The lead vocalist in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent melody in a performance where multiple voices may be heard. The lead singer sets their voice against the accompaniment parts of the ensemble as the dominant sound. In vocal group performances, notably in soul and gospel music, and early rock and roll, the lead singer takes the main vocal melody, with a chorus or harmony vocals provided by other band members as backing vocalists. Lead vocalists typically incorporate some movement or gestures into their performance, and some may participate in dance routines during the show, particularly in pop music. Some lead vocalists also play an instrument during the show, either in an accompaniment role (such as strumming a guitar part), or playing a lead instrument/instrumental solo role when they are not singing (as in the case of lead singer-guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix).
This article possibly contains original research. (January 2010)
The lead singer also typically guides the vocal ensemble and band with visual cues to indicate changes of tempo or dynamics, stops or pauses, and the starts of new sections (unless there is also a conductor onstage, as with a big band or unless an instrumentalist bandleader is providing this role). The lead vocalist also typically speaks to the audience between songs, to give information about the songs (such as who wrote them or why it was chosen), introduce the band members, and develop a rapport with the audience. The lead vocalist may also play a leadership role in rehearsals, unless there is a bandleader who takes on this role. If the lead singer is a singer-songwriter, she or he may write some or all of the lyrics or create entire songs (including chords and melodies).
Examples of a lead vocalist in rock music are Freddie Mercury from Queen and Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones. Similarly in soul music, Smokey Robinson was the lead singer of The Miracles. There may be two or more lead vocalists in a band who rotate singing lead between songs or within songs, such as with The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac, or two or more vocalists may share lead vocals on the same lines, as was often the case with ABBA.