Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Preferences of artists on the 2019 ballot

Now that we've taken a look at the merits of the 2019 nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, we also have to look at the tacit piece of the puzzle, which is personal taste.  Whether we like to admit it or not, personal tastes affect how we vote.  Whether it's for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame or congressional candidates, if we like what we hear from them, they're that much more likely to get our vote.  For the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, personal preference for an artist's music is an influencing factor for whether or not they pass the bar for "unquestionable musical excellence."  So, now that I've tried to measure them objectively, let's lay that list aside momentarily and just look at how much I enjoy listening to each of the nominees.  Music apps for smartphones have been a major blessing in this regard, as they have allowed me to really grasp each nominee's catalog and overall gestalt a lot more.  So, if you notice inconsistency between the list this year and previous years' lists, it's a combination of getting to know discographies a lot more, plus the effects of time and life themselves upon this weary and frail frame.  I'll also include my favorite songs from each artist, and the averages of the two rankings' lists.

It's also worth mentioning, that like the merits' list, coming in near the bottom isn't nearly as insulting as it may appear.  It was a tough decision trying to figure out who should finish first, even.  Everyday, whichever nominee I was listening to, I was certain that that artist would top the list.  Then I'd listen to a different one the next day.  It's a tough but pleasant series of choices to make.  Besides, a list of fifteen versus the entirety of the musical world, well, that just requires proper perspective.  So don't be too heartbroken if your favorite act comes in a bit lower for me than it would for you.  Binge-listening to all these artists didn't really give me too many negative listening experiences overall.  Maybe that's why they're all nominees too.  Let's sort them out, shall we?

1. Janet Jackson
What made me ultimately choose the baby of nine as the top finisher here, was when I was trying to decide on a favorite song for her and discovering how much trouble this really was.  I realized I had way too many songs in contention for mentioning as the favorite.  That made me conclude that she had to be put at the top of this list.  Between "Black Cat," "Escapade," "So Excited," and so many other great songs, every time it's her turn to be binged on, I'm happy.
Favorite song: "Feedback"
Merit Rank: 4
Average of ranks: 2.5

2. The Zombies
Last year, they were ranked a few notches lower.  All but one of the acts higher than them on last year's list were inducted last year, and the one that wasn't, isn't nominated again this year.  Last year though, the music app service didn't include any of their reunited studio material, only live performances. When you include the newer studio albums, you realize that they've still got it and the music is just as fantastic.
Favorite song: "Imagine The Swan"
Merit Rank: 13
Average of ranks: 7.5

3. Def Leppard
I said previously that their music hasn't aged well, but growing up with Hysteria and Adrenalize, I still hear them with the ears of the pre-teen I was during their heyday.  I love their ability to harmonize and their overall sound.  The major downside though, is hearing some of their ballads, especially the live performances of them, made me wonder if I was listening to Def Leppard or Bryan Adams.
Favorite song: "Photograph"
Merit Rank: 10
Average of ranks: 6.5

4. LL Cool J
He jumps up a few places from last year's list, so maybe it's just a matter of his music growing on me, or being able to pay a little more attention to it.  Some people just don't like rap music.  To me, it's in the mix.  And if the mood's just right, I'm really into it.  Honorable mention to the amazing track "Time For War."
Favorite song: "The Do Wop"
Merit Rank: 1
Average of ranks: 2.5

5. John Prine
On paper, when using my I-Five at least, Prine's hardly the kind of artist that should even be considered, except maybe in the Influence category.  When you listen to his music, though, it becomes clear why he just might be able to pull it off.  Don't enjoy everything from him.  His debut album has been hailed as a masterpiece, but aside from one song, I really didn't dig it that much.  I'm not a huge country person, but his country-flavored stuff is quite good.
Favorite song: "Egg And Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967 (Crazy Bone)"
Merit Rank: 14
Average of ranks: 9.5

6. Radiohead
Even after the shock of realizing how much I actually liked their stuff last year, it still kind of surprises me how much I like the songs I do like.  Some of them I still don't, but a lot of it just grew on me a little bit more this go-around.  The only song I really remember back when I was in college spinning their stuff on the campus station is "Idioteque," which I still really like, despite it not being the favorite.  But there really is just an ineffable loveliness to their music that it just draws you in, even if it leads you down some psychologically dark corridors.
Favorite song: "No Surprises"
Merit Rank: 7
Average of ranks: 6.5

7. Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk's place on this list really benefited from my getting a smartphone last year.  The problem with trying to binge-listen to them, though, is that most of what I find via music apps are the remastered versions of their works.  I feel that to properly evaluate them, I need to hear how their albums sounded the first time, the '70's and '80's releases, not the post-2000 reworkings.  I have to wonder if this is how Starwoids and general cinephiles felt when George Lucas "updated" the original Star Wars trilogy.  Nevertheless, getting to really dive into their stuff has proven very helpful.  Despite their innovations, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant side of me is really drawn to the pastoral-sounding songs, like "Ohm Sweet Ohm," which kind of reminds me of the old hymn, "My Faith Looks Up To Thee," or that "Oh Maria" song you hear in the movie Sister Act.  Still, when you really listen and get an appreciation for how meticulous they were and how their methods were so effectively executed, I have to say that OCD has never sounded so beautiful before or after.
Favorite song: "Morgenspaziergang"
Merit Rank: 3
Average of ranks: 5

8. Todd Rundgren
This is one I didn't expect to fare this well.  Despite how much I love "Bang The Drum All Day," I really expected the majority of his work to be more reminiscent of "Hello It's Me" and "I Saw The Light," which I don't like all that much.  I underestimated the man's versatility, and while I'm not crazy about the songs that sound like he's trying to be blue-eyed soul, perhaps leading Daryl Hall And John Oates by example, I do enjoy the more sideways kinds of songs like "Zen Archer" and "Buy My T."
Favorite song: "Mountaintop"
Merit Rank: 8
Average of ranks: 8

9. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan
Maybe I just got a little tired of listening to their brand of funk.  I'm not sure what caused both Radiohead and LL Cool J to jump them in relative rankings from last year, but I still enjoy this band quite a bit.  And with such versatility, it's hard to go wrong.  I think the problem this year is the app just kept ramming the same songs down my ear canals repeatedly, jumping between the studio and live versions.  I like "Hollywood," I just don't want to hear it for a few months now.
Favorite song: "Take It To The Top"
Merit Rank: 12
Average of ranks: 10.5

10. The MC5
Another act that just grew on me this year, though perhaps not enough to greatly affect their relative position on a ballot with only fifteen nominees, instead of nineteen.  All the same, listening to the roots and foundations of punk rock music is a good time, whether you're on the job or off.
Favorite song: "The American Ruse"
Merit Rank: 11
Average of ranks: 10.5

11. Devo
They're weird.  I like them.
Favorite song: "Are You Ready"
Merit Rank: 9
Average of ranks: 10

12. The Cure
For the 2012 ballot, they were ranked fifth of fifteen in personal tastes.  This time they're twelfth.  What a difference a smartphone makes.  That's not to say I won't listen to them again.  They have several songs that definitely make the Cut Here with me, but they also have several songs that I personally Never want to hear again.
Favorite song: "Friday I'm In Love"
Merit Rank: 2
Average of ranks: 7

13. Stevie Nicks
As I said in her merits write-up, her solo stuff is a lot more synth-driven than the work of Fleetwood Mac.  That's just the way of the '80's.  Still, most of her stuff works a lot better than others who used the synth as a crutch (I'm looking at you, A Flock Of Seagulls)
Favorite song: "Stand Back"
Merit Rank: 15
Average of ranks: 14

14. Roxy Music
As with Kraftwerk, they recorded a lot of pastoral-sounding songs that are quite lovely, such as "Psalm," a lot of odd stuff that's riveting, like "Pyjamarama," commercial stuff like "Love Is The Drug" and "Oh Yeah," that I dug as well.  Unfortunately, I just cannot rid my memory of the horror of the realization of what "In Every Dreamhome A Heartache" is about, or just how that song seemed to drag on.
Favorite song: "Flesh And Blood"
Merit Rank: 5
Average of ranks: 9.5

15. Rage Against The Machine
It's important to remember, that I don't dislike any of the nominees.  Despite some of the less-than-flattering things mentioned, I've loved delving into every artist on this ballot.  But with every artist, there'll be songs you like and some you don't.  As for Rage Against The Machine, it's just a matter of me enjoying euphony more than cacophony, and they wouldn't be able to justify the "Rage" part of their name if they didn't have rough edges to their sound.  I don't hate them; if someone wants to listen them badly enough, I can get into it.  Just not my first choice.
Favorite song: "People Of The Sun"
Merit Rank: 6
Average of ranks: 10.5

So ultimately, when you rank the nominees by the averages of their ranks, you theoretically should get a list of likelihood that I'd be voting for them for the fan ballot.  That list looks like:

1. Janet Jackson
1. LL Cool J
3. Kraftwerk
4. Def Leppard
4. Radiohead
6. The Cure
7. The Zombies
8. Todd Rundgren
9. John Prine
9. Roxy Music
11. Devo
12. The MC5
12. Roxy Music
12. Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan
15. Stevie Nicks

So, logically, my five daily votes should be going to Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Kraftwerk, Def Leppard, and Radiohead.  And in fact, the first three of those five have been getting my vote every time.  Def Leppard was getting my vote for awhile, until they secured a comfortable lead over Stevie Nicks, then I switched.  My other two votes now have been going for Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, because we really need to get that lady in twice, and my fellow Michiganders, the MC5.  Sadly, at the time of typing this, the bottom four in the fan ballot standings are LL Cool J, Kraftwerk, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, and the MC5, with Janet Jackson in a solid sixth, but probably too far behind to catch up and make the final and formal five for the fan vote.

So that's where I stand on what I like.  The nice thing about this list is because it's passion-driven, it's a quicker one to type up, and because it's completely subjective, anyone who tries to tell me my ranking is wrong is just being a pedantic ass.  Don't be a pedantic ass, but do feel free to post your favorite songs or lists of personal preferences in the Comments below.  And it may or may not be the next entry, but coming soon will be my seeds and predictions in the Performer category for the Class Of 2019.


  1. I don't see that Def Leppard have a song called "Patience." Are you thinking of the Guns 'N Roses song?

    I've totally noticed the Def Leppard/Bryan Adams similarity myself. Songs like "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?" and "Do I Have to Say the Words?" sound like they have almost the exact same backing music. Since he produced Adrenalize and Waking Up the Neighbours at about the same time (and entirely cowrote both of those albums), I guess he was copying some of his own backing music in places. Even though I think the similarity in sound is entirely Lange, I do think the first use of that sound was probably Hysteria, so I'd still say it was more likely Adams ripping off Leppard than vice versa. (Even if really it was Lange ripping off himself.)

    I think that's the real criticism to be made of Def Leppard that they owe too much of their success to Mutt Lange, whose productions whether they're The Cars, Foreigner, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Shania Twain, or Nickelback tend to sound too similar to each other. (Except the AC/DC albums... he didn't manage to give them that high-tech drum machine sheen...)

    For all the talk of Janet Jackson relying on Jam & Lewis she also seems to have been pretty much responsible for their breakthrough and most of their success as producers, while Lange had a ton of success before and after Def Leppard. The people who would whine about producers would mostly be rockists anyway but it seems Def Leppard were more reliant on their producer for their success than Jackson was, which may be why they didn't age well. It's sort of funny that the act considered most rockist is also likely the act that had the most calculated pop production (except for maybe Kraftwerk or Rundgren, who did their production themselves.) I do also like Def Leppard though.

    1. Ah shit, you're right about Patience. For some reason, I had it in my head that DL did it, but you're spot on.

  2. So you like Def Leppards harmonizing. Is there a particular song where they do it very well? A "Vocal Group Hall of Fame Song of Proof" if you will?

    1. I haven't really given it much thought since the VGHoF shut down. Besides, I'd hope for the VGHoF to induct Bad Religion first.

  3. You should probably post your predictions soon, since the vote deadline is almost here.