Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Personal preferences: 2020 Nominees

Unquestionable musical excellence: it's a little more than just personal preferences of musical acts, but that's still a big part of the equation.  There's no denying it.  So when we talk about the nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the statement regarding unquestionable musical excellence, mentioning whether a particular nominee makes us want to turn it up or stab our eardrums with a pickax is a completely valid commentary.  And because all forms of art, including music, are partially subjective, though there is also a general consensus among the knowledgeable about what's "great" and what's not, it is therefore worth examining these nominees from a point of view of pure listening pleasure.  Since I devised one attempt at objectivity, time now for the more fun part, that is, the subjective list.  And even then it's not necessarily easier.  A lot of artists ran neck and neck, even though they are quite different.  Sometimes it depends on what I'm in the mood for that day.  Since I do my binge-listening while I'm at work, the workload and how much sleep I had the night before both play a huge factor in how much I want to sing along with what the music streaming service is feeding me.  Luckily, I've taken it upon myself to listen to each nominee again since the release of my objectivity list, to try and be a bit more fair, and also to see if a musician is as much fun to listen to the second time around, because how much you want to keep listening to something matters in a list like this.  Per usual, I will be listing my favorite songs by each artist, since those are not always the Songs Of Proof I end up using.  And I'll average out the ranks on both lists to give a composite score, and we can see what the average list ultimately looks like.  And this time, ties will be broken by number of years eligible when I make the composite ranking.  Another fun thing with this list is that relative positions aren't going to be the same as from previous lists.  Some years, an artist grows on me, or I get sick of an artist, or whatever, and the rankings can fluctuate wildly.  It keeps us guessing, myself included.  So, let's look at where the artists on this ballot stack up against each other, whether I want to stream them more often, or disembowel myself with spears thirty seconds in.

1. Whitney Houston
I didn't originally have Whitney in the top spot, but her songs are just so powerfully amazing.  I gotta admit, "I Will Always Love You" is an overwrought gigantic red mark against her, but it wasn't enough to bring her rank down, not with her catchy dance songs and amazing duets.  "Same Script, Different Cast," "How Will I Know," and even "The Greatest Love Of All."
Favorite song: "One Moment In Time."
Merit rank: 2
Average of ranks: 1.5

2. Kraftwerk
This group probably could have come in first... if I could have actually found more of their music in its original form.  I mean hearing every album after Autobahn as they sounded BEFORE 2009.  Having heard Autobahn in both the original and remastered versions, the 2009 remasters of their albums sound noticeably different, and it genuinely robs the listeners of an education of the musical importance of Kraftwerk's craft work (though my cat enjoys having his fuzzy face and ears rhythmically skritched to the pacing of the 2009 remaster of Tour De France). On YouTube, I could only find the first four albums in original sounding form (Ralf And Florian is incredibly underrated, by the way), and Spotify ONLY plays 2009 remasters.  I'd really like to not have to drop such serious coin to hear the remaining six studio albums in their original glories, and so, Kraftwerk is penalized a spot in the personal tastes' rankings.  They're still fun to listen to, but... it's more fun to compute.  Sorrynotsorry.
Favorite song: "Kometenmelodie 2"
Merit rank: 1
Average of ranks: 1.5

3. Todd Rundgren
Overall, this man is a quality musician.  Diverse too, and an amazing duet partner.  Also, when I first expressed a half-hearted reaction to the ballot, it was mostly because of how heavy it is with classic rock and soon-to-be classic rock acts.  Reason #2: this man has jumped up five ranks in personal taste without really putting out any new material.
Favorite song: "Mountaintop"
Merit rank: 6
Average of ranks: 4.5

4. Pat Benatar
I have to admit, I didn't think she'd finish quite this high on the list.  I assumed that the greater part of her catalog consisted of the more dramatic songs like "Love Is A Battlefield" or "We Belong," which I'm not big on.  Instead, I was surprised to find out that more of her songs were driving, such as "Heartbreaker" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."  I also find it interesting to note that my favorite songs by Pat are the ones that sound like they could've been Blondie songs, whether it was "We Live For Love" or...
Favorite song: "Treat Me Right"
Merit rank: 8
Average of ranks: 6

5. The Doobie Brothers
Like Pat Benatar, ranking this group was a little difficult because I really like a lot of their songs, and really wanted to skip past more than a few.  All the same, listening to them multiple times just reaffirmed that this is a band I like and am glad that they're nominated.  Non-sequitur: I meant to include this under their Impact or Intangibles when ranking their merits, but they deserve props for having what I believe is the only charted hit for the "Sesame Street" record label , "Wynken, Blynken And Nod." ("Rubber Duckie" and "Rainbow Connection" were on Columbia and Atlantic, respectively.)
Favorite song: "The Doctor"
Merit rank: 12
Average of ranks: 8.5

6. T. Rex
Public service announcement: listen to this band on YouTube, not Spotify.  Spotify's remastered songs in the T. Rex playlist really make this group sound awful.  I can't explain it, just trust me.  Listening to this band's later stuff, I really can't get why Marc Bolan sometimes gets called "The Father Of Punk."  Maybe I just didn't hear the right songs, but the connection from T. Rex to the Clash or Ramones isn't very present, outside of the song "Celebrate Summer."  That's not say I didn't enjoy listening to T. Rex; they're definitely aural candy for me.  So much so, I would say they're even more "bubblegum" than the Sweet, but not as much as Ohio Express.  I'm gonna piss off people by saying this--and it's not meant as a pejorative either--but I would describe T. Rex as "ABBA for rockists."  But hey, I love ABBA too.
Favorite song: "Baby Boomerang"
Merit rank: 11
Average of ranks: 8.5

7. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
I'll level with you: Chaka's voice does not always sit well with me.  Sometimes I really enjoy her voice, and when I'm sleep deprived, I do not. Fortunately, the entire band is always groovin'.  A great band to groove along to, with or without Chaka.
Favorite song: "Take It To The Top"
Merit rank: 14
Average of ranks: 10.5

8. The MC5
A band with a short enough discography that the second listen-through consisted of YouTubing their studio albums and any other essential singles.  Had a lot of fun with this group.  Still not a huge fan of the intentional cacophony, but they grow on me, and the messages weren't lost.  Plus, their imperfect ballads like "Let Me Try" are incredibly underrated as works of music.
Favorite song: "American Ruse"
Merit rank: 13
Average of ranks: 10.5

9. Judas Priest
This one was a hard one to place for me.  I really liked some songs.  Really didn't like others.  Although, I will also say that listening to them in greater depth also helps me better to explain why I'm cool with guitar solos, but not a fan of self-indulgent ones that call attention to themselves instead of working with and within their songs to elevate them both.  Just my opinion, but that's the impression I got from them.  Didn't hate them, just that some specific things didn't resonate with me.
Favorite song: "United"
Merit rank: 4
Average of ranks: 6.5

10. Depeche Mode
They're growing on me.  The robotic British vocals don't turn me off the way they used to, but they still don't enthrall me.  But you can definitely spot the high-caliber musicianship in their arrangements, and even in some of the live renditions.  That still matters to me.
Favorite song: "Just Can't Get Enough"
Merit rank: 5
Average of ranks: 7.5

11. Motorhead

I gotta admit, the day I did the second listen to this band was less than great, but not because of work.  I won't get into the details, but I'm pretty sure that Lemmy, in all of his embodiment of the "rock and roll lifestyle" wouldn't have put up with that shit, and would have done some speed before dishing out retribution, but that's neither here nor there.  Of the metal acts on this ballot, I think of Motorhead's songs as being the best written, the most intelligent. and the most philosophical.  I couldn't understand everything he sang, and I didn't agree with some of the things he sang either, but overall, it was a positive experience for me.  In this current social and political climate, I gotta admit, "Eat The Rich" ran a close second for favorite song.
Favorite song: "1916"
Merit rank: 9
Average of ranks: 10

12. The Notorious B.I.G.
In choosing where to place this man on the personal taste list, I'm deciding to include everything that's thrown at me, whether he's the primary artist or not.  To choose a personal favorite, I'm adding the stipulation that it needs to be a song where he is indeed the primary artist, whereas the Song Of Proof will need to be a song where he's the sole artist of credit.  That aside, there were a lot of good songs where he wasn't the primary artist, like "Victory," and "Party On The West Coast."  However, most of the serious contenders were ones where I was enjoying them before I knew he was either the primary or sole artist, like "Gimme The Loot," and "Ten Crack Commandments."  And as much as I love Herb Alpert's "Rise," I couldn't give the brass ring to "Hypnotize."  But as for a lot of the non-charted stuff... well, they weren't promoted as singles for a reason.
Favorite song: "Warning"
Merit rank: 7
Average of ranks: 9.5

13. Thin Lizzy
This is an act that actually benefits more from listening to them while at work.  While I'm busy with some of the duties, I don't always notice how bad the lyrics can be, and can enjoy the melodious harmonies of the dual lead guitars.  Unfortunately, some duties allow me to basically run on autopilot, and I can actually pay attention to the lyrics, and that hurts them.
Favorite song: "Running Back"
Merit rank: 16
Average of ranks: 14.5

14. Nine Inch Nails
No surprise that industrial ain't exactly my breve latte with sugar-free hazelnut and almond flavor shots, but Nine Inch Nails is still better than making a strawberry smoothie dirty.  That.. that was a terrible idea on my part.  The barista even tried to talk me out of it, but nooooOOOOoooooo.....
Favorite song: "Discipline"
Merit rank: 3
Average of ranks: 8.5

15. The Dave Matthews Band
This is why it's important to listen to an artist a second time.  These are the thoughts I was having the first time I listened to them:

--Wow, now I know why pot is such a big part of the jam band concert experience.  You'd have to be stoned to enjoy being bored to death by this.

--There's no prog nominated, but this might be the most prog-adjacent band on the ballot.  Their songs are needlessly long and excruciatingly boring... just like prog!

--For crying out loud, make it stop, MAKE IT STOP!!!

My thoughts on them the second listen:

--Okay, maybe I was a little harsh on them last time.  Or maybe it was the songs I got last time?  I dunno.

--My radio days' instincts are still accurate though.  They'd be better if their songs were two minutes shorter.

So, clearly this is not an act I will listen to very much.  You just have to catch me in the right mood for it... and be ready for me to skip to the next track two-thirds of the way through any given song.
Favorite song: "American Baby"
Merit rank: 15
Average of ranks: 15

16. Soundgarden
Nirvana aside, grunge is really proving not to be my thing.  I ranked Pearl Jam second to last for personal taste on the ballot for 2017, just ahead of Jane's Addiction.  This band, you can really hear the evolution through the years.  I really understand why Ultramega OK never made the album charts and why Louder Than Love only fared so-so.  My favorite song from the former was "One Minute Of Silence."  Thankfully, their sound evolved and matured, and there were a few songs that I could enjoy, but overall, not especially.
Favorite song: "Superunknown"
Merit rank: 10
Average of ranks: 13

So, with the averages figured out, and tie-breaker rules in place, here is the aggregate list of how I theoretically should be voting in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's online Fan Ballot:

1. Kraftwerk
2. Whitney Houston
3. Todd Rundgren
4. Pat Benatar
5. Judas Priest

6. Depeche Mode
7. T. Rex
8. The Doobie Brothers
9. Nine Inch Nails
10. The Notorious B.I.G.
11. Motorhead
12. The MC5
13. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
14. Soundgarden
15. Thin Lizzy
16. The Dave Matthews Band

So theoretically, my vote everyday should be for Kraftwerk, Whitney Houston, Todd Rundgren, Pat Benatar, and Judas Priest.  However, that has not been the reality.  The reality is that this year has seen the loudest clamoring against the huge imbalance in the numbers of inducted people in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, by race and gender.  By and large, this hobbyist community has been trying to hold the Hall's feet to the fire, trying, if nothing else, to get the Hall out of the "classic rock" rut it's in; unfortunately, this ballot is almost entirely comprised of either acts that are considered classic rock, or will be in another five to ten years.  This ballot makes it  look like the Hall is just spinning their tires in the mud and getting in even deeper.  Trying, seemingly in vain, to combat that, my daily votes have been going to Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, and ... the MC5, because I'm still a native Michigander.  Nonetheless, if those top five average scores were the inductees for the Class Of 2020, that'd be a pretty awesome class.  Is that what I think will happen though?  Even I'm not sure yet.  But I'll be laying down a final prediction soon.  Meanwhile, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Merits Of The 2020 Nominees

As is my custom with every ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, we began with the initial reaction, which I sandwiched in my previous post along with my issues regarding leaks and peeks.  But we're past all that now.  The shock and whining are over... at least about those things.  Onto the nuts and bolts of our nominees.  As Joe Kwaczala says on the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall?" podcast, music is subjective, but it helps to have categories, and if a candidate does well enough in them, they might have a good shot.  In both of our cases, doing well in these categories also helps us decide whether or not we think a candidate is worthy.  Joe has his categories, and I have my I-5.

If I may further proffer the olive branch to Joe K. and Kristen Studard, I'd like to also compare the similarities of our categories. His are Critical Acclaim, Classic Albums, Iconic And Recognizable Songs, Commercial Success, Innovation And Influence, and Does My Mom Know Who They Are?.  My categories are Innovation, Influence, Impact, Intangibles, and Issues, the last of which is the one category an artist does NOT want to score big in.  To compare our categories, here's how they kind of correlate to each other:

Innovation: Innovation And Influence, obviously.
Influence: Innovation And Influence, duh.
Impact: Classic Albums, Iconic And Recognizable Songs, Commercial Success, Does My Mom Know Who They Are?
Intangibles: Critical Acclaim, and sometimes Classic Albums and Iconic And Recognizable Songs can have a hand in this category, plus other things that aren't necessarily covered in their categories.
Issues: a lack of strong showing in those categories?  Plus, anything extraneous and negative that Joe or Kristen sometimes bring up when discussing why they might not vote for an artist.

The separation of Innovation and Influence into separate categories, plus the herding of two-thirds of their categories under the umbrella of Impact will cause us to come to very different conclusions about where to rank things, but that's totally awesome.  Different perspectives rock.  Two more things to note about this edition.  One, I've retyped out everything.  Some things were transcribed verbatim, but absolutely nothing is copied and pasted.  So, if you want to read a little deeper to see if maybe I worded things better this time around, enjoy.  Two, after including them last year, I've decided not to include potential Songs Of Proof this time.  One or two acts I still haven't decided on; most of the nominees have been at least Previously Considered, so if you go back to those two posts about Past Nominees and the Previously Considered, then you already know what those songs probably are; and if I write them up now, and they have no inductees in any other category in the Class Of 2020, then it's just redundant to write up the official Songs Of Proof post in the future.  So, we're scrapping that this year.

So, now we'll try to objectively measure the sixteen nominees using my meter stick.  The five fingers of the hand, the six w's compressed into five items, the I-5.  Let's rank some nominees!

Innovation:  As a group, they pioneered what is now known as electronica.
Influence:  Cannot be overstated.  Electronica artists that have come and gone all tip their hats to Kraftwerk.  Additionally, their influence is strongly present in much of the pop music throughout the 1980's and early 1990's.
Impact:  Here in the States, we don't have a full grasp on how big they are or were in Europe, but on this side, their strongest presence has been in the disco/dance music scenes, which is unusual, given they didn't sound like any of their contemporaries on the charts at that time.  Some hit songs and charted albums, and songs that have been sampled quite a bit.
Intangibles:  The concepts that are played out in many of their albums demonstrate an impressive commitment to artistry, somewhat akin to the concrete poetry in the world of the written word.
Issues:  Rock and roll is generally defined as drawing from the traditions of blues and country music.  Even with the teutonic, danceable beats, the connection from those traditions to Kraftwerk isn't exactly a straight line, and some would say non-existent.

Innovation:  Her powerful voice set against the musical trends of the time were a great marriage, helping the adult contemporary format to become more contemporary.  She may not have reinvented the wheel, but she did vulcanize the rubber on the tires.
Influence:  One of the most influential divas ever, especially of the last thirty-five years.
Impact:  The most commercially successful artist on this ballot from both a singles point-of-view, and depending on your preferred methodology, either the highest or second highest from an albums perspective.  Either way, she was a commercial juggernaut, between the danceable pop songs and the torch tunes.
Intangibles:  She's got the respect of assumed detractors too.  There are rock "purists" who will concede that she belongs in the Hall.
Issues:  Whitney was an artist that moms listened to.  If rock and roll is primarily an attitude, is there anything more "un-rock" than your mom liking an artist that's supposed to appeal to your generation, especially if she likes them even more than you do?

Innovation:  Though not the first industrial act, the creation of industrial as a blending of metal and electronica was innovative, even by the time Nine Inch Nails appeared on the scene.
Influence:  As one of the earlier industrial acts, Nine Inch Nails was a gateway act, and thus one of the more widely cited acts as being influential on other industrial outfits.
Impact:  Limited crossover success initially, but it has increased over time, partially due to Trent Reznor's involvement in movie scores, and also in the form of samples in such songs as "Old Town Road."
Intangibles:  The Hall respects people who can "do it all," and Trent Reznor is a tour-de-force, with Nine Inch Nails being essentially a one-man band.  When it comes to creating the sounds, he does it all.
Issues:  Industrial is still pretty niche.  People have at least heard of Nine Inch Nails, but that might be considered an example of being a big fish in a small pond.

Innovation:  They weren't the first metal act, but they were from its formative years, and thus, they played a key part in shaping its sound and textures.
Influence:  They weren't Black Sabbath, but they were extremely influential in the field of metal, including a few inductees and nominees.
Impact:  Only one charted single, but a dozen or so charted albums and a back catalog that holds high esteem in the pantheons of heavy metal.
Intangibles:  While critics weren't kind to metal initially, they've revised their stances on formative acts like Judas Priest.  And for lovers of hard rock and heavy metal, this is one of the biggest names missing from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Issues:  With limited commercial success in the singles category, plus the general uphill battle metal has had to get respected, they are sometimes held in lower esteem overall.

Innovation:  While they weren't the most innovative act, they were certainly unique in their being all-synth, eschewing tradition and letting their artistic senses, and their audience's collective aural senses, be taken on new journeys.
Influence:  Their synth-driven style was massively influential to the different directions that electronic dance music dared to go, influencing the artists that went in all of those different directions.
Impact:  Despite being all-synth, they have respectable chart histories in the Album Rock and the Modern Rock charts, along with a sizable showing in the Dance Music charts, and noticeable crossover presence in the pop charts as well.
Intangibles:  Despite not being guitar-driven, rock purists don't have too much of a beef with this act, which is not inconsequential.
Issues:  While most have a song or two by this act they like, their overall sound and style as a whole won't be so widely embraced.

Innovation:  Due to his experience in the control booth, he has found new ways to create unique sounds and make them his own.  He's one of the most experimental artists on this ballot.
Influence:  Because he's worked with a lot of artists who respect him, his influence has been able to circulate widely, even if not necessarily terribly strongly.
Impact:  His name recognition factor is very high, due to both his critical respect and his work with others.  As a musician, he's had several charted singles and a respectable amount of album sales.
Intangibles:  Not only one of the most experimental artists on the ballot, he's also one of the most versatile.  He can do multiple styles and sing in multiple ways.  That's not always a strong selling point for the Hall, but it is a tasty cherry on top.
Issues:  This nomination is for his work as a solo artist, a musician.  It's not always so simple to parse out his musicianship from his other credits, which may blur the ability to evaluate his actual output fairly.

Innovation:  Nope.  It's even difficult to say he elevated gangsta rap by making it more real.
Influence:  So much.  Between being heavily sampled and other rappers citing him as an influence, he's proven to be an insanely influential rapper.
Impact:  Strong.  A powerful track record on the R&B charts, with a fair amount of pop crossover, and a sizable posthumous legacy.
Intangibles:  Despite a short run, some have called him the greatest rapper ever.  Who knows how much more he could have done if he had lived?
Issues:  For some reason, we're still having the "rap ain't rock" discussion.  Also, because he had such a short run, the solidarity of the rap community for Biggie's nomination isn't fully there, especially in lieu of artists like LL Cool J.

Innovation:  Not so much, though hers are some of the earlier "power ballads."
Influence:  As a successful rock star who wrote most of her own songs, she proved influential for other rocking women to follow in her wake.
Impact:  Several charted albums, and a solid string of hit singles from the late '70's, including two in the top 5 of the Hot 100.
Intangibles:  She's an icon as a "rocking" woman who plays the boys' game as well as they do, almost to the point of tokenism.
Issues:  There aren't any really glaring issues with her, except maybe the softer stuff being a bit on the schmaltzy side.  Perhaps her lacking in the Innovation category hurts her.

Innovation:  After a rough start, they found the right formula for the fusion of punk and metal, which makes them progenitors of thrash.
Influence:  Massive influence.  Possibly the most influential guitar band on this ballot.
Impact:  No charted singles in America, though "Ace Of Spades" does carry an iconic status.  They did have several charted albums.  Beyond that, they have major name recognition.
Intangibles:  Frontman Lemmy Kilmister has virtually become a demigod in the world of rock and roll, especially in metal.
Issues:  It cuts both ways though.  As Kristen Studard noted, Lemmy's mythos overshadows the actual musical legacy and contribution of the band Motorhead.

Innovation:  Despite spending more years paying their dues, they were one of the first on the scene to help define the sound of grunge.
Influence:  While not as big as a few of the major grunge bands, they were an incredibly influential band, due in part to their being among the first grunge acts.
Impact:  They had a serious string of hits on the Album/Mainstream Rock and Modern/Alternative Rock charts.
Intangibles:  As another band with a mythos surrounding their lead singer, it helps elevate their legacy.
Issues:  They're not Nirvana.  Or Pearl Jam.  They will always pale in comparison to those two, and maybe even next to Alice In Chains, and that will make them look less worthy, perhaps unfairly.

11. T. REX
Innovation:  In the British music scene, they are considered massively innovative, as their reinventions are considered to have pioneered both glam and punk, as the inability of acts like the MC5 and the New York Dolls to break big in their homeland of the United States kept those acts from being recognized as pioneers on the other side of the pond.
Influence:  Again, massively influential... in the British music scene.  The members of Def Leppard have been the most adamant in stating their influence.
Impact:  In the United Kingdom, pretty substantial.  Their album sales in the U.S. were not too shabby either.  Only one big hit single, and a couple other minor ones.
Intangibles:  Building off their Innovation, the Hall does have some appreciation for artists that evolve from album to album, and this band did that.
Issues:  Limited commercial success in the U.S. will hurt with this particularly American institution, plus the fact that Marc Bolan's premature death cut short a promising future.  A case of unrealized potential, if you will.

Innovation:  They didn't invent blue-eyed soul, but they did modernize it for the '70's, and into the '80's, which is mildly innovative.
Influence:  Not a whole lot of acts cite them as an influence.
Impact:  A whole slew of instantly recognizable songs, even if you don't always know it was by them, including two #1 hits.
Intangibles:  With major success with two different lead singers, they're a band of notable eras.
Issues:  Despite being played on classic rock radio, they weren't as hard as a lot of other bands, and they weren't as album-driven as a lot of the bands called their contemporaries.  Also, that softer, blue-eyed soul sound has been re-classified as "yacht rock," which is as much a pejorative as an ironic badge of honor.

13. THE MC5
Innovation:  Arguably the first to intentionally and regularly use distortion as an identifying part of their sound.  Also widely credited as one of the first punk rock acts, or at least a progenitor of punk rock.
Influence:  The entire world of punk rock recognizes the MC5 and claims them as an influence, as do other artists from bands that punk evolved into, including acts like Rage Against The Machine, and fellow nominee Motorhead.
Impact:  One charted single, two charted albums, both of which were once on Rolling Stone's list of most important albums of all time.
Intangibles:  Those who argue that rock and roll is more of an attitude than a musical format can point to this band's tireless live performance at the Democratic National Convention as proof of what rock and roll should seek to accomplish.  Their origins in Detroit may give them additional credibility as rockers.
Issues:  Limited name recognition outside the world of music, plus occasionally indecipherable lyrics due to the distortion, they might not clear everyone's threshold for "Unquestionable musical excellence."

Innovation:  The sounds they made with their rhythm section were seldom, if ever, heard before, and their insistence on vocal harmonies with funk in a way that even Sly And The Family Stone didn't do as consistently makes their sound something somewhat new and creative.  Original, even.
Influence:  They really helped bring the funk to the disco scene, which was also carried on by the likes of Chic and the GAP Band.
Impact:  In their own right, Rufus struck big a few times with great and funky R&B songs, like "Ain't Nobody" and "Tell Me Something Good," and "Once You Get Started."
Intangibles:  A lot more versatile than people give them credit for, performing roots music, ballads, funk, and disco.
Issues:  Because their biggest successes were in the disco scene, they are often pigeonholed as a disco outfit.  Additionally, the parsing of Rufus as a group from Chaka Khan's solo career makes judging them as a group that much more difficult.

Innovation:  Not a whole lot that one can glean on the surface, but given that Matthews himself is originally from South Africa, he probably infuses a unique musical heritage into his band's sound, a sound that is distinctly theirs.
Influence:  Not a lot that I can recall, but they probably did encourage some jam bands in their wake.
Impact:  Their album sales are immense, with several hitting #1 on the Billboard album charts.  If you goes by number of charted albums, and the weeks and positions charted, as opposed to pure total number of units sold, this group is the biggest albums act on the ballot.  A steady presence in the rock songs' charts too, they are at the threshold of being a household name.
Intangibles:  They were the most popular act among the "jam band" revival of the '90's, that still exists at some level to this day, with a level of dedication from their fans on par with the likes of the Grateful Dead and Rush.
Issues:  They were not a critics' darling, and the current bent of music historians is less than favorably disposed toward them.  Their own level of success also contributed to them becoming something of a punchline in some corners of pop culture.

Innovation:  They weren't the first to use two lead guitars on a song, but they were among the first to make it a regular thing in their sound, even harmonizing the guitars on the same track, instead of having to overlay on a second track of recording.
Influence:  This band has been said to have a hand in shaping the sound of hard rock, even being influential to some metal bands.
Impact:  A couple well-known songs in America, a half-dozen or so charted studio albums on the Billboard charts, probably more success in their native continent of Europe.
Intangibles:  They helped put Ireland on the rock and roll map, opening the door for other Irish acts.  Some would call that as part of Influence.  I choose to categorize that here.
Issues:  Terrible songwriting.  One of their songs is a celebration of a get-together of grown men who haven't grown up.  Another is basically the same thing as that, only with the metaphor of being escaped convicts.  A third song is about describes doing things that #MeToo moments are made of, but the girl turns out to be cool with it, because the narrator is a rock musician.  The most notable exception is a song they didn't write: it's considered a traditional song in Ireland.

And that's the pecking order of this year's nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame when I try to be objective.  For those of you who aren't necessarily part of the Hall-watching community, but stumbled across this entry because one of your favorite acts is a nominee, it's important to remember a couple things.  First, no favoritism is shown to any sub-genre of the rock and roll diaspora.  Judas Priest isn't ranked higher than the Notorious B.I.G. because they're metal and he's rap, and the same is true of Biggie ranking above Motorhead.  That's just not how it's done here.  Second, no favoritism is (intentionally) shown to any particular category.  It's not a weighted average situation, where Innovation is 35 % of the score, Influence is 30%, Impact is 20%, Intangibles is 10%, and having minimal Issues is the final 5%.  It's not like that either.  Third, just because an artist ranks low on this list doesn't mean that artist isn't worthy, or that I even think they're not worthy.  Finishing low on this list still ranks them really high compared to the thousands of eligible acts who haven't and never will be nominated.  This is the list, and someone's got to come in sixteenth.  I don't do ties either, though some were really close to what would ostensibly be ties if my methods were a little more numerically driven.  Of course, if an act excels in one category in particular, that part of the equation will be bigger.  It's like having five separate accounts, and one of them is bills: whichever account has the most money in it will help your total wealth the most, as long as it isn't Issues.  I hope that makes sense.

I spent the past few weeks since the announcement of the nominees binge-listening to each of the sixteen nominees, and I hope I've gotten a solid enough grasp of each act's merits.  Feel free to weigh in, in the Comments section below if you think I'm right or wrong.  The next entry will be devoid of all that objectivity as I rank them by how much I enjoy listening to them.  The gloves come off then.  Until then, happy commentary, everybody!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Peeking in the parents' closet: reactions to the 2020 ballot.

By the time I hit publish on this entry, the nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2020 will have been announced, and the race off and running.  As I type this, it's still an hour and a half before the live announcements.  And I live on the West Coast, which should tell you how excited I must actually be.  I had planned to sleep until 4:30 for the 5:00 livestream out here, but no-go.  I've been tossing and turning with such excitement that my cat Mickey doesn't even want to snuggle at my feet tonight/this morning.  He's curled up in my chair, forcing me to bring the laptop into bed with me.  It just isn't the same.  When my laptop purrs, it means something's wrong with it.  But the excitement is still there.  As has been said in the past, this is like Christmas morning for us.

Speaking of Christmas morning, I remember as a child when my older brother told me that--SPOILER ALERT--there was no Santa Claus and that our parents were buying our presents and storing them up in their closet for us.  Or hiding them under their bed.  I remember joining him in sneaking into their room during Advent and seeing the presents there before they'd had the chance to wrap them yet, knowing ahead of time what we were getting for Christmas.  Year after year we did this.  Finally one year, I realized that I didn't want to know ahead of time what in fact I was getting for Christmas.  This may also have been about the time I stopped thumbing through the various catalogs (this was pre-internet shopping, after all) with exuberance to see what delighted my eyes and thought would be cool to have, but I decided that knowing ahead of time ruined the spirit of it for me, having to pretend to be surprised and all that.

Well, if the announcements of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's nominees and inductees are like two Christmas mornings for us hobbyists each year, then we have our own version of peeking in the parents' closet.  It's when we go actively looking for the clues to tell us who the nominees are, or the inductees.  Some of these just plain fall into our lap.  Like our parents letting slip what'll be under the tree for us on the 25th, John Sykes, the newly appointed chairman of the Foundation, has personally leaked the announcments of the Notorious B.I.G., T. Rex, and Depeche Mode as nominees ahead of time.  Biggie of course was no surprise.  In my family, that's like asking for new a baseball mitt, because I'd outgrown my old one, and my parents were delighted that I had a sport that I loved playing.  I usually played either catcher or first base, by the way, sometimes second.  Anyway, Sykes did that, probably as a teaser to get us more excited.  Well, it didn't work for me.

Of course, I'm typing all this presciently, now an hour ahead of the announcement, because I type slowly and change wording willy-nilly, but we're also treating the statement by Paul Schaeffer that he'd be going to bat for Willie Nelson as hardcore proof that the country legend would be on the ballot.  Paul Schaeffer doesn't always make it known whom he's pitching, unlike Tom Morello, so the mention of Nelson from Schaeffer certainly does seem telling.

And then there are the clues that we've gone and looked for ourselves.  Last year, our community managed to figure out that there were seven inductees, and who they were, the night before they were revealed, by going to the website and typing in each nominee with the URL tags of "inductee," and depending upon whether we were redirected or got an error message, we knew who the inductees were.  This year, we've done that again, by keeping track of whose nominee pages from last year have vanished and whose were still up and running, which not only confirmed Depeche Mode, but also told us that the J. Geils Band and Kraftwerk would be back again.  Also, by searching the recent media packages that the Hall has put out to revamp their image, based on who gets mentioned the most, it seems we have reason to believe that Duran Duran, the Go-Go's, Whitney Houston, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Pat Benatar, and the Dave Matthews Band are also on the ballot this year.  I'm putting all these names in bold type ahead of time, too, so we'll see if I have to remove that typeface from any of those names in just under an hour now.

If I'm alone in this feeling, so be it, but I really don't want to know ahead of time who the nominees are.  It's not going to alter the reality of who's on the ballot and who's not by finding out early. I can wait until Christmas morning itself to find out, even if I have trouble sleeping the night before.  The contents under the wrapping paper aren't going to change if I wait to know what they are.  For the record, I don't blame Future Rock Legends at all for what any of it.  That site, being a dot-com site, and by the ads that are on the page, is clearly a revenue-generating enterprise for the owner, so he has a financial stake in this.  Also, he has a reputation for being a better source of information than the actual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame website.  Seriously, a fan site is a more credible source than the institution's own site.  That's saying something, and maintaining that reputation requires diligence, so no issue with him doing what he does.

I guess I don't understand the impetus for the rest of us.  Again, maybe I truly am alone in this regard.  And maybe it's because with all the names being bandied about as being likely to be inducted, none of them actually excite me.  I like Duran Duran, the Go-Go's, Whitney Houston, and even Motley Crue, but when I make a list of favorite artists, none of them crack the Top 50, perhaps not even the Top 100.  Maybe that's the damper on my enthusiasm, and maybe that's the signal that I need to find a new hobby.  I don't think I will though, knowing myself.  You guys are stuck with me.  I've said it before too: most of my favorite acts are already in the Hall, for which I am very grateful, and of those that aren't, most of them are tough sells, best case scenarios.  I would be through the roof with excitement if Chubby Checker or Lesley Gore got on the ballot.  Love their music.  But Sykes seems to be dead-set on nailing the door shut on any pre-Nixon-presidency artists.  I'd also be giddy (and be certain Hell froze over) if DC Talk somehow got on the list; I love all five of their albums.  But seriously?  Never going to happen.  How happy I'd be if not just the Spinners, but Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes, or the Stylistics, or the Delfonics, or some more '70's soul got on.  Diversity seems slow in coming though.  Most of the women whose musical legacies make my eyes light up are already in, too, but the Pointer Sisters and Gloria Estefan both seem to have long waits for recognition, and most of the rest are pre-Nixon.  The closest shot I have to having an artist I really get excited listening to getting on the ballot is "Weird Al" Yankovic, whom I finally got a chance to see in concert last month.  And that ain't happening anytime soon either.  But many of you ARE gleeful fans of Duran Duran, T. Rex, Depeche Mode, etc.  I swear I'm not trying to take that away from you: binge-listening to the nominees continues to be a highlight for me every year, really getting to know artists' catalogs.  Nor am I trying to ruin it for you by saying I'm what you have to look forward to.  I am a pretty moody person at times, typing while sleep deprived, having briefly paused to turn off my alarm clock, which just went off, which means we're now a half hour away from the announcements.  Stream-of-consciousness blogging isn't a thing for a reason, folks.  But I'm still at a loss for why we need to deduce the answers ahead of time.  It's like trying decode the prophecies to find out when the world will end; you could be wildly wrong and you likely won't get all the answers you're looking for.  Is it the thrill of the hunt?  What then?  Suppose you actually figure them all out, 100%.  That feeling never comes again.  Like the Christmas when I actually got everything on my wishlist and getting presents never meant as much to me ever again, I feel like getting all the nominees (and inductees) ahead of time would only kill the thrill of the big announcements, not just this year, but every year afterwards, and I don't want that for you.  Enjoy the ride, the thrill, the suspense, the surprises.  Let yourself enjoy the roller coaster ride.  I'm still trying to get that sense of elan back.

So that's about all I've got to say prior to the announcements.  Still 20 minutes to go.  Gonna proofread what I've got so far, and I'll see after the break.

(five second musical break)

Welcome back everybody, hope you had a great break.  I hope over the break you allowed yourself some sense of wonder and delight.  Maybe even something that made you utter an awestruck "Goingo."  We have the nominees, and I've had to remove the boldface from several of those names.  Those that are still in bold are confirmed nominees.

Looking at the list of nominees, I predicted 5, maybe 5 1/2, depending on your bent.  In addition to Biggie and Depeche Mode, I also correctly predicted the MC5, Todd Rundgren, the Doobie Brothers to be on the ballot, plus another nomination for Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, though I only selected Chaka as a soloist.  I'm actually more excited that I correctly predicted there would be 16 nominees, and there weren't too many others who actually thought there'd be actually be exactly 16.

Onto the rest.  Classic rock rules the roost big time.  There's just no getting around it.  Along with the Doobie Brothers, Pat Benatar, T. Rex, and Todd Rundgren, we have Motorhead, Judas Priest, and Thin Lizzy.  And while Pat Benatar does represent the push for more women to be in the Hall, she's almost a token pick.  She deserves to be in, just as the Doors did, but just as AlexVoltaire called the Doors "the safe pick for being dangerous," Benatar is the woman that rockists tout to prove they're not anti-women, just anti-not-guitar music.  And whoa, two metal bands!

Speaking of women, Whitney Houston finally appears on the ballot.  I'm so glad to see her make the ballot.  I worry about her chances, but it's just so huge that she's actually nominated.

Sykes' vision of progressing forward is in motion too.  Not only do we have the Dave Matthews Band, but Nine Inch Nails returns to the ballot, and Soundgarden finally breaks onto the ballot too.

That's mentioning all the nomineees.  What's more interesting though is who missed.  The fan kiosk turned out to be pretty much nothing.  No Motley Crue, Blink-182, Iron Maiden, Cher, or solo Freddie Mercury.  Rage Against The Machine is off this year.  I thought they'd be on instead of Nine Inch Nails.  '80's post-punk got dissed pretty hard, except for Depeche Mode, though their career was much longer than that.

And I've already said it on Twitter and on FRL, but I'll state it again here: I don't know who all it will be, but I very easily see this being another 2016: four dad-rock bands and one rap act (if we're lucky).  Maybe a hint of 2018 with one woman inducted (who could still be strongly in the dad-rock wheelhouse).  So, I'm already setting myself up for disappointment here.  Looking for pleasant surprises.

And with that, it's time for me to get ready for work.  Enjoy the games, and may the fortunes be ever in your favor.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The pragmatic prediction for the 2020 ballot

As much as everyone loved my protest ballot, and thank you for all the kind feedback on Twitter, this is going to be my actual prediction for the ballot for the Class Of 2020 for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  I was probably going to put this off awhile longer, but then we got wind that the Nominating Committee would be meeting this week, so time to get the rear in gear.  Whose names will be on the ballot?

There are a couple good places to start, but we'll start with the kiosk at the museum in Cleveland.  Just as there is no actual proof that finishing in the top spot in the fan ballot gets you inducted, it's not ironclad that topping the list on the kiosk gets you a nomination on the ballot, but that's still what happened with Stevie Nicks.  So until it fails us, we'll go ahead and suppose that Motley Crue is going to be nominated.  And because I haven't given too much thought into the matter, we're gonna go with #2 as well.  Last I knew, in second place was Blink-182.  It's pretty foolhardy to go for them as well, but since Def Leppard crept onto the ballot as well, it's worth taking a stab that they'll be a surprise newly eligible nomination. 

Speaking of those who are newly eligible, everybody's buzzing about The Notorious B.I.G. becoming eligible this year, and he's also a pretty safe bet.  With 2Pac getting in immediately, and their legacies inextricably intertwined by their deaths, it would be logical for the other half to get in immediately as well.  And for the most part, you have to be nominated before you can be inducted.  Predicting two newly eligibles is pretty gutsy, so we'll cut it off there and move on.

Oftentimes, we hobbyists like to conjecture that who will be nominated can be heavily predicated on who just got in.  Radiohead just got in, and to that end, I think the concentration will be on honoring fellow NomComm member Tom Morello, and there'll be a third consecutive nomination for Rage Against The Machine.  The Hall loves their own, and Morello is one of them, so they won't give up on this band just yet.  Because they want to get Rage in, I think they'll hold off on Nine Inch Nails, despite Trent Reznor's amazing speech for the Cure.  Despite the Ohio connection, their buddies come first.  Even though the two bands are not even similar in sound, to a room primarily full of old Whtie dudes, they're similar enough.  Rage first, then the Nails.  That said, inducting the Cure will open a door, mainly for more post-punk.  I think the push will be on again for The Smiths.  They're way too important and esteemed of a band to continue to ignore, they're going to have be revisited at some point.  With the Zombies finally in, I think they'll clear the pathway as wide open as they can to get The MC5 in.  Janet Jackson is in, and I'll echo Michelle Bourg of the Iconic Rock Talk Show, that ?uestlove is going to double down for Chaka Khan.  I think they'll push for her as a solo act this time, and if she gets in, that'll probably be the end of Rufus's ballot hopes.  I don't like it, but we know that's how they play the game.  And Roxy Music's induction opens a lot of doors as well, and I think a nomination hot off their inducting Roxy Music will be sweet music for Duran Duran, and they'll end up on the ballot, too.

In addition to the already stated, I think there will be a couple more returns from last year's ballot.  While Nine Inch Nails won't be on the ballot, I think they'll still want the Ohio connection and go for Devo again.  Additionally, the surprise missing out of Todd Rundgren will almost surely result in a duplicate nomination for him as well.  Depeche Mode may resurface too.

Of course, we need to load up on the fresh names, because statistically, the ballot is likely to be comprised of more first-time nominees than repeats.  Classic rock has a little representation with the Crue and Todd, but there'll be a little more, I think.  And as others have already mentioned, the name Irving Azoff is expected to have some clout, even if he's not actually in the room.  Many expected The Doobie Brothers to show up last year, and they're betting on the inevitable eventuality of their nomination.  So am I.  John Prine was a surprise nomination last year, and I think there'll be another left field candidate.  I have no idea who it will be, but it's been a little while since a blues name has been on the ballot, and I'll venture to guess Otis Rush will appear for the first time on the ballot.  But I'm really going out on limb and saying there'll be a second rap act on the ballot.  It's not so much a hunch as it is a wish to see life imitate art.  In the song, "We Made You," Eminem closes out with one of his usual shoutouts to Dr. Dre by saying, "Dr. Dre!  Two thousand twenty!"  Mathers might not have been speaking of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but it'd be awesome if that were the case.  So I'm gonna predict the good doctor and hope that it comes true.  I don't have too much hope for more women on the ballot, sadly.  Despite the pleas of Janet and Stevie, that effort will die on the table.  But I'll throw out a couple more women, and hope for the best.  Following Stevie Nicks could very well be the nomination of Carly Simon to represent the singer/songwriter from the '70's slot.  And I think there will be a sweet sixteen nominees this year.  And the one crossover from my protest ballot, I'm going to predict The Pointer Sisters to finally see nomination this year.  I hope it happens.

So there we have it, my attempt at ESP, to match the people who'll be in the room this week, presumably, to hammer out the nominations for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Some safe picks, some gutsy, and hopefully one or two original names brought up.  If you'd care to comment, there's a section below for that..

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Ballot for 2020, the Protest version

It's been a rough couple days.  My sleep has been lousy.  My car died on the road and the repair will cost over $900.  The refrigerator is on the fritz.  We're having a mild garbage crisis.  And I may have to move, with the landlord and neighbor bickering with potential legal ramifications.  Things aren't going swimmingly this week so far, but what has been a bright spot today was this week's episode of Hall Watchers with Eric and Mary, wherein Eric released his "realistic" ballot and prediction, and Mary divulged her "idealist" ballot that wasn't so much a prediction as it was a proclamation of what should be.  For want of a better term, we'll call it a prediction.

Or more accurately, a protest prediction.  The term "protest prediction" comes from fellow hobbyist Charles Crossley, Jr.  I don't specifically recall when he first started doing it, but I love the general concept of posting a ballot that should be, and for very specific reasons why, beyond mere "They should have been in long ago!" type of arguments.  That sentiment is usually intrinsic with any artist mentioned in a ballot that has been eligible for any length of time, but a protest ballot will often have more to say than just that.  Charles Crossley, Jr. does that well, as did Mary on this latest episode.  With my week the way it's been, I'm in a mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore mood, so I'll attempt a protest ballot of my own.  And I think that these protest nominations will say enough about the problems with the Hall to be worth writing in the first place, and hopefully worth reading too.  Let's ramp up the rage.

Chubby Checker: I've talked about why he should be in until I'm blue in the face, or fingers as this is a non-aural medium, sans the clacking of keys being pressed.  I won't expound at too great a length again.  His cover of "The Twist" is more than just a faithful cover; the enthusiasm in Checker's voice takes it above and beyond where Hank Ballard And The Midnighters left it.  To deny that is to downplay the importance of the singer in the annals of rock and roll.  His importance is compounded for being the capstone artist of a short-lived, but philsophically crucial record empire.  I also have to wonder if generations as young as mine would even know how to limbo without Checker's two great songs about that craze, or if it'd go the way of other '60s dances like the frug, the slop, or the majestic.  That's not a huge part of the argument for him, except to point out that he was more than just "The Twist," and even if he wasn't more than dance songs, so what?  Other artists have been inducted despite not busting out beyond a niche.  Let's get him on a ballot.

Link Wray:  A past nominee that people have been begging for the return of, again and again. An innovative guitarist whose innovations bled easily into realms of influence until the two were practically inseparable.  And how appropriate that the man responsible for a song called "Rumble" would be featured on a protest ballot.

The Shangri-La's:  There are a few girl groups I'd prefer to get in before the Shangri-La's, but the pathos of their songs, the vocal harmonies, and the need to induct more women should be enough reason to get them in the discussion.  I don't even like "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" or "Leader Of The Pack" all that much.  Fortunately, there are also "Give Him A Great Big Kiss," "Out In The Streets," "Give Us Your Blessing," and "Long Live Our Love," just to name a few.

The Chantels:  Speaking of girl groups I'd give precedence to, let's revisit these lovely voices.  "Maybe" is, in my opinion, the female equivalent of the Penguins' "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)."  And if not "Maybe," then certainly "Look In My Eyes" is one of the most euphoniously captivating records ever.  I'm spellbound every time I hear it.  One of the earliest important girl groups, they need to be nominated again.

Steppenwolf:  Have one anthemic song, it can possibly be dismissed.  Have two, you should be taken notice of.  Having been nominated once before, I've had the chance to discuss their role as a proto-metal band whose breed of blues rock is infectious and wakes the rebel spirit.  This is a band that has been done a disservice by radio conglomeration, but the knowledgeable music fan and historian will certainly look beyond "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Born To Be Wild."

Procol Harum:  Progenitors of prog, their breed of baroque rock is certainly unique.  So unique, that the only other artist that is routinely described as "baroque rock" is the Zombies.  And now that they're in, the only acceptable reason to procrastinate further on this act would be to focus attention on getting the MC5 in.

The Kingsmen: In addition to the party rock standard that is "Louie Louie," they kept the party going with other silly songs.  Sadly, that has become their legacy to anyone who knows more than just "Louie Louie," but as someone who loves "The Jolly Green Giant," and likes "Death Of An Angel," it'd be worth seeing the reactions of the Nominating Committee when their name gets brought up.  Additionally, the Hall has begun to appreciate rockers who also do good works; therefore, the Kingsmen could be worth glancing at further.  The Louie Louie Foundation works to purchase and return the rights of songs to the initial artists and writers, and the Hall should certainly appreciate the way that rights' ownership has a direct effect on the artistic growth and evolution of rock and roll as an artform.  In fact, if the Hall wished to lean heavily on the work of the Louie Louie Foundation as their justification, this band is one I'd probably be okay with getting the backdoor treatment as Award For Musical Excellence inductees.

Barrett Strong:  Another candidate who might be more aptly suited for induction in a different category, this was a Motown man whose biggest impact was behind the scenes, but stepped up to the microphone to give us one of the most universal songs that transcends practically every culture, certainly every developed culture.  An induction with Norman Whitfield receiving the Ahment Ertegun Award would certainly suffice, but this isn't just a ballot of nominees.  This is a protest.

Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats:  We've listed an artist who might be better suited for the Award For Musical Excellence category, and one for the the Ahmet Ertegun Award, so let's include one that might be better suited for the Early Influence category.  Or maybe not, depending on your definition of rock and roll.  And a nomination for the group that released the song that some argue to be the very first rock and roll record would certainly force the conversation to a head.  If nothing else, that would be worth their nomination.

The Champs:  If it isn't obvious by now, these first eleven nominees are protests against the Singles category.  I don't even think of "Tequila" as that important of a record, but they were an early instrumental rock band, one of the earliest, and they did have other hits beside "Tequila," so while I would initially wince at the nomination, I'd still say it's better than leaving it at letting Little Steven have his unaired bit about the one record.

The Shadows Of Knight:  Since it was the Isley Brothers' version of "Twist And Shout" that got mention, we won't include the Top Notes in this protest.  As for this outfit, goodness no.  Garage rock bands are going to have a hard time getting acknowledged, and even inducting Tommy James And The Shondells would seem like lip service to the genre.  Still, there aren't many garage rock outfits I would see being worth inducting, much as I enjoy the style as a whole.  That said, I like this version of "Gloria" better than the one by Them, even though it is tamer.  "Here Comes The Night" aside, Van Morrison sounded much better as a solo artist.  Again, this is about protesting the Singles category, not so much about these garage rockers belonging in.

Carole King:  Now that we're done protesting the Singles category, and what it appears to do to an artist's chance of future nomination, let's get to other protests, like how the well-deserved induction of this woman as a songwriter has ended her Performer nominations to date.  Her Non-Performer induction came during the early years of the Hall, when "Small Hall" thinking very much ruled the day.  But as the rage against that machine has bubbled up to find an outlet in the populist movement, this is a woman that even self-proclaimed purists will sometimes tip their hats to and say, "Yeah, probably."  Nominate anew!

Tina Turner:  Similarly, this is another woman that was justly inducted with her ex-husband during the early years of the Hall, and likewise, the Hall has seemed content to leave it at that.  Tina wasn't eligible as a soloist when she wasn't inducted with Ike, so it's a little more forgiveable that she wasn't nominated for her later career shortly thereafter.  What's inexcusable is how the Hall has treated that induction as sufficient honors for this woman, originally listing her solo career in more detail on the page for "Ike And Tina Turner."  That success has been reduced to less than a full paragraph on that page now, so hopefully the Hall wants to give her a page of her own to expound more fully.  But that hasn't happened yet, so... protest!

King Curtis And His Noble Knights:  In all fairness, the Hall gave up on nominating King Curtis as a Performer long before they inducted him as a Sideman in 2000; however, it still feels a little unresolved to leave him and his outfit hanging like this.  Since I'm all about the resolutions, and since I'm okay with his credentials as a session musician getting him in, let's work on a second round for him.

Ben E. King:  Just like Carole King, inducting him with his group, the Drifters, ended the push to acknowledge his amazing solo career, and that ain't right.

Chic:  I think you know damn well what this one is protesting.  Honor the whole band instead of settling for the one person.  Nile deserved his, and at this point, Chic deserves theirs.  Let's rouse some rabble and do them some justice.

Jerry Butler:  Like Tina Turner, the 1991 induction of Jerry Butler as a member of the Impressions has stifled any mention in future conversations.  Also like Tina Turner, the old layout of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's website listed some of Jerry Butler's bigger solo successes in the timeline for the group induction, which has now disappeared.  Unlike Tina Turner's situation, I don't believe Jerry Butler as a solo artist is on the Hall's radar at all, particularly because Butler was only an Impression for one major record.  It very much is a situation of including him in one aspect so imaginary space wouldn't be wasted by acknowledging him later.  I hate when the Hall does that.  Rabble rabble rabble!

The Pointer Sisters:  This last choice might seem a bit out of place.  The rest, you can see what's being protested: the Singles category, Small Hall thinking for some who maybe deserve double induction, and rectifying badly handled situations.  But this one?  What's the protest?  Well, this one is me protesting... myself.  The Pointer Sisters are a group I very much believe deserve induction.  And yet, when I wrote my fantasy post about all-women nominees, they weren't on it.  When I list African-American artists that are snubbed, somehow they are remembered later on.  In terms of '70's and '80's acts, they'll clean slip my mind on occasion.  Even when discussing acts whose ties to the Boss, and thereby Jon Landau and Miami Steve Van Zandt, give them a slight advantage toward nomination and induction... you guessed it, they sometimes get lost in the mix.  I don't know how or why, but every time I realize I did it again, I want to let out an anguished wail like Joe Cocker does in his version of "With A Little Help From My Friends."  Maybe it's because they don't fit into any one box.  I don't know.  But I want them in, and I'm upset that I forget how much I believe they should be in.  So I'm listing them in protest of me.  BLARGH!!!

If nothing else, the Hall gives us an endless amount of stuff to protest, and this list could be much longer, but I think eighteen is an alright number to work with.  So, how's that for my first protest ballot?  And thank you to Mary of Hall Watchers for giving me the inspiration to do it.  And thank you, Mary, for outing your husband as a hater, guzzling that Haterade against my Jersey Boys.  Now we know whom he'll vote against in the "Tuesday Loseday" poll next week.  But even though Eric's a nefarious foe of Frankie and the Four, I still intend to follow his lead and post a pragmatic prediction for the 2020 ballot soon.  This has been fun.  Hope to see all of your Comments below.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Proposition For Propositions

It's 2019, and you wouldn't know it from the amount of politics that has already been in the news that this is not an election year.  In all fariness, some lower level municipal, county, and maybe even state elections happen on the odd-numbered years specifically so that they aren't drowned out by the national stage theatrics.  But even if it's not for an office that will be elected this year, campaigns for those offices are already happening, and not just in the Democratic Party candidates' races.  I know, because I work for the post office and have been delivering a bit of political mail already.

What does this have to do with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?  Superficially, not much, but as it is now early August, we are getting to that point where very soon, the names in our little community will be posting their official, engraven predictions for who will be on the ballot, in preparation for the Nominating Committee's meeting in New York City, and eventual press release of the ballot.  As notorious as I am at being one of the later predictions and commentaries to be up with each passing year, wouldn't it be a fun twist if I got the early jump and beat almost everybody to the punch?  Well, you'd be jumping the gun in assuming that.  That's not what this post is about.  Neener neener.

Nor is this going to be about transparency, which the Hall has a notorious lack of, but this post is going to be about the ballots.  When it comes to elections in America, many voters who don't just vote straight-ticket often only vote for the big enchilada races, primarily presidential, maybe gubernatorial, and maybe enough people care enough about the national congressional races.  But they'll ignore positions such as county drain commissioners, or university boards of trustees, and the like.  Even more than that, if someone votes for all the races, there's another side to it they might ignore, particularly if they vote straight-ticket.  A political ballot is usually comprised of more than just names of people for a position; there are also propositions.

Obvious, right?  I'm pretty sure every election cycle, there's a "Proposition 2."  It wouldn't be a political season without ads telling us to vote "No on Prop 2."  But because the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is nowhere near as democratic as our national and state infrastructures, there's never been a call for there to be propositions on the annual ballots.  Well, I'm going to suggest that it happen.  Like everything else in life, there's potential for abuse, but my idea regarding propositions for this ballot are to correct the instances of "abuse of power" that have already occurred with the inductions of the Hall.

By which, of course, I mean the "back door inductions."  Depending on your narrative, you might call the first "back door induction" to be that of Carole King, with her songwriting parter Gerry Goffin, after a singular attempt to induct her as a Performer.  But despite my not having included her in my reranking of Past Nominees, the songwriting team of Goffin-King is a notable and distinct effort and enterprise from Carole King's career as a singer.  So, not counting her, the most acceptable first instance of a back door induction would probably be that of Elmore James as an Early Influence in 1992, after failing to receive enough votes for the Class Of 1991.  At that time, the Hall didn't have quite the public presence that it does now, and most probably thought little about it.  Most probably also didn't give too much thought about King Curtis being inducted as a Sideman in 2000, after being on the first six ballots for the Performer category, with a nine year absence following that.  The back door inductions really began to catch notice in 2008, when the Hall announced Wanda Jackson as an Early Influence inductee for 2009.  That caught people's attention, especially because she had been a nominee for the Performer category on the ballot for that very class!  Those who monitor the Hall's doings were definitely abuzz following that, right on through the induction ceremony.  But the buzz died down.  Until 2011, when they did it again, this time with Freddie King, who, like Wanda Jackson, had been on the ballot for potential induction as a Performer for the Class Of 2012.  And then, as if seemingly like clockwork, the Hall kind of did it again, with the Class Of 2015, twice-ish, this time with the "5" Royales, who hadn't been on the ballot for several years but were now being ushered in as an Early Influence, and Ringo Starr, for Award For Musical Excellence, for reasons that are too stupid to fathom, regardless about how you feel about his solo career.  Nile Rodgers wasn't so much a "back door induction" as he was a "cherrypicking" instance, but some would consider him an example too.  Lastly, we have the issue of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who despite being the most widely demanded omission from the Early Influence category, was nominated for the Performer category... only to end up inducted as an Early Influence in 2018.

So those are the propsective "back door inductions" that we are dealing with.  I'd argue for not including the cherrypicking of Nile Rodgers, since Chic was more than Nile Rodgers, and Nile's career included a lot more than just Chic, as Joe Kwaczala and Kristen Studard pointed out when they relegated their tale of seeing Chic in concert together.  I would probably also want to leave out King Curtis, since his session work was very worthy of induction, and since a Performer induction of King Curtis should also include His Noble Knights.  But I would definitely hammer on the Early Influence inductions of those previously nominated, since it's kind of squirrely, albeit not entirely implausible, to be both an Early Influence and a Performer inductee, given the parameters of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for defining those two categories.

So the first key step in overcoming the transgression of the back door inductions is to simply never do it again.  Just stop it.  But there are a few horses that are already out of the barn, and we need to find a way to get them back in, if indeed they belong back in.  My proposal is to put propositions on the ballot.  One for each such inductee to deal with.  I'll give you a sample of one such proposition to be placed on an official Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Ballot.  Since Wanda Jackson would be the third such occurrence (if we used King Curtis as well), we'll make her Prop 3.

"Proposition 3.

To change the designation of 2009 inductee Wanda Jackson from "Early Influence" to "Performer."  Adoption of Proposition 3 will result in Wanda Jackson being listed as a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 2009 inductee in the Performer category.  Rejection of Proposition 3 will result in Wanda Jackson continuing to be listed as a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 2009 inductee in the Early Influence category.

Should Proposition 3 be adopted?

Yes _____        No_____  "

And there would be a tentative proposition for Elmore James, Freddie King, the "5" Royales, Ringo Starr, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Possibly King Curtis too, but any proposition for Carole King would have to change the designation of "Goffin-King" to Performer. Same with Nile Rodgers.  Don't induct Chic this way.  It would only be for Nile Rodgers.

So why do it like this?  The Rock Hall could easily do it quietly by a decision in the boardroom.  After all, that's how they quietly inducted Kenny Laguna as a member of the Blackhearts, and Billy Davis as a member of the Midnighters.  This is just a little different though.  When a voter votes for a Performer inductee, they are essentially voting for the entire legacy of that artist, regardless of which members the Hall chooses to honor.  In the case of the Midnighters, it was the entire legacy that was involved with the election of Hank Ballard for the Class Of 1990, and the legacy that was supplemented with the induction of the Midnighters in 2012.  A vote for Hank Ballard was essentially a vote for Hank Ballard And The Midnighters.  Including members serves to more fully round an inductee's legacy (while conversely, removing members, perhaps an entire backing group, severely diminishes the legacy).  But we're now talking about acts that have already been inducted.  These are acts that the Hall has already enshrined in another capacity because they seemingly couldn't (or believedly wouldn't) get the votes to be inducted in the Performer category.  These were acts chosen by special committees, which are subsets of the Nominating Committee to do it this way for those acts, and it requires a correction.  Since the election of Performer inductees is through the voting bloc, it therefore makes sense to put it to the voting bloc whether or not the designations ought to be changed.

To use propositions on the ballot would also negate the possibility of their re-designation being a "consolation prize" induction, as I've referred to them in the past.  The reason I oppose the idea of a Veterans' Committee is that it's a special subcommittee exerting their will over the voting bloc, creating a second tier of Performer inductees (not to be confused with the stratification of inductees that hobbyists and critics alike enjoy creating, i.e. the pyramid).  Well, the Hall has already done that by taking these (mostly) past Performer nominees and putting them in the Hall by whatever means they felt they could get away with.  Putting these propositions on the ballot would correct that, because they would voted on by the voting bloc.  The decision to change their designation to Performer inductees would still have to come from a majority of the votes received from the voting bloc.  It still would be up to them to have these acts enshrined as Performers, or not.  And if it's a vote from the bloc, it's legitimate, or as legitimate as can be, given the Hall's lack of transparency.

The other upside to changing the designations of certain inductees would be to reestablish a relative sense of continuity with the timeline.  By which, I'm referring to the Early Influence category.  While rock and roll has been  evolving since the early '50's, and perhaps earlier, most still like to use 1955 as the magical fulcrum, since that's when "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" hit #1.  That said, most are generally agreed that Wanda Jackson should not have been an Early Influence inductee, as her early career was primarily rockabilly.  And if Wanda Jackson shouldn't have been an Early Influence, then Freddie King definitely should not have been, either, as his career didn't really begin until the late '50's.  There's some debate about whether Elmore James or the "5" Royales should have been inducted as Performers or Early Influences, but it would be an interesting litmus test to see where the voting bloc falls on these two acts.  But more importantly, the chance to put at least some of the "back door" Early Influence inductees in the Performer category where they might more properly belong is a good way to preemptively tell the NomComm's Early Influence subcommittee that it is wrong to move the timeline of rock and roll; this statement would hopefully prevent acts that are clearly rock and roll, such as the MC5, from being inducted as "Early Influences" because they were influential to more modern acts that came later.

It is also wrong to attempt to use this tool later on down the road.  For example, let's not go about inducting acts via the back door in the future, figuring we can just use a proposition later on to reassign them as Performers.  As stated earlier, first we need to resolve to stop back door inductions altogether.  Continuing to do back door inductions for the sake of correcting them later with propositions flies directly in the face of the spirit and intent of having these propositions.  It would further cheapen the proposition process because they'd be recklessly, improperly inducting artists in other categories with the full intent to rectify it later.  It would turn the propositional corrections into consolation prizes themselves, and the point of doing this on the ballots is so that it is from the voting bloc, and thus not a consolation prize.

We also cannot be doing this as a means to expel artists.  Sorry folks.  Percy Sledge is an inductee to stay.  And Laura Nyro.  And KISS.  And 2Pac.  Let's not turn this into a quasi-political mire as we replace NomComm members and voting bloc voters by essentially saying, "Well, the old guard may have felt they were worthy, but it's our say now, and that's going to change!"  Not how this is going to work, folks.  I also wouldn't use this to correct the Singles category debacle either.  First off, we're talking about entire legacies, not one record; second, with "Twist And Shout" on that list, unless you're going to try and induct the Top Notes this way, you've got another mess made; third, the Foundation members appear to be squabbling amongst themselves about what to make of this category, so let's wait until they've figured it out for themselves first; and fourth, using propositions for those artists would only be encouraging Little Steven to keep doing this.  No no no no no!  Take that "category" out to the Everglades, toss it over the edge of the boat somewhere, where no one will be able to find it, and never speak of it again.  And nominate those artists to the ballot properly, for another time, in some cases.

We could probably let the fans have a say on this one too, with the fan ballot being a single vote on each proposition, but given that this is about correcting actions done behind closed doors, I'd be okay with the fans not getting a say in these, especially since almost all of these are lesser known names (to the general public) who weren't "classic rockers."

So, that's my proposition for propositions.  For what it's worth, if the Hall decided to try this out and do this with all those artists, here's how my votes would go, if I got a ballot, or how I'd vote in the fan poll if they let us in on it.

Elmore James:  It'd be a coin flip.  I'd be okay either way.  His guitar style was innovative, but the overall feel of his records isn't quite what I'd call rock and roll.  However, between Howlin' Wolf being an Early Influence, and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters being Performers, that roughly 1954 debut of Elmore James can be a little tricky, and I wouldn't blame the voters either way.

King Curtis:  No.  His work as a session man is unimpeachable, and while he's pretty far down on the list of those I'd like to induct a second time, I'd really rather induct King Curtis And His Noble Knights as a Performer than erase the props for his session work, while falsely reasoning he can only be inducted once.

Wanda Jackson: Duh, Performer

Freddie King: Definitely a Performer.  Doesn't meet the "Early" part of "Early Influence," in my book.

The "5" Royales:  Another one that's a coin toss.  Where does jive music end and R&B begin?  I've blogged about this induction before, so I won't elaborate further.  It's a tough call either way, but I'd probably vote to move them to Performer.

Ringo Starr:  YES to the Performer category.  Most readers would probably want the proposition to be about removing his second induction outright, since the Award for Musical Excellence induction was nonsensical, and they don't want him in as a Performer.  As I said, this ain't going to be about removing names, just slotting them more properly.  List him as a Performer!

Sister Rosetta Tharpe:  To echo what was said then, why was she even on the ballot in the first place?  She always should have been considered for Early Influence and never for the Performer category.  This one was not a consolation prize, it was the subcommittee fixing the NomComm's mistake.  A big no on this one.

And of course, we need to get Carole King as a soloist and Chic on the ballot again.  Carole and Nile both deserve double induction, but the proposition process is not the way to do it.  Efforts have to be renewed to get those names on the ballot.

So there it is, another longshot idea for how to fix things with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Maybe it seems ridiculous, but as Eric and Mary say on the Hall Watchers podcast, we need to be about trying to find solutions rather than just sitting in our armchairs, griping and moaning.  Let's make it happen.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Past nominees ranking: 2019 edition.

It's been seven years since I last ranked all of the past nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  In that time, eleven names have come off (including one inducted as an Early Influence), and twenty-one names have been added.  It's been a net gain of ten names over seven years.  That probably says a lot about the resolve of the Nominating Committee to continue on the offensive to push for their favorite artists.  It also says a lot about the repeat names that often continue to be bridesmaids while many first-time nominees head straight in.  But there has been enough change in the list to where it's worth taking another look at how one would rank these artists.

And if I thought thirty-five was difficult, forty-five is even harder.  It's hard to rank the nominees just on the yearly ballot, and that's never more than twenty anymore.  This list has a lot of diversity on it, ranging from acts at the dawn of rock and roll (or earlier, depending on your definition) to acts that are barely eligible for induction.  To be completely honest, I still don't like this order, but I like it better than any other modification to it.  Modifications that I have made though include changing comparative positions between acts that were on the 2012 list and/or comparative positions between acts on previous ballots' merits' ranks.  So with all that and a little help from my previous list and my co-writers, Cut and Paste, let's count down from forty-five back to one.

45. Conway Twitty (1):  He was a teen idol in his early days and a country superstar later on, neither of which tend to bode that well with getting an act inducted.  Additionally, not much influence.

44. Sting (1):  Sting's going solo reminds me of Phil Collins' solo career: lead singer of a major group that was a trio at the time of the solo career, with a distant-sounding vocal style.  Except Phil Collins is somehow more exciting to listen to.

43. Procol Harum (1):  I'm not convinced they broke any ground that the Moody Blues weren't breaking at about the same time, but they do have a few enduring songs.

42. Steve Winwood (1):  As a reminder, we’re only talking about his solo career, which has some cool breeze kinds of songs, but didn’t really break any new ground. 

41. Esther Phillips (2):  Her pre-‘60s (and arguably pre-rock era) hits were almost exclusively as the chanteuse for whatever name Johnny Otis’s band went by on any given record, and so inducting her as a soloist based on those is not entirely fitting.  Her ‘60s-and-later hits were sporadic and primarily covers, which doesn’t garner much accolades.

40. John Prine (1):  Almost the natural successor in the queue after Randy Newman.  A highbrow artist with well-crafted lyrics, without much recognition with the general public, but very strong ties to the industry, which makes him kinda-sorta influential.

39. Los Lobos (1):  Like John Prine, this band is an industry-insider's pick.  Artistry, maximum; any other metric, minimum.

38. Johnny Ace (2):  A promising career cut short by folly.  Still, he had some good accomplishments as an R&B singer leading up to that.

37. The J.B.'s (1):  It's important to remember that I'm actively separating their credited works from the works they recorded as hired hands behind James Brown.  Once you have that distinction recognized, their ranking at this point in the list makes a little bit more sense.

36. The Sir Douglas Quintet (1):  They were innovative and influential in helping to create a new sub-genre; however, Tex-Mex is still a pretty niche style of music, and not all that pertinent to represent in the Hall Of Fame.

35. Gram Parsons (3):  Another powerful one-two combo of innovation and influence; however, alt-country pioneering really merits induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, not the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, however strongly alt-country and its pioneers are linked to the folk-rock and the ever-changing music scenes of the late-‘60’s. 

34. The Chantels (2):  Broke out at the same time as the Shirelles, but never reached the same heights.  Still, “Maybe” and “Look In My Eyes” are excellent records and foundational to the girl group sound.  And shunting "Maybe" into the Singles category should not be license to give up on them.

33. The J. Geils Band (5):  Solid blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll band with a solid run of hits and classics, but not regarded as being all that influential or innovative, and some even claim cronyism for their five nominations to date.

32. The Replacements (1):  This is a hard one to accurately peg.  While they have the rebel spirit, as proven by the fights with their label, they're also a reminder that the music industry is still a business, and you have to be professional.  Their own greatest strength in establishing their legacy also was the greatest hindrance to their legacy's growth.

31. The Meters (4):  Moderately influential in the realms of funk and soul, but not a lot of name recognition, and the songs are only somewhat well known.

30. Rufus with Chaka Khan (3):  They had a solid string of R&B hits, dispersed intermittently with Chaka’s solo career, but as a group, the Pop crossover was not so immense, and they ended up standing in the shadows of bigger acts of the time.

29. Bad Brains (1):  A very influential band that if nothing else, occasionally combined or alternated hardcore punk with reggae stylings.  Very limited commercial success though.

28. Devo (1):  Art-rock that was sometimes hard to take seriously, and yet, they expanded our minds.

27. Steppenwolf (1):  Have one song that's anthemic, you can possibly write it off to good luck.  Do it twice, that's no coincidence.  Do it twice and have a solid run of blues-rock records, it's a Hall-worthy act.

26. Chaka Kkan (2):  Rufus had more originality.  Chaka as a soloist had greater commercial success, and I'd give the advantage to solo Khan in terms of influence, as a strong female solo presence.

25. Mary Wells (2):  Despite an enviable run of both R&B and Pop chart success, her chief accomplishment was really done by the Marvelettes first, even if it was on “Tamla” rather than the titular mother company “Motown.”  However, she also did help bring a Latin flavor to the R&B scene, which is something in itself, as many danceable rap songs nowadays are danceable because they’re infused with danceable Latin rhythmic schemes. 

24. Chuck Willis (6):  Another career cut way too short, his legacy as the “Stroll King” or “Sheik Of The Blues” culminates nicely to get him six nominations so far.  The man who helped bring dancing to rock ‘n’ roll music, he’d be undisputed royalty if he’d lived and recorded through the ‘50s.

23. Link Wray (2):  In my glossary, "merit" is not quite synonymous with "snub."  Link Wray is a huge snub, but that's more of an issue of the ridiculous amount of time it took to even get him nominated for the first time, compounded by the slap in the face of honoring just "Rumble" when unable to get him inducted.  That said, his innovation and influence are immense.

22. Kate Bush (1):  You gotta respect an artist whose only limits are the ones she imposes upon herself.  That said, said self-imposed limits understandably keep her from ranking any higher on this list.

21. Afrika Bambaataa (1):  Recognized as one of the founding fathers of hip-hop, but having never gotten big beyond the New York scene, and without the Soul Sonic Force as part of his nomination, he doesn’t merit any higher on the list.

20. Joe Tex (5):  An impressive string of R&B and Pop chart hits, and considered by some to help influence rap’s style of vocal delivery, but he wasn’t the only one doing that (see also: Johnnie Taylor), and a lot of his songs are variations on the same theme.

19. The New York Dolls (1):  Surprisingly influential in both the worlds of punk and of glam.  No real chart success, and arrived a few years after a couple of the other proto-punk acts.

18. The MC5 (1):  The proto-punk act that pioneered distortion as a musical gimmick, and helped influence a lot of bands, plus the title alone of their only hit, “Kick Out The Jams” seems to sum up the movement they helped create..

17. Jane's Addiction (1):  They might be a little better known for who was in the band rather than for their music, but for what they accomplished in their relatively short time, they weren't a bad nomination either.

16. War (3):  Funky Latin rock music.  They crossed a lot of barriers with memorable songs, despite not being very innovative.

15. Chic (11):  “Good Times” is an extremely important record, plus their musical proficiency and production wizardry.  Sadly, the cherry-picking induction of Nile Rodgers pretty much snuffed the last, smoldering hopes of getting them inducted.

14. Eric B. And Rakim (1):  Extremely well-crafted and flawlessly executed hip-hop music that took it to new levels, bridging two ages of hip-hop.

13. Ben E. King (3):  Another solo artist that had some trouble distinguishing himself from his former group, this man had more commercial success than some others who have been inducted, like Lou Reed, plus two songs that are absolute milestones of 60’s R&B, one of which contains the arguably most important and famous bass line in all of rock ‘n’ roll.

12. Eurythmics (1):  The two of them broke some serious ground together, and recorded some amazing songs, and that's not even considering Annie Lennox as an icon.  But no, I don't support jointly nominating and inducting her solo career with the duo.

11. Todd Rundgren (1):  He is as musically versatile and artistic as he is industrially versatile and innovative.

10. The Spinners (3):  Among the groups that facilitated the transition from smooth soul to disco and beyond, they were one of the best.  A long string of R&B and Pop hits make them an amazing choice that sadly has seen their chances dwindle over the past few years.

9. The Dominoes (1):  A full dozen Top 10 R&B hits in the formative days of rock ‘n’ roll, they managed to cross over twice to the mainstream audience (despite the for-the-time raunchy nature of “Sixty-Minute Man”) and helped knock down the racial barriers, proving to be a seminal group of the pre-Elvis rock ‘n’ roll years.

8. Depeche Mode (2):  They're basically one of those "something for everybody" outfits that really make you wonder why they're on the outside even after back-to-back nominations.

7. Judas Priest (1):  As Eric and Mary said on the Hall Watchers podcast, probably the second most important act in the genesis of heavy metal after Black Sabbath.  Extremely significant.

6. Rage Against The Machine (2):  If nothing else, they are truth in advertising.  They took the ethos of '60's and '70's protest songs, and put it on steroids.  Combining seemingly disparate musical styles, they broke new ground and influenced plenty.

5. The Marvelettes (2):  Probably the most important thing about the Motown legacy is that it was a marvelous marriage of Black culture and youth culture.  I can't help but believe the hit-the-ground-running success of the Marvelettes, success that continued well after "Please Mister Postman," helped set the empire on its enduring path.

4. Nine Inch Nails (2):  Something of a pioneer and a definite tour-de-force.  Some initial trouble being celebrated in a mainstream sense, but even then, time has been kind.

3. The Smiths (2):  Probably the most important band of the post-punk scene that didn't have any charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100.  Massively important.

2. LL Cool J (5):  One of rap’s first solo superstars, not only did he help rap transition from an outfit form to a solo MC’s game, he also helped segue R&B into its smoother form during the mid-‘90s.  Much of mainstream pop music today is still built somewhat upon plans he helped lay.

1. Kraftwerk (5):  It was a hard decision to switch LL Cool J and Kraftwerk around.  A Krautrock act that evolved greatly and is basically responsible for electronica music becoming what it is today.  But what tips the scales for Kraftwerk that I wasn't aware of before, is how important and influential they were to the immediate pop scene that followed in their wake, and the way their innovations have affected the industry as a whole, including the world of hip-hop that LL Cool J remodeled.

So there we are.  It was a tough hierarchy to make and one I still question heavily even as I continue to look over it.  I mostly tried to keep the merits of each nominee in line with my I-5 system, but with this many different acts, it's hard to completely fairly evaluate disparate sets of data.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts and care to weigh in in the Comments section below.