Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Merits of the 2016 Nominees

More than a month has passed since the nominees were announced, and it is now time to evaluate them by their merits.  Between the corrupted ballot, and the interview with Dave Marsh, there's been a lot to keep Monitors busy, perhaps distracted from actually focusing on the nominees themselves.  Well, time to rank them by merits.  While no method is entirely objective when it comes to evaluating art, we do try to give some quantification, because ultimately, those who vote do not have the option of checking off every box.  Eliminations must be made, and there presumably must be reasons for those eliminations.  Some acts presumably must be deemed less than worthy, by whatever metric is used.  For Rock Hall Monitors, the metric is fourfold: Innovation, Influence, Impact, and Intangibles.  What new ground did they break, who followed their lead, how much and how hard did they resonate with the listening public, and what else is there that completes the picture?  So, here's a ranking of our nominees.  As an alternative viewpoint, I'm once again including my fiance's ranking of the nominees as well, though she isn't nearly as invested in it as I am.

And before anyone takes offense, please remember the bigger picture: the last act on this list of fifteen is most likely still among the top fifty or one hundred deserving acts for the Hall out of all the eligible acts out there.  So let's rank 'em.

Impact: Far and away the biggest success on the albums chart, long string of hits on the singles charts, too.  Still has an incarnation going to this day.
Influence: While they weren't heavily cited by some the bigger names in jazz fusion, their commercial success as a jazz rock outfit did help clear the way for jazz fusion acts to break through into the mainstream.
Innovation: They tinkered with the formula first hit upon by acts such as the Buckinghams and Blood, Sweat, And Tears, and managed to make it last into a long-term style.
Intangibles: They're an act you've heard of even if you only listen to current pop and dance or mainstream country.  Pretty much a household name.
The fiance's rank: Still in the top 5.... number 3.

Influence: Extremely influential.  One of the most influential groups in heavy metal and hard-rock bands.  I’ve also heard them referred to as being influential to prog, but I’m not sure how true that is.
Impact: Not hugely successful in terms of singles, but they were a part of the rock scene that focused on albums as single entities.  On the albums front, the chart entries are so-so at best, but five gold, three platinum, and one double platinum perhaps speaks to their standing the test of time where the chart numbers don’t seem to match.
Innovation: Can’t speak to it much, but there’s probably some of it in there.
Intangibles: The other projects that members of Deep Purple have been involved with speak to the further and more direct influence of the band.  Blackmore’s name is one of the most revered among rock guitarists, and the riff from “Smoke On The Water” is considered to be one of the rites of passage for guitar playing.
The fiancé’s rank: 6

3. N.W.A.
Influence: Gangsta rap is what it is because of these guys.  In fact much of the stereotype of what being a rapper means, or at least what it supposedly meant when Tupac and Biggie got shot, is based on the image projected by N.W.A.
Innovation: I’m loathe to put lyrical innovation on the same plateau with rhythmic and instrumental innovation, but this is one of the few times when it’s deserved.  Ice-T may be the O.G., but Ice Cube and company really put it on the map.
Impact: Minimal on the singles charts.  For albums, three platinum (one doubly so) studio albums (one that hit #1 on the Billboard 200), and one gold greatest hits compilation.  But that’s also about all they had.  No cache of lesser known/celebrated material behind that.
Intangibles: With notable and big solo careers of some of their members, they might be called the first rap supergroup.
The fiancé’s rank: 1

Innovation: One of the front runners of new wave music, they helped define an entire movement in the music world.
Influence: Again, one of the front runners of new wave.  They influenced a lot of the new wave and even synth-pop and synth-rock acts of the '80's.
Impact: A very commercially successful group with a string of Top 40 hits.
Intangibles: This was a band that seemed to have something for everyone, including critics, who also had a lot of good things to say about them.
The fiance's rank: 8

Impact: The biggest singles artists on the ballot, and one of the biggest of the whole rock era.  Still going strong with a new album released this year.
Influence: One of the most influential female singers of the past 30 years, paving the way for a lot of starlets of R&B and dance music.
Innovation: Not her strongest suit, admittedly.
Intangibles: It really does say something to her talent, ethic, and overall credit that in a family of nine kids, all of whom vied for success as solo artists, she's only one of two that can rightfully claim the label of "superstar."  Additionally, had a bigger hand in the creation of her music than she is often remembered for.
The fiance's rank: A solid 2

Influence: One of the giants of ‘80’s alternative, along with the Cure and the Pixies.  Influenced a lot of independent-label acts in their wake.
Impact: Recording very few albums, they charted few albums, and no single hits, but plenty of name recognition, for themselves and for lead singer Morrissey.
Innovation: Along with the Replacements and the Cure, they really helped define the sound of post-punk.
Intangibles: The name power of Morrissey alone brings a certain seriousness to the Smiths overall.
The fiance's rank: 5

Innovation: Industrial is a bit of the child between Kraftwerk-style electronica and heavy metal.  But it’s still pretty innovative to bring the two together, and Nine Inch Nails did exactly that.
Influence: As one of the earlier examples of industrial, Nine Inch Nails is a name widely cited in modern industrial, and it wouldn’t be surprising if electronica and metal acts cite this name as well.
Impact: Nine Inch Nails’ crossover success was originally limited, but has over time increased, enjoying the biggest hits in just the past decade or so.
Intangibles: The Rock Hall seems to really love and merit those bands who do it all: write, arrange, play, produce, promote, distribute, and so forth their own music.  Though employing the skills of other musicians on a frequent basis, Nine Inch Nails is the tour-de-force band boiled down even further: one man, Trent Reznor.  One man who can pretty much do it all.
The fiance's rank: Way down yonder at number 13

8. YES
Influence: One of the most respected names in the entire sub-genre of prog-rock.  A lot of prog bands took cues from this group.
Innovation: Among the first to really successfully and continuously infuse classical elements into the world of rock music.
Impact: One of the very few prog bands to also have a #1 hit on the Hot 100.  They’re much bigger in the album charts than the singles, but even their singles chart history is pretty respectable, especially compared to many other names on this ballot.
Intangibles: Semi-noteworthy solo careers of some of its members give them some additional credibility as it allows for closer inspection of the individual pieces of their machine, and the sense of synergy as a whole. 
The fiance’s rank: 10

Impact: The band had several hit albums and singles, and a few classics that did not chart.
Influence: They were an important blues-rock outfit during the '70's, and as such, had some influence on the blues-rock acts that followed.
Innovation: Not a whole lot, but they did help refine the way blues-rock was interpreted.
Intangibles: Raised in Texas, teeth cut in Chicago, the man is steeped in blues and has worked and known some of the big names.
The fiance's rank:

Impact: A string of minor hits throughout the '60's, then major hits for most of the '70's, and even sneaking into the '80's a bit.
Influence: The genre of soul greatly shifted as the Spinners were at the top of their heyday, nonetheless, there is some influence upon the likes of Hall And Oates, as well as subsequent soul musicians
Innovation: Despite not really inventing Philly soul, their style was more rhythmically driven than that of their contemporaries (perhaps due to their usage of doo-wop style background vocals), making it something unique they brought to the table. 
Intangibles: They’re a solid representation of Philly soul, which there isn’t much of in the Hall right now.  They’re also a quasi-representation of Motown, having put in a brief stint at that legendary label. 
The fiance's rank: 9

Influence: After Donna Summer, possibly the biggest diva to emerge from the '70's, and influenced a lot of women who followed.
Impact: A modest amount of commercial success as a solo artist, including very well known songs: "I Feel For You," and "I'm Every Woman."
Innovation: Not a whole lot, but her work with a wide variety of artists has helped bring about some different fused sounds.
Intangibles: Has rubbed elbows with some big names in the music industry, plus her legacy as the front lady of Rufus bolsters her credibility a little too.
The fiancé's rank: Once again, a match at 11.

12. CHIC
Impact: The impact of “Good Times” upon hip-hop is huge.  Also, respectable runs of hits in the disco, R&B, and pop charts, plus a good run of charted albums.  Nile Rodgers’ producer credit of the Grammy winning Daft Punk jam “Get Lucky” is also a factor here.
Influence: Again, on the world of hip-hop, having a heavily sampled record does say a lot.  Plus, the influence on funk and dance music is sizeable.
Innovation: Not entirely devoid here, as the technique of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards have proven different and difficult to duplicate.
Intangibles: By now, Chic may just be wearing down resistance of the voters.  A tenth nomination?  The Nominating Committee must be seeing something that not everyone is.
The fiance's rank: Up at 7

Impact: A handful of hits, but very beloved ones.
Influence: A lot of guitar rock bands from the 80's onward have cited Cheap Trick among their influences.
Innovation: They didn't reinvent the wheel, but they made it roll.
Intangibles: Their lack of pretentiousness, inability to take themselves too seriously, makes them something different.
The fiance's rank: 12

14. THE J.B.'S
Influence: They are a widely sampled band.  Their brand of funk influenced their contemporaries and many funk and R&B acts to come.
Innovation: Not the first funk act, but they did put it together in an awesome way.
Impact: A few hits under their own name on the Pop charts, a few more on the R&B charts.
Intangibles: And they had a few more as the backing band for James Brown.  A lot of weight behind that name.
The fiance's rank: Agreement at 14

Innovation: Not the first in roots music, or in Tex-Mex, or Latin rock, but they were a novel fusion of various styles.
Influence: They've stirred a lot of ripples in the non-mainstream scenes, and have had worked with a lot of the old guard, helping them create new sounds.
Impact: Very minimal singles sales.  Modest album sales.
Intangibles: The critics' darling of the entire ballot.  They are an inside band.
The fiance's rank: Also at 15

So that's how I view their merits.  It may not be perfect, but it tries to be as close to it as it can.  Soon, we'll go subjective and observe general listenable value of each inductee on the two of us.

1 comment:

  1. Deep Purple is considered prog rock because of the work of John Lord. His use of keyboards as a heavy metal instrument was innovative, and made them stand out among a glut of similar British bands.

    I'm still arguing with Larry about NIN. I say they're industrial or techno, he says heavy metal. He's rather firm about it.