When you grow up steeped in goth rock, you learn a few things: boys don’t cry, heaven is a hole in your heart, and you should enjoy the silence. The lead singers of the biggest goth bands of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and today are more than just singers to their fans, they’re constant companions who understand them on an emotional level, and simply by existing in album art and on magazine covers, they show their fans exactly how to dress.
But who’s the gothiest goth singer out there? Everyone knows who Robert Smith is, but is he really the most goth goth who ever crept out of goth town? What about Siouxsie Sioux? Or Andrew Eldritch, a guy who’s so goth he doesn’t want to be called goth. Parsing this question alone is like finding the perfect shade of black nail polish, it takes careful thought.
- 1233 VOTES
From the moment he sang "Boys Don't Cry" in his languished crack of a voice, it was clear that Robert Smith was a gold star goth. He'd never seen the sunlight or worn a color lighter than ash. Even when he's cooing through the more "upbeat" reverb-drenched bangers of The Cure's catalog, Smith is looking on the dark side of life. In his songs, relationships always end, kisses can be treacherous, and cats are always gray.
There were goths before Robert Smith, but he was the first to put together a look that combined the depressive sound of his band's music with an image that said, "What's the point?" Decades of goths have copied Smith's look and sound, but no one's done it quite like the Gothfather himself.
If anyone has a claim to the goth throne, it's Siouxsie Sioux, the high priestess of sadness and black eyeliner. More so than any other goth of her era, Siouxie has always been proud to fly the black flag and let people know that she prefers to look on the dark side of life. One look at Siouxsie and you get it, she's goth.
Siouxsie established herself lyrically with ferocious songs about a need to escape the boring, middle-class waste and in "Suburban Relapse":
Should I throw things at the neighbors
Expose myself to strangers?
Kill myself or... you?
She also sings about the bittersweet memories of youth in "Halloween":
The carefree days are distant now
I wear my memories like a shroud
I try to speak, but words collapse
Echoing, ‘Trick or treat’
- 3166 VOTES
Peter Murphy - Bauhaus
With his brooding baritone and sickly angular look, Peter Murphy gave the goth scene the hunk it so sorely needed. When Bauhaus appeared in the opening moments of the impenetrable vampire tale The Hunger, newcomers to the scene immediately found a frontman to which they could latch on. It was as if Murphy was Nosferatu and he was seducing the viewing audience into the lifestyle of infinite night.
Sometimes angular, often with impenetrable lyrics, Murphy's work always has an odd pop sensibility that shows he's not just interested in creeping people out. Like some of the best goth music, Murphy wants his fans to have something to dance to, even if they're just dancing on their own.
- 4122 VOTES
Andrew Eldritch - Sisters Of Mercy
Andrew Eldritch is less a person and more a presence in the minds of goths everywhere. His band, Sisters of Mercy, hasn’t released an album since 1990, but they continue to tour regularly and play new songs without any promise of releasing them. Throughout the late, ‘80s Eldritch cut a striking figure in solid black outfits and super dark sunglasses.
Even with Sisters of Mercy’s dance-floor-ready beats and chorus-soaked guitars, Eldritch doesn’t consider himself goth. He’d rather be considered in the conversation with artists like Lemmy, Suicide, and the Rolling Stones, but isn’t eschewing the goth label the most goth thing someone can do?
- 5114 VOTES
Orange County’s Christian Death draws out the genre’s punk influence more so than any other band in the genre. Rather than stick to the strictly poppy guitars that SoCal brethren Bad Religion slapped on every song they ever wrote, Christian Death loved to throw the audience for a loop with “choruses” of atonal guitars and sometimes downright noise before launching back into their pogo-ready beats.
While singing for Christian Death, Williams cut the figure of a fashionable American goth. He was rail thin, often covered in pancake makeup, and he either rocked jet black hair or the incredibly cool half-black, half-white look. There’s no doubt that he inspired burgeoning goths to swipe some hair dye and copy his look.
Williams took his life on April 1, 1998. He didn’t leave a note, only a single rose and a Tarot card reading.
- 6107 VOTES
Even before The Damned made a heavy shift to harder goth rock sound in the mid ‘80s, singer Dave Vanian was already wearing tight black suits and painting up his face to look like a vampire. Tracks like “Neat Neat Neat” and “Born To Kill” are clearly punk anthems, but it’s the imagery that Vanian conjures in his lyrics that makes a goth legend.
Led by Vanian, The Damned weren’t like any other punk band of the era. Rather than lean into the safety-pinned fashion of the day, Vanian made himself look like Nosferatu, he grew his hair long, and he provided a primer for every young punk who wanted to explore their dark side.