When it comes to music, we all have our favorite singers and bands. But what really drives us to them? Often, it is difficult times, when we turn to music and discover the healing powers that lie within. Specifically, what makes an artist a good one? They should be able to communicate emotion not only explicitly through lyrics, but implicitly through the accompanying notes. We are moved by scores in movies, when there are no words in the music to indicate what we should feel. Soaring melodies and haunting harmonies stir emotions in us that have nothing to do with the lyrics. The music should also be versatile. When their music can both soothe you and psych you out, you have found a truly stunning artist.
Respect for fan base, including provision of band-to-fan interactions. Arrogant band members that hold themselves on the grand scale are difficult to appreciate, just as it's hard to respect someone who doesn't respect you. Down-to-earth musicians are a breath of fresh air in a music culture full of divas.
Possess respect for the art they create. Music is a precious thing. If musicians have no reverence for what they represent through their songs, everything else goes out the window.
If Christian, realize they have a responsibility to reflect Christ. They should be bold with the gospel in the way they present themselves as musicians and be faithful to resist the world, flesh and devil in their efforts with music.
Have a certain amount of ambiguity, leave some up to listeners. Not everything should be clear cut in their music. Cryptic lyrics are fun. The beauty of vague lyrics is that it opens much to listener interpretation.
Profanity profits nothing. You can have good music without throwing four letter words in for emphasis. Grab a dictionary or thesaurus and open your eyes to the reality that there are more classy, creative, and artistic ways of expressing yourself.
Not restricting to one genre. Some of the best bands are difficult to label. Are they pop, folk-rock, or simply indie? It may frustrate the music connoisseurs of the world, but often those artists are the best. It shows musical maturity, if you will, when a singer refuses to stick wholly to one genre. Even experimentation within broader music labels has positive results.
These guidelines aren't hard and fast. Excellent singers or bands exist with any combination of these. It's hard to not be critical of musicians who don't display any of these qualities, like a lot of mainstream pop music. The bottom line is music is music, there's no right or wrong answer, but it's also easier to appreciate artists who incorporate some of these elements into their art.