Yet, here I sit, contemplating the announcement of this year’s nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and failing to quell my desire to throw my hat into the ring one more time. “Anger is an energy,” as John Lydon once opined, and for what feels like the umpteenth year in a row, the Rock Hall’s list of nominations has made me angry.
Here’s the list:
Def Leppard, Devo, Janet Jackson, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn, Stevie Nicks, the Cure, the Zombies, and Todd Rundgren.
The list itself is not really at all offensive. No, what’s bothering me is looking at it and immediately getting a pretty good image of how it’s all going to play out, after the fan voting and the final music industry panel tally. What’s likely to happen is that Def Leppard will be this year’s Bon Jovi – meaning they’ll get in based on fan voting, even though they are the least qualified nominee on the entire least, by a significant margin.
What’s my problem with Def Leppard? It’s not simply the fact they are responsible for the abomination that is “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” or that their only still-listenable album is 1981’s perhaps unintentional AC/DC tribute “High and Dry.”
The issue is simply this: Def Leppard’s induction will satisfy the Rock Hall’s “heavy metal” quota, despite the fact the band is an also-ran in the wave of sterling British metal bands that includes Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead, none of whom are Rock Hall inductees. Def Leppard is likely to go into the Rock Hall before any of these three bands, despite not being able to hold a candle to them, artistically speaking. It’s clear by now that the Rock Hall favors mainstream pop-based hair metal over the genuine, warts-and-all model. That’s weak.
Ultimately, the list of nominees will be whittled down to five inductees. If we can judge by past years, it’s likely the most interesting, or “outside” nominations won’t make the final cut.
My guess is that 2019 induction class will look like this: Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, LL Cool J and Devo. That’s not a particularly exciting roster, which is not to suggest that most of the artists aren’t worthy ones. Janet Jackson deserves to go in for “Rhythm Nation” alone. LL Cool J and Devo have both made significant contributions to musical culture. But Stevie Nicks is already in there as a member of Fleetwood Mac, and her solo career, considered separately, is not strong enough to warrant a second induction.
Here are my picks for a hypothetical class of inductees that would represent a true sea change in the rather tired and predictable way the Rock Hall has been handling its business for at least the past decade.
• Todd Rundgren
Rundgren is one of the most prolific, deeply talented and artistically fearless artists of the past 50 years. Rundgren released his debut as a solo artist in 1970, so he’s been eligible since 1995. Unlike so many of his peers, he is still creating and releasing valid, invigorating new music.
• Roxy Music
Bryan Ferry, Eno, Phil Manzanera and Co. arrived as game-changers in the early '70s with a forward-looking marriage of camp, pop art, glam frippery and progressive music chops. They completely deserve the honor, which is precisely why I doubt they’ll make the cut.
The most important rock band of their generation. The Hall will not likely be able to deny the credibility this induction would offer them.
• The Cure
Other rock bands have sold more albums, but the Cure’s influence on the sound, atmosphere, and ambiance of post-punk and alternative music is both vast and undeniable.
• Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
This should’ve happened years ago. Funk and soul royalty.
Fans can pick their top five favorites for induction through rockhall.com/vote.
Inductees will be announced in December.
The induction ceremony will take place at Barclays Center in New York on March 29.
Ticket information will be announced in January, but if you get shut out, don’t worry – HBO has broadcast rights again this year, so you’ll have the chance to see an edited version of the evening’s festivities at some point in 2019.
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