There was a time, not too long ago, when a person had to have actual talent in order to be a singer. Yeah, we're kind of laughing about that idea. Even just 20 years ago, when singers like Beyonce and Christina Aguilera were getting their start in the music industry, most singers who became rich, famous and successful could, you know, actually sing. They had to because, well, there was no magical technology like pitch correction and there was no way to make them sound flawless if they could barely carry a tune. They had to rely on their actual talent. These days, fancy machines do most of the work for artists and what we’re left with is a generation of “studio" singers: singers who sound decent in their studio recording, but when they perform live, you wonder what went wrong. No, they're not even having an off day. They're just not very good in general. Here are 15 singers who just can't sing live.
15 Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez is gorgeous, likable and successful. She started out as an actress and has seen a ton of success from starting a singing career. But no matter how successful she is, a vocalist she is not. If you have never witnessed her live performances, you might think that she has an average to good voice because her songs are actually pretty good. But that is because she benefits from great songwriters and producers who know how to write songs that fit her voice. Well, at least when it comes to her singing in the studio. Her live performances are another thing... and that thing is not good. Whether she needs more vocal training, suffers from stage fright or just can't hold a tune, her voice is not suited for live performances. Even huge fans are totally and completely underwhelmed when she performs live at an awards show. But you still love her anyway!
14 Britney Spears
Britney Spears may be a living legend, but she has been never known for her live vocals, that's for sure. In fact, she's actually known for being a notorious lip-syncer. She’s one of the few stars that never hides the fact that they lip-syncs, though. When she started her Las Vegas residency in 2013, her manager, Adam Leber, even said that although he had originally said she would sing live, that wasn't the case. He said, "There’s no way you can dance for 90 minutes straight and sing the entire time." Fans didn't buy that and said that she wouldn't be singing live because she couldn't deliver on the notes. The sad thing is that, in Britney's case, it's not a matter of not having talent. Seriously, check out YouTube videos of Britney as a teen singing acapella. She sounds amazing. She hasn't been recorded singing live in years, and a lot of people are wondering if she damaged her voice at some point. If that's true, then she wouldn't be the first artist to ruin her angelic voice early on. Still, she’s one great performer, and with all that she’s been through, we still think she’s doing pretty great.
13 Keyshia Cole
Keyshia Cole is not as popular as she used to be, that's for sure. When she debuted in the music scene almost a decade ago, she was dominating the R&B charts with songs like "Love" and "I Should Have Cheated." Besides maybe Beyonce, there were no other female R&B artists that could hold a candle to her from 2005-2009. These days? Not so much. Between personal drama and a decline in R&B music sales, in general, she's just not doing as great as she was. One major thing that contributed to her decline is the fact that most people have realized that her live performances are pretty shaky, some downright awful. Don't get us wrong, she can definitely hold a note, and in some moments sounds really awesome. But the vast majority of her performances are pitchy, breathy and just not up to par. Her lower register is less flawed than her runs and belting notes, though, which is where her sweet spot lies. The problem comes when she tries to project her voice, which always sounds strained and forced.
12 Katy Perry
Since this pop star is so popular, you would think that she had the voice of a goddess. Her songs are popular, catchy, and pretty enjoyable. But what she really has, though, is an average voice at best. Like Selena Gomez's, her voice is given the helping hand by great production and songwriting. The most eye-opening performance? That would be when she sang "Roar" at the NRJ awards in 2014. To put it nicely, this performance totally sucked. Okay, maybe that wasn't that nice, but hey, we have to be honest. Apparently, she was supposed to sing over a backing track but just couldn't sync up with it. Eventually, she redid the performance and sang the song completely live. It wasn't pretty. Not once did she hit a good note through the entire performance, and you could totally tell that she couldn't wait for it to be over. We think that the audience was thinking that, too.
11 Lana Del Rey
Okay, so this one isn't really that surprising, is it? Lana Del Rey has carved out a nice little career for herself. She's known for her long locks and introspective (and sometimes just plain depressing) lyrics. What she isn't known for, though, is her singing voice. Well, not in a positive way. Many people who have heard her sing live know one thing to be true: she's not very good. Lana herself knows this and has commented on her lack of singing ability on more than one occasion. During one interview, she said, “I think like, the people who have been listening to my music for a little while know that I’m more of a writer and, like, a studio singer. So I think if you come to the show, you just come to hear the songs on the record that you might like.” She then added, "You can't expect much from my show." Kudos to Lana for owning it, but here's the problem. If you don't think that, as a singer, you can't please the audience, then maybe don't take their money? Just saying.
10 Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo has had a few big hits in recent years, but that doesn't stop the fact that he just can't deliver when he sings live. Like Britney Spears and Keyshia Cole, he has a natural singing ability, but he obviously hasn't honed his instrument yet. He's always pitchy, breathy and just plain off key. Point blank. His live performances are just not good and are honestly pretty cringe-worthy. Some people blame his awful performances on the fact he also dances while he performs. We would too if not for the fact that he sounds awful when he's just standing still. In 2015, he and British girl group, Little Mix put out a song called "Secret Love Song." It was a beautiful ballad with an inspiring message, but he completely ruined it during their live performances. We're not sure who thought it would be a good idea to put him with a group of powerful female singers like Perrie Edwards and Jade Pinnock because he sounded like a complete amateur next to them.
Cassie cannot sing. Period. As much as we would like to find some positive attributes about her to add in, voice wise, there are none. We're honestly not sure how she ever managed to score a singing contract in the first place. Some might say that it's because she's drop dead gorgeous, but hey, that's not our mystery to solve (at least not today). Back to her singing. Oh right. It's awful. Her most famous single, "Me And You," is a great song, but she basically talks through the entire thing instead of singing. The fact she can't manage to sing it live says a ton. In 2005, when she was still a new artist, she performed it on the now-defunct urban music show, 106 & Park, and let's just say, she bombed. From the very first note, she was out of breath and out of tune. And it didn't get any better as it went on, either. Long story short, singing isn't her thing.
8 Ashlee Simpson
Ashlee Simpson, like her sister Jessica, has never been a powerhouse vocalist, but she had a pretty decent voice. That's why it's kind of sad that Ashlee Simpon's career was kind of over before it even really got started. Though she got off to a good start with the hit song, "Pieces of Me," her SNL performance from 2004 pretty much ruined all of the momentum that had been built up until that moment. Well, the momentum that she gained from being Jessica Simpson's little sister. That performance was super cringe-worthy. You probably remember but just in case, here goes: Ashlee was supposed to sing two songs on SNL. She sang "Pieces Of Me" with zero issues. Then, when she was supposed to sing the second song, someone backstage played "Pieces of Me" again... which proved that Ashlee had actually been lip syncing. She obviously was caught off guard and, instead of trying to salvage the performance, she started doing a hoedown. As in a country line dance. Yup. Just as bad it sounds.
7 Taylor Swift
It's pretty safe to say that Taylor Swift is the biggest pop star of her generation. And for good reason, too. She's likable, pretty and has an impressive catalog of music for someone so young. Her songs are fun, meaningful and memorable. Oh, and her songs have great and catchy lyrics, too. We give her major props for writing most of her lyrics herself, too, because that is awesome. But she doesn't have a great voice. Sure, she gets by, but singing is not her best attribute, if you ask me, especially not since she switched over from country to pop. When she stays in her register, she does pretty well, but when she tries to belt, it comes across as pitchy and strained. More often than not, her live performances are disappointing to watch and this is coming from someone who loves her. Unlike some of the singers on this list, Taylor doesn't really dance outside of an awkward two-step thing, so she really has no excuse to be off key as often as she is.
6 Justin Bieber
Do not let the hit songs and flashy performances fool you, Justin Bieber is a subpar live singer. It is sad because it hasn't always been this way. We're not sure what happened since he was discovered on Youtube when he was a promising, young singer, but I think he's forgotten his roots. His live performances of today are definitely nothing special. Sometimes he hits the notes, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he injects emotions into his songs, sometimes he doesn't. Not because he can't sing but we honestly we just think he doesn't care anymore. He's shown a ton of disdain for his fans in recent months and he's lashed out at them at his concerts so maybe he's lost his passion for the craft? Who knows? We do know is that he's definitely way too talented to let his voice go to waste, so we hope this downward trend stops soon.
5 Hilary Duff
Hilary Duff was one of the first ever Disney Channel stars to crossover from acting to singing. These days, we pretty much expect that Disney Stars will parlay their tween following into a singing career, but that wasn't necessarily true when Hilary Duff was still a tween star. In a way, she opened the door for the stars of today. When she was still acting on her hit show Lizzie McGurie, she released the album "Metamorphosis" which had hits like "Why Not" and "So Yesterday." Unfortunately, her singing talent is just not really there. We wish the opposite was true but we just can't tell a lie. Sure, we can argue that she can hold a tune...but that's kind of the only thing that we can say that is even remotely positive. Her voice is very light and one dimensional. It's definitely not anything special. The good part is that she knows her limits and never tries to sing outside of her range.
4 The Pussycat Dolls
At the peak of their fame and success, The Pussycat Dolls were known for their catchy tracks and energetic dancing... if not for, you know, their kind of racy name. But they hardly ever sang live. We are talking about the members of this musical group besides Nicole Scherzinger. Because let's face it, she was really the only one who seemed to be the singer, center stage, member of this group. The other girls were just extra. Nicole is a classically trained singer whose voice never gets quite enough praise. Seriously, it's pretty amazing. The other members don't get any praise for their vocal talents and that's because they don't have any. Their voices aren't prominent like Nicole's. They could be in a room with me and wouldn't be able to pick out their voices over any regular background singer. No, we're not being too harsh, we're just being honest and telling the truth. Nicole all but confirmed this during her episode of VH1's "Behind The Music."
3 Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is not a bad singer. We mean, she's not great, but definitely not bad. Not by a long shot. Her singing style is definitely an acquired taste for some people, though. She has a husky voice with a strong southern twang that sometimes is a bit nasally. And like her fellow Disney star, Selena Gomez, she has had much commercial success as a pop artist. And she can even switch between pop and country music with ease. You might say, well if she can do all of that then what's the problem? Well, she just doesn't know how to sing songs that are suited for her voice. If she would just stick to country music or ballads like "The Climb," she would be just fine. But she doesn't, so she made our list. Early in her career, she didn't sing with the best execution, so listening to her sing live was literally painful. The good part is that, in recent, years, she seems to have improved a great deal.
2 Alicia Keys
We are not sure what happened to Alicia Keys, but her voice is not what it used to be. Which is saying something because it is never been amazing, just kind of okay. What made her stand out, however, was her eclectic style, piano/songwriting skills, and her unique tone. Sadly, years of terrible technique, paired with singing songs way out of her range like "Girl On Fire" have destroyed what voice she did have. It is impossible to ignore how Alicia's voice has deteriorated over the years. She used to get by on passion but she can barely hold a note anymore. And when she does, it's really strained. She hovers near the right notes but is always either sharp or flat. It doesn't help the fact that whoever is writing her new music hasn't adjusted for the changes in her voice because she's still singing out of her range.
1 Chris Brown
Look, Chris Brown can sing... and sometimes, really, really well. As much as we hate to admit it, we can't deny that he has a great voice. But he doesn't put enough effort into his live vocals to escape this list. He also doesn't allow his unique voice to shine in his music. Instead, he covers it up with autotune and just relies on his dancing skills to get by. Now, you might say, well it's not easy to dance and sing live, but I won't accept that. Beyonce does it all of the time and slays everyone. The fact of the matter is that he prioritizes dancing over the vocal aspect of his performances. If he isn't dodging notes or lip syncing half of the song, he's off pitch or just forgoes signing altogether for a dance break. The talent is there, he just doesn't use it. Or, maybe he doesn't know how to. Who knows? When it comes to these stars, they will always be a total mystery.