I've been thinking about my frustrations with the Sweeney Todd movie (sure, I haven't seen it, but every day NPR plays more excepts, accompanied by various critics unpersuasively assuring us that the stars' wimpy pipes don't detract a whit from the end result) and I've been listening to David Bowie. Say, ya know who's a really interesting acting singer? David Bowie.
Of course he's an accomplished actor as well as a big rock star, and he's got a really multifaceted voice. The weird whimsical nasal voice he used a lot in the early days and the rich sexy baritone he used in stuff like Labyrinth are boundary markers of his vocal styles, but on albums like "Heroes", Outside and Heathen he is very clearly making character choices even when he isn't explicitly playing a character. I wasn't crazy about his apparently tentative vocals on Heathen until I read an interview in which he discussed each song as if it were being sung by a character; while most of them are first-person, they're not exactly Bowie's perspective. On Heathen his vocal choices where more about characterizatino than about pure musical beauty or forcefulness. In musical theatre this kind of singing-in-character is expected, but not many pop-rock vocalists would even consider singing as anyone other than themselves.