Monday, November 21, 2016

Music To My Ears: The Ballot For 2017

We've looked at the (hopefully) objective measure of merits for each of the nominees.  But that's really only half the story.  Most voters tend to let their personal tastes influence how they vote.  Right or wrong, it's a matter of fact, and considering that "Unquestionable musical excellence" was long the official metric that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame itself used to determine the worth of a candidate, it's a fair practice to be self-aware of one's own personal biases.  Well, I can't speak for anyone but myself, so I guess it's time to ramble on the narcissistic side and talk about whether or not I enjoy listening to the music of this year's candidates.  Spoiler alert: some yes, some no; last year, one nominee was both of those!  We'll average them out with my merit ranks too, and see how things measure up.

1. Electric Light Orchestra
I had never heard of them until I was in my teens and working in a restaurant, and the cooks there exposed me to them.  Not a band I've taken to collecting though, but I love their overall general sound.
Favorite song: "Hold On Tight"
Merit rank: 6
Average of ranks: 3.5

2. Steppenwolf
They're a great blues-rock outfit with a lot of songs that are really good.  The homogenization of radio ownership and the digitization of music for radio station libraries (so that CDs and vinyl are not kept handy to spin) have a lot to do with why nobody knows them beyond two songs though.  And with apologies to AlexVoltaire at the Northumbian Countdown, I'm not gonna bother with his album challenge.  I think of musicians in terms of their songs, not their albums.  I love a lot of the acts that focused on releasing singles and not on albums.  I think his challenge to name a good album is founded on a false presupposition.
Favorite song: "Straight Shootin' Woman"
Merit rank: 14
Average of ranks: 8

3. Joan Baez
Joan Baez just has the quintessential folk songstress voice.  Judy Collins, Mary Travers, Judith Durham... all sing so much like her.  It peals through clearly and magnificently.  Great arrangements on her songs make her a pleasure to listen to.
Favorite song: "Blue Sky"
Merit rank: 8
Average of ranks: 5.5

4. Journey
Shut up!  I hate myself too, but catchy harmonies and good hooks on their good songs make up for their schmaltzy junk later on.
Favorite song: "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)"
Merit rank: 16
Average of ranks: 10

5. 2Pac
The man had some good samples and lyrics that flowed well, which makes it only logical that I'd like the Vulcan rapper T'Pac.
Favorite song: "Unconditional Love"
Merit rank: 2
Average of ranks: 3.5

6. The Cars
They had something for most everybody, and that includes me.
Favorite song: "Tonight She Comes"
Merit rank: 4
Average of ranks: 5

7. The Zombies
They set an ominous table with their organ-driven sound, but it was something to latch onto and listen to several times.
Favorite song: "Tell Her No"
Merit rank: 18
Average of ranks: 12.5

8. Janet Jackson
For my money, there are more entertaining R&B artists from the '80s, but I still enjoy a number of her songs.
Favorite song: "Black Cat"
Merit rank: 5
Average of ranks: 6.5

9. Chaka Khan
This is about her solo career.  I prefer her Rufus work, but there's still plenty of excellent material in her solo catalog.
Favorite song: "I'm Every Woman"
Merit rank: 10
Average of ranks: 9.5

10. Chic
Some funky grooves, though lyrically not the most impressive out there.  Overall fun.
Favorite song: "I Want Your Love"
Merit rank: 11
Average of ranks: 10.5

11. Joe Tex
Like a lot of soul singers not yet in, his '70's stuff is stronger than his '60's songs, even though I hate his two biggest hits from the '70's.
Favorite song: "Hold On To What You've Got"
Merit rank: 12
Average of ranks: 11.5

12. Depeche Mode
Heavy-synth music is the part of the '80's music scene that I loathe most, but Depeche Mode was one of the better acts of that style.
Favorite song: "Just Can't Get Enough"
Merit rank: 7
Average of ranks: 9.5

13. The J. Geils Band
I actually enjoy most of their songs, but they don't really grab me the way that some of the other artists on the ballot do.  Maybe they really do put on a great show, but if the records don't grab me, there's really no reason to go to the show, right?
Favorite song: "Flamethrower"
Merit rank: 19
Average of ranks: 16

14. Kraftwerk
Last time they appeared on the ballot, they also ranked fourteenth in personal preference.  This time however, slot number fourteen isn't second-last.  I appreciate their art, and can enjoy it to a degree for that reason, but it's not as easy as a listener to immerse myself in it.  I like music with emotions, and much of Kraftwerk's Modus Operandi eschewed that idea.
Favorite song: "Neonlichten"
Merit rank: 1
Average of ranks: 7.5

15. Yes
Last time they appeared on the ballot, they also ranked fifteenth in personal preference.  This time however, fifteenth is not dead last.  Don't care for prog.  I like classical, and I like rock and roll, but prog-rock was and is a combination of the two that doesn't work for me.  Songs like "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams and revamped versions of classical melodies such as "Joy" by Apollo 100 and several arrangements from B. Bumble And The Stingers do it better for me.  Still, Yes shows great originality in what they do, I'll admit that.
Favorite song: "Your Move (I've Seen All Good People)"
Merit rank: 9
Average of ranks: 12

16. Bad Brains
Not a fan of cacophony, and their vocals sound like caterwauling on their slower numbers, but at least they're short and punchy, true to punk.
Favorite song: "I Against I"
Merit rank: 17
Average of ranks: 16.5

17. The MC5
I'm all about honoring my fellow Michiganders, but as innovative as the use of distortion was for the records, sometimes it overshadowed the melody and even the rhythm, so it makes audiating their songs all the more difficult.
Favorite song: "Kick Out The Jams"
Merit rank: 15
Average of ranks: 16.

18. Pearl Jam
Hello, Mr. Vedder?  Got someone I'd like you to meet, a military sort of person, I think.  Goes by "Major Tonality."  Okay, I know, that kind of undermines the whole ethos of grunge, but I cannot buy into their agony like this all the time.  Their dispassion ruined "Last Kiss" for me, and I wasn't a big fan of the original by J. Frank Wilson And The Cavaliers, either.
Favorite song: "Even Flow"
Merit rank: 3
Average of ranks: 10.5

19. Jane's Addiction
Pretty much everything I wrote about Pearl Jam, but add a nasally high lead singer's voice, and I'm done.  The fact that my favorite song from them is a semi-faithful cover of the Grateful Dead should say all that needs to be said for me.
Favorite song: "Ripple"
Merit rank: 13
Average of ranks: 16

Looking at the combination of taste and merits, it would stand to reason that my vote on the fan ballot would be the five highest averages.  In this case, my vote should theoretically be for Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Baez, 2Pac, the Cars, and Janet Jackson.  The reality of it is, though, that this list of five with the best averages is only sixty percent accurate for how I've been voting.  Electric Light Orchestra, Janet Jackson, and the Cars have all been getting my vote.  However, instead of Joan Baez and 2Pac, I've been voting for Steppenwolf and Chic.  None of this however is indicative of whom I believe will be enshrined next year.  That prediction though, will be coming soon.


  1. With due respect, if DM's favorite song for you is Just Can't Get Enough, you've barely heard anything by them. The guy who wrote it left after one album. Their biggest success came in the 90's, and while synth is their base, they moved on from strictly being a synth pop band in 1982.

    1. Or maybe that song is tied to a special memory.

  2. After hearing "Hold on Tight" on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 Mighty 690 AM Radio Show back in 1981 while with family around Ventura, California, a U.S. Route 101 road trip to Santa Barbara's Mission when I was just 8 years old, Dad then bought me my very first Electric Light Orchestra album from Tower Records, an audio cassette of Time by ELO, thus started the fandom 35 years ago.

    "The previous year, David Bowie had released his 'Ashes to Ashes' music video which was considered as the most innovative to date at that time. But Electric Light Orchestra were largely regarded to have surpassed that with their music video for 'Hold on Tight'. At the time it was the most expensive ever made at around £40,000" - Source: UK Midlands Central TV News, August, 1981, thanks Ade

    1. Great story. Honestly, what I like so much about that song is that it sounds like an homage to Jerry Lee Lewis. It's got a pumping rhythm to it, and the vocals sound a little like someone trying to invoke his spirit.

    2. "American Top 40, you know, in popular music different influences often combine to create a new sound, for example, in ELO's current hit, I can hear a little bit of Elvis Presley in the lead vocal, some Beatle harmonies and, a touch of Jerry Lee Lewis at the piano, here they all are at #33 with, Hold on Tight, ELO" - Casey Kasem, October 31st, 1981

  3. I hadn't plotted my personal enjoyment list until just now. I'd have to go with:

    Depeche Mode
    Bad Brains
    Pearl Jam
    The J. Geils Band
    The Cars
    Electric Light Orchestra
    The Zombies
    Joe Tex
    Jane's Addiction
    Joan Baez
    Janet Jackson
    Chaka Khan

    Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and Bad Brains, I'm a flat out fan of/listen to regularly. Chic through 2Pac are 4 or 5 times a year acts for me and Jane's Addiction through Chaka Khan are just a flat out NO in terms of voluntary listening.

    1. Well, you're breaking my heart with the hatred of Steppenwolf and Joan Baez... I take it you don't like Judy Collins or the Seekers either. Sadness.

    2. Hatred would be an overstatement. I'd use "sonically unappealing".

  4. Looking forward to your final predictions.