Sunday, December 6, 2015

Yeah, but do I like them? 2016 Edition

When the nominees on each year's ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame are announced, there is always an instinctive reaction to each of the names.  Sometimes, it's surprise; others, a nodding of expectation.  Sometimes, delight; sometimes, disdain.  Those last two reactions are often driven by whether or not the person reacting to the news actually likes those acts.  Sometimes it's a matter of thinking an act is truly deserving or undeserving, but personal taste often drives the emotional reactions.  To some degree, it makes sense.  While we want the Hall to salute the true game changers, there's also a feeling of relief when an act that someone is passionate about on personal grounds is voted in.  At the Foundation itself, the powers-that-be describe "Unquestionable musical excellence" as the key determining factor for who even gets nominated.  But what does that mean?  Is it truly a matter of being innovative and influential?  When forced to be honest, those people would probably say no.  Nevertheless, this year's ballot has a lot of people chirping positively about how it's difficult to go wrong, no matter what.  And last year, many people felt, and Dave Marsh even expressed this sentiment, that the best possible class emerged from a relatively weak ballot.  So when you've got a ballot full of deserving names, it's fairly obvious that personal taste is going to play a factor.

Which is why I unabashedly rank the nominees by how much I personally like their music, after I rank them as objectively as I can manage.  Personal taste undoubtedly comes into play with actual voters, and going through the hassle of actually ranking them by personal favor allows one to be more openly aware of their bias in the process.  So, I believe it 's a good thing to do, to take the opportunity to list them by how much I like their music.  It gives context to how I discuss them as being fit for the Hall, and probably affects both how I seed them and how I rate them on merits, even though I try to remove personal bias from those two equations.  Once again, I'll average them out against the merits ranks to get an average, include the fiance's thoughts, and as a new feature this year, I'm going to include what song of theirs is my personal favorite, as well as the fiance's favorite jam.  So, here's how this year's ballot stacks up.

1. The Spinners
Every year they've made the ballot, I've been hesitant to predict them.  They consistently rank high on my personal tastes' scale, and this year they top the list, which is good because they keep slipping in the merits' list, this time at #10.  Philly soul is just one of the best subgenres in the whole rock and roll spectrum for me.  I don't dance, but I feel the boogie of their bass in my blood.
Favorite song: "One Of A Kind (Love Affair)"
Average of my two ranks: 5.5
Fiance's favorite song: "I'll Be Around"
Fiance's taste: 5
Average of her two ranks: 7

2. The Smiths
On paper, the Smiths are a band I just shouldn't like.  Not big on post-punk, don't care a lot for Pixies, Sonic Youth, or even the Cure that much.  Yet, there's something undeniably catchy in Johnny Marr's melodic guitar playing and Morrissey's vocals.  Mesmerizing, almost.  6th in merits.
Favorite song: "Sheila, Take A Bow"
Average of my two ranks: 4
Fiance's favorite song: "How Soon Is Now"
Fiance's taste: 15
Average of her two ranks: 10

3. Cheap Trick
Those who talk to me about music, especially on the Future Rock Legends site, know that I really respect acts who don no pretentious airs, and Cheap Trick fits that bill, which is good, because being 13th in merits, chances are they'll have to rely on actual voters sharing my opinion to get votes.
Favorite song: "Dream Police"
Average of my two ranks: 8
Fiance's favorite song: "The Flame"
Fiance's taste: 3
Average of her two ranks: 7.5

4. Chicago
I'll just say it right now: I don't actually hate the ballads as much as some others.  I do think there's some untapped potential in a couple of them. I think if an act like Boyz II Men covered "You're The Inspiration," and gave it their special Motownphilly touch, the resulting cover could have been an absolute soul classic.  At the top spot for merits, their esteem with me rides pretty high.
Favorite song: "Make Me Smile"
Average of my two ranks: 2.5
Fiance's favorite song: "You're The Inspiration"
Fiance's taste: 8
Average of her two ranks: 5.5

5. The Cars
Another group I really shouldn't like, on paper.  But they know how to be innovative and catchy at the same time, which is pretty awesome, when you think of it.  One notch higher in merits.
Favorite song: "Tonight She Comes"
Average of my two ranks: 4.5
Fiance's favorite song: "Drive"
Fiance's taste: 2
Average of her two ranks: 5

6. Steve Miller
Well, the Steve Miller Band, technically, and maybe they'll do justice to the group should this name make the grade for induction.  But between some bad lyrics, good grooves, and smooth feel, the high to middle of the pack is a personal taste rank that I bet others share with me.  9th for merits.
Favorite song: "Serenade"
Average of my two ranks: 7.5
Fiance's favorite song: "The Joker"
Fiance's taste: 4
Average of her two ranks: 4

7. Deep Purple
I'm not a metal fan, or a prog fan, and I don't like too many songs by Deep Purple, either.  Fortunately, I also don't hate too many songs from Deep Purple, either.  So by finishing runner-up in merits, this looks pretty promising for them.
Favorite song: "Highway Star"
Average of my two ranks: 4.5
Fiance's favorite song: "Smoke On The Water"
Fiance's taste: 9
Average of her two ranks: 7.5

8. The J.B.'s
Kind of a shocker, that I ranked them this high: I don't particularly like James Brown.  But listening to them while researching them, I was boogieing (my spellchecker didn't flag that, so I'm keeping it like that) in my chair with them.  A lot of the songs sound similar at this point, which really only means I need to spend more time listening to them.  Unfortunately, they scored low on the merits list.  Second last.
Favorite song: "Doing It To Death"
Average of my two ranks: 11
Fiance's favorite song: "I Got Ants In My Pants" (she only know James Brown songs)
Fiance's taste: 7
Average of her two ranks: 10.5

9. Janet Jackson
Going over her catalog over the years, I kind of get the naysayers' complaints: a lot of her early stuff does sound like cookie-cutter '80's R&B, like some of Bobby Brown's more upbeat stuff.  Fortunately, I have a high tolerance for that, and enjoy her later stuff too.  She rounded out the top five for merits.
Favorite song: "Black Cat"
Average of my two ranks: 7
Fiance's favorite song: "If"
Fiance's taste: 1
Average of her ranks: 1.5

10. Los Lobos
In a way, I really want to hate roots music, just because people have the audacity to call it that.  You want to listen to "roots" music of rock and roll, then start filling your head with doo-wop.  Nor am I that big on Tex-Mex music, and the days I've spent in processing plants, forced to listen to Latin American music, it's actually saying something that they're this high.  Especially when they were dead last in merits.
Favorite song: "Jenny's Got A Pony"
Average of my two ranks: 12.5
Fiance's favorite song: "La Bamba"
Fiance's taste: 6
Average of her two ranks: 10.5

11. Chaka Khan
Her solo stuff isn't as good as the Rufus stuff.  Her love songs are pretty good, but not as good as the funkier stuff.  Same rank as merits.
Favorite song: "I'm Every Woman"
Average of my two ranks: 11
Fiance's favorite song: "I'm Every Woman"
Fiance's taste: 12
Average of her two ranks: 11.5

12. Chic
I really harbor no "disco sucks" sentiment.  Maybe it's just ear fatigue, that I got sick of hearing them.  That's as good an explanation as any really.  No real hate, just no real love.  Also 12th for merits.
Favorite song: "I Want Your Love"
Average of my two ranks: 12
Fiance's favorite song: "Good Times"
Fiance's taste: 11
Average of her two ranks: 9

13. N.W.A.
I'm not a real big fan of gangsta rap, so N.W.A. isn't ranking really high, but there's some fun stuff in there as well.  3rd in merits.
Favorite song: "A Bitch Iz A Bitch"
Average of my two ranks: 8
Fiance's favorite song: "Fuck Tha Police"
Fiance's taste: 10
Average of her two ranks: 5.5

14. Nine Inch Nails
Industrial... not my thing.  Don't hate every song, but will change the station when it comes on, usually.  In the midst of things at 7 for merits.
Favorite song: "We're In This Together"
Average of my two ranks: 10.5
Fiance's favorite song: "Closer"
Fiance's taste: 13
Average of her two ranks: 13

15. Yes
8th in merits, though.
Favorite song: "Your Move (I've Seen All Good People)"
Average of my two ranks: 11.5
Fiance's favorite song: "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"
Fiance's taste: 14
Average of her two ranks: 12

So when we try balance out merits versus taste, we get some conflict between the two, and it seems like it ends up in a jumbled heap, but from this, we see how theoretically I should vote on the fan ballot.  The top five averages are:

1. Chicago
2. The Cars
3. The Smiths
4. Deep Purple
5. The Spinners

And for my fiance, her top five averages are:

1. Janet Jackson
2. Steve Miller
3. The Cars
4. Chicago
5. N.W.A.

So, the end result shows that while I'd like to think I'd be diverse in my voting, the only R&B I'd have would be the Spinners.  However, in the face of the corrupted fan ballot, my vote has actually been going to Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, N.W.A., the Spinners, and.... the Smiths.  Because I just couldn't bring myself to vote for Chic, and the J.B.'s are probably gonna get the Award For Musical Excellence induction.  Sorry, Nile.  Anyway, the next installment, HOPEFULLY before the inductees are actually announced, my official pecking order, from which we can derive the official prediction.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to hear you compare Janet Jackson's earlier work to a Bobby Brown sound. "Control" came out in 1986. Bobby's solo debut "Don't Be Cruel" was released in 1988. So if anything, Bobby lifted 'the sound' from Janet.

    I'd predict:
    Deep Purple
    Janet Jackson
    The Spinners