”
When you strip away the discussion of skin tone and simply get down to the singer himself, I think Allen Stone is one of the best artists working today in music.
Like a lot of guys you’ll see on this list, Mayer Hawthorne moves in multiple circles when it comes to his music. While he may not traditionally be an R&B singer, his music definitely has roots in R&B and soul music.
Take the jam “Out of Pocket,” which feels both smooth and funky, or “Love Like That,” which sounds like an R&B jam you might have heard in the 1970s or 1980s.
Hawthorne is dripping with talent, but just like Meghan Trainor, I think Hawthorne is at his best when he blends his modern day talents with old school themes and arrangements.
Okay, so we’ve heaped praise on some of the younger guys working today. But how about we take it all the way back to the 1980s with Rick Astley?
Here’s the funny thing—I believe that Rick Astley becoming a crazy internet meme for a dozen or more years has been a gift and a curse. The gift is that more people (especially younger people) have been exposed to his music than (kind of like how “Stranger Things” revived Kate Bush for a younger generation).
But the downside is that “Rickrolling” has overshadowed Astley’s actual talent. This is a man that entered into the music scene in his early 20s and vocally was sounding like a mature, middle-aged man. The irony is that Astley’s voice (purely from an age or maturity perspective) sounded just as grown as some of the best (and older) singers working in R&B throughout the entire 1980s.
Buble is another one of those singers that makes his money dabbling in and blending multiple genres. On one hand, Buble is a great vocal jazz singer who can do a killer Frank Sinatra cover in his sleep. On the other hand, he can sing a swooning ballad like “Crazy Love” which is full of heart and soul.
Of course, on his “Crazy Love” album, Buble covered “Georgia on My Head,” a song that’s a classic Ray Charles jam. Ironically enough, Ray Charles was another versatile singer that could traffic in different genres—singing R&B and soul music one day, and dropping a country album the next.
Now, if you’re looking for some soul music from across the pond, you should race down to your local record store and pick up a Simply Red album.
This British band often blended pop and soul into their albums. On the album “Picture Book,” you can get a great sense of their soulful nature with songs such as “Jericho” and “Heaven.”
Like Rick Astley, Simply Red started making music in the 1980s, so if you’ve never heard of them before, give them a spin—you just might like what you hear.
Now Justin Timberlake is probably the most pop-sounding artist on this list. And that makes sense, as Justin’s roots date back to the 1990s pop band N’Sync.
But Timberlake’s music has evolved to have some R&B stylings in it too. You can’t tell me that “Sexy Ladies” or “What Goes Around” or even “Mirrors” doesn’t feel like something you’d hear on a modern day R&B project. Timberlake has even worked closely with one of the biggest producers that R&B music has seen over the past 30 years: Timberland.
Alright, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, whoa boy, this guy is really pushing it with this one. Fair enough—I won’t argue that you’re wrong. But hear me out first.
Justin Bieber was discovered by Usher, an artist that many would consider to be one of the handful of modern day Kings of R&B music. Bieber of course started out in more of the pop lane, but has slowly started transitioning into the R&B realm over the past several years.
Songs like “Sorry” and “No Pressure” have their tentacles in R&B, and even on Justin’s first Christmas album, he sampled The Jackson 5 and worked alongside Boyz II Men on “Fa La La.” Bieber is, oddly enough, probably a bit more entrenched in the R&B world than most would care to admit.
Now, if you’re looking for one of the best white male singers of the 80s, or perhaps any decade from the 80s to now, then look no further than Michael McDonald.
McDonald has firmly planted his flag in the world of R&B music. So much so, in fact, that he not only made an entire cover album in 2003 dedicated to Motown hits, but he followed it up in 2004 with a second cover album full of Motown hits!
Michael has a mature, old school tonality to his voice, so if you want to hear his interpretations of classics like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” check out some of his cover albums!
Wrapping It Up
At first I thought that it would be a bit difficult to single out ten awesome white male R&B singers, but as I crafted this list, I realized that many of these great artists have either dabbled in R&B music, or have their roots squarely embedded in R&B. And thank goodness for that, because as music fans, we’ve been treated to some really great music over the years from these individuals.
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