Sunday, June 12, 2022

Everything But The Music: Reacting To The Class Of 2022

Recently, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced their inductees for the Class Of 2022.  In what is becoming a tradition of seeing a ballot and saying, "There're really no bad names on here," we now follow that up by seeing the class and saying, "Well that's... fine."  And that's what tends to happen when most of us can accurately predict most of the inductees.  Instead of feeling awesome about nailing it almost exactly and precisely, it feels a little disappointing.  Actually, that's not completely true.  We do feel a little awesome about our prognostication skills, but we maybe don't exactly love what we predicted to happen.  Previously, I admitted that I would be happier to be proven wrong. And I'm calling it as going 7.5/8 in my predictions.  Basically, my top eight seeds are all getting inducted, and all but one of them in the Performer category.  So... pretty much got them all.  

But what also soils the celebration is when we look at the inductees and attempt to decode what each of their inductions means for the Hall, and the overall theme with these Performer inductees is "asses in the seats."  Except for Pat Benatar (who extends my streak, thank you Pat), every one of them has had a #1 hit on the pop charts, and the act with the fewest Hot 100 hits is Eurythmics with 15.  When 2016's class proved to be a rout for classic rock, we called it a "populist" class, because the Hall appeared to be kowtowing to the masses, or at least the loudest, whitest, malest masses.  But we still called it a pretty good class.  Now in 2022, we want to call it "populist" because it's comprised of acts with no less than 15 Hot 100 hits.  It has been commented that this is the Rock And Roll Hall Of FAME after all, right?  Heck, even I've said that in online discussion as a response to people who seemed to believe that Billboard was the SI unit for measuring selling out (when "selling out" and "cashing in" were considered derogatory).  This year, the voters clearly went for the familiar names.  Call it lethargy, call it nostalgia, or call it following the money.  Maybe a factor of all three.  Whatever you call it, what we don't have is a pleasant mixture that includes subversive innovation so ahead of its time that commercial success eluded it.  In fact, the only nominee who missed out who also enjoyed massive commercial success in the American pop singles charts on par with the inductees is Dionne Warwick.  If she'd made it, it'd really be a clean sweep as far as hit singles went. 

And really, if it had been Warwick and Kate Bush getting in instead of Eminem and Lionel Richie, this would have been a banner year for the ladies.  Carly Simon is the singer/songwriter inductee of the classic connotation, even though, pretty much all of the inductees were thoroughly involved with the writing of their music.  Pat Benatar and Annie Lennox of Eurythmics are of course included.  And of course Dolly Parton is the queen whose procession to induction will likely involve the waving of palm branches and will hopefully include being chauffeured by Rob Halford on a borrowed motorcycle that has never been driven before.  And even though Duran Duran is a band of all men, they are a band that women have been outspoken on social media about needing to be inducted.  They have presumably been heard, and Duran Duran are on their way in.  

Additionally, it's really a big year for the icons of the '80s.  And that's probably the biggest hallmark for the Hall this year.  This is a big execution of John Sykes' vision, moving the Hall forward, even if incrementally.  And if we're being honest, we shouldn't be surprised that the big sellers are the ones that are getting in.  It's a simple arithmetic, when you consider what Nick Bambach, Michelle Bourg, and Eric and Mary of "Hall Watchers" have mentioned.  We have a "safe" class with the only "dangerous" act getting in as an Award For Musical Excellence inductee because the Hall is adding more voters from a younger generation... a generation whose icons are not yet eligible for the Hall, and when it comes to those who are eligible, they're going for the names their parents taught them, aka the hitmakers, which will give us a good product for television and a good fundraiser for the foundation.  Maybe the math is off, but that's one way to interpret the data.

The fingerprints of the MTV era are also present in a few of the other inductees, too.  With producer Jimmy Iovine and production duo of Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis being inducted, a lot of the sounds and styles of MTV are represented here as well.  Admittedly, it's a little weird that both are primarily regarded as producers, but one is inducted as a Non-Performer and the other as Award For Musical Excellence.  I would genuinely question the logic, as I'm inclined to lay aside the time that Jimmy and Terry were in the Time with Morris Day.  However, that bridge has been incinerated, even in 2012 with the induction of the sound engineers in Award For Musical Excellence.  

Speaking of Award For Music Excellence, congratulations to Judas Priest getting in, and sorry that the voting bloc sucks so bad when it comes to metal.  Nick Bambach and I had the exact same top eight seeds, in slightly different permutations.  He says he went 8/8 while I say 7.5/8.  The difference is he considers it the same honor, and I don't.  To me, being elected adds an extra level of validation, while this category means getting chosen again by the same folks who chose you for the ballot in the first place.  That said, I really don't wish to rehash this argument.  Michelle Bourg said it beautifully on her blog.  What I do hope for though, is a simple middle ground.  Whether you agree with the way the categories are used now or not, I do want to suggest this as a middle ground, a place where we can meet and agree.  Can we at least agree that using the categories like this gives the Foundation, Board Of Directors, Nominating Committee, and whoever else--that doing it this way gives them no incentive to actually amend the process in any meaningful way that relieves the backlog while still inducting worthy artists?  Can we at least agree that the use of the categories like this gives the powers-that-be no real motivation to change things for the better in the short and long term?  Because if they have to keep inducting acts that would otherwise be considered Performers as Early Influences or in Award For Musical Excellence, the chance that they'll get around to pre-rock artists and session musicians that younger generations may not know the names of decreases.  So if we can at least agree on that, we have something.  

Which brings us to our two Early Influence inductees.  First off is Elizabeth Cotten, a wonderful folk singer who both does and doesn't predate rock and roll music.  Songs written before World War I, but she was never recorded until the mid-'50s.  That's probably splitting hairs, though.  Despite network and superstation radio, and even network television by this time, pop culture permeation still wasn't all that instantaneous, and certainly not like it is now.  But her style is definitely reminiscent and in the vein of late-40's and early-'50s folk.  So, no quibbles on this allocation, and her induction is what I describe as "out of the blue, out of the park."  Fantastic job, Rock Hall.

The other Early Influence inductee is slightly more amusing and questionable.  I actually have mixed feelings about the induction of Harry Belafonte as an Early Influence, but I also freely admit not knowing nearly enough.  Harry, interestingly, did record in the early '50s, doing folk and pop songs, but he is of course best known for his calypso contributions.  I do know he also delved into world music, but his calypso records are of course his legacy.  I am curious about the influence calypso has had on the evolution of rock and roll.  If calypso is part of the recipe for reggae, then okay; however, the reason my feelings are mixed about this induction is because I once heard that in the late '50s, so-called experts of the entertainment industry predicted that rock and roll was just a fad, would die out, and be replaced by a calypso fad, possibly on the popularity of Belafonte's records.  Since calypso was being juxtaposed as adversarial, or possibly even promoted as the victor over rock and roll, it feels a little odd to enshrine its biggest name.  But then again, the story may not be true, and even if it were, maybe Harry didn't agree with those experts and respected the music.  Certainly enough to induct Public Enemy in 2013.  I'm eager to learn more though.  I want to know more about how his music has influenced rock and roll musicians.  What I sincerely hope is NOT the case, however, is that he is being inducted as an Early Influence because of his political activism, and that he just happened to also be a musician.  If he's being inducted for hobnobbing with rock and rollers at events and rallies for political activism, then no, he shouldn't be getting inducted.  Rock and roll is first and foremost a form of music, and while Sykes wants to redefine it as the music of youth culture, or music with an attitude, to borrow from Chuck D, it's still music foremost.  It's not a political agenda that uses a musical milieu.  There are plenty of inducted rock acts that weren't political in their music, and plenty of small-time acts that make political music that are not worthy of enshrinement.  If Belafonte's induction is primarily about his political music, fine.  If it's about his political activism, not fine.  Then you may as well induct Matt Taibbi as a Non-Performer for all his left-wing articles that just happened to be published in a magazine somewhat focused on rock and roll, and rock and roll culture.  And the day THAT happens is the day I stop giving every inductee a Song Of Proof.

Speaking of Non-Performer inductees who may not deserve a Song Of Proof, lawyer Alan Grubman is getting inducted because he is Bruce Springsteen's lawyer.  I mean, I thought the justifications for Landau, Azoff, and maybe also Avant were stretching it somewhat, but this one.... uffda.  I even read some of the blurb on him on the Rock Hall website.  They used the buzzwords in all the wrong ways.  When I read that he liked to be "creative" and "innovative" when creating contracts for his clients, I made that face that says, "I would laugh if not for the abject horror of what I just witnessed."  This is clearly about his work in founding this institution that is our collective hobby.  But an induction?  No no no no no.  This is not someone you induct into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame; at best, you induct him into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Hall Of Fame.  Redundancy intended and necessary.  In other words, give him a plaque at the ceremony thanking him for all his work in the Foundation, just like they did for Paul Shaffer years ago, without actually inducting him.  The ceremony is put on by the Foundation, so if they want to take a moment to pull back the curtain and acknowledge the people who make the evening possible, that's all well and good.  But as so many have said, rock and roll doesn't need a hall of fame to be valid, so inducting him for his work in the foundation is invalid.  And unless he's clearing samples, or pioneering contract boilerplates that help artists retain their rights, he's not contributing to the perpetuation and evolution of rock and roll.  Get that bum out of here.  They'll really need to sell me with his video package at the ceremony.

But let's end our inductee review on a happy note.  Hurray for Sylvia Robinson getting in!  Finally a woman inducted as a Non-Performer without being part of a duo with a one-time husband.  And first woman of color inducted in this category.  This is huge for representation, but also huge for hip-hop.  She's the first Non-Performer inductee whose most notable achievements were in the advancement of hip-hop and rap.  Yes, there have been label executives who signed hip-hop acts, but the first label to have major success with the style, and founded to promote and elevate hip-hop?  That is monumental.  And the first inducted Non-Performer whose contributions to hip-hop headline their resume is (will be) Sylvia Robinson.  Not Rick Rubin, though hopefully he'll be in too.  Nor is it Dr. Dre, another good selection.  It's Sylvia Robinson.  A huge moment for the Hall watching community that has been pushing for her.  You did well, and hopefully more will follow.  

So, a mostly cool class, no?  Yes.  The inductees are worth celebrating, but it worries me where their tributaries lead.  There's some cognitive dissonance, because the voting bloc seems to act independently and almost counter to the will of the NomComm, and yet we still say "the Hall" appears to be acting a certain way.  To a degree, it doesn't feel like these inductees were chosen for their musical contributions.  Some feel like the NomComm said, "Okay, who's trending right now that is also eligible?"  That seems to be how we got Dolly Parton and Dionne Warwick on the ballot, and right now, seems to bode well for Kate Bush to return.  It seems to also explain Fela Kuti's return this year.  It's about the names who will sell tickets.  It's about what's cool to think, like, and believe. It's about who also makes them look good, as well as who their friends are.  But as much as we--and they--love the music, that doesn't seem to be what it's about.  I'm sure that feeling will pass by the time the ceremony comes though, and certainly by the time the next ballot rolls around.  But I'm nowhere near ready to start predicting that ballot, so don't ask.  Time to just enjoy the Class Of 2022 for now. Happy inductions everyone.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Making The Predictions: The Class Of 2022

 And now, the end is near, and so I make my end predictions.  My friends, I seed them all, breaking down odds with several sections.  Merits and politics, their sounds and lanes on alleg'd highways.  But more, much more than this, I seed them my way.

And yet, as I type this, a lot of people have agreed with me in some eerily similar ways.  I love it though, and I'm here for it.  It does make me feel a little less of an outlier at times.  But with this particular ballot, and the hand that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame played last year, there are all sorts of caveats to be had, and we'll get to those after I finish planting my seeds in a row.  As a reminder, all odds are arbitrary and don't exactly follow the rules and bylaws that statistical analysis ought.  I'm a rebel like that.  Let's get planting.


1. EMINEM

White rapper, megastar of the early 21st century.  Newly eligible.

Why he might make it:  There's a lot of feeling of inevitability with this man.  This is a name the Hall wants and is not wont to wait to enshrine.  He has mass appeal, massive sales, critical acclaim, and has shown up to the Hall, for the Hall in the past, including last year.

Why he might not:  He's... problematic.  His history and his lyrics are a bit unsettling at times, and reflect some seriously ugly thoughts that some voters would rather keep buried.  Calling him the Ted Nugent of rap might be going too far, since Eminem's talent is unquestionable, but the way he uses that talent sometimes falls short of the ideal that might have been used to describe Camelot, or even a decent human being.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  Other superstar rappers like 50 Cent will be eligible soon.  Also, the Hall may avail themselves to reach back a couple years and finally nominate Outkast.

Biggest threats:  A Tribe Called Quest is the direct hip-hop competition, and Beck is the other artistic soloist from the same era that gets love from critics and fans alike.

In the end:  This isn't entirely a foregone conclusion, but it sure feels like it at times.  And maybe some just won't vote for him because they figure he doesn't need their vote.  But those who are thinking about the broadcast or otherwise chasing the bottom line will make sure the box is checked for him.  Odds of induction: 90%


2. DURAN DURAN

New-wave/synth-rock band, most popular during the 1980s.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  This is a band with massive popularity, longevity, and represents the era that John Sykes is definitely looking to maximize right now: the golden age of MTV.  

Why they might not:  The critics that like them now are either doing so in hindsight, or weren't around when Duran Duran was at the height of their popularity.  Additionally, some still dismiss them as being a pretty boy band, and not serious.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  Stylistically, there aren't too many who even come close to being as good as Duran Duran, let alone as popular.  Simple Minds have been "previously considered," so that's about the only one of their contemporaries I'd list.

Biggest threats:  Eurythmics and Devo both occupy the new-wave space, and Pat Benatar is an important figure from the early days of MTV.  Kate Bush is also an innovator from that time.

In the end:  Topping the fan vote usually bodes well, not as a guarantee so much, but as an indicator, a weather vane, maybe.  The smart money is still on them.  Odds of induction:  80%


3. PAT BENATAR

Female rock star, nominated with her husband and guitarist, Neil Giraldo.  Second-time nominee, seeded #1 for the Class Of 2020.  Oops.

Why she might make it:  She appeals to those who want more women in the Hall, as well as those with a myopic definition of rock and roll that follows the traditions of acts like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Also, she's the most popular (commercially charted) act of the "classic rock" ilk on this ballot; so the lane appears to be somewhat clear for her.

Why she might not:  Somehow she missed last time.  Whatever reasons she wasn't voted for last time could resurface.  Those with the aforementioned myopic definition sometimes want to limit it to full band units, i.e. those with at least a drummer and bassist, too.  Solo performers need not apply, in their opinion.  

Whom she'd pave the way for:  The Bangles could follow her lead.  It's also a bit of a stretch, but it could lead to Suzi Quatro, or even Siouxsie And The Banshees.

Biggest threats:  Judas Priest is the only other nominee that could comfortably be called "classic rock," and Eurythmics include a famous and fierce front femme from the '80s.

In the end:  It simply may have been too crowded a field last time, where Pat got lost in the shuffle.  Less crowded now, and even Eddie Trunk voted for her.  Things look a lot better this time for her.  Not a lock by any stretch though.  Odds of induction:  70%


4. CARLY SIMON

Singer/songwriter most prominent during the '70s.  First-time nominee.

Why she might make it:  She created one of the most iconic songs from the entire decade of the 1970s.  She is also a singer/songwriter in the classic connotation that also includes such inductees as Cat Stevens, Carole King, and James Taylor.  

Why she might not:  A lot of the singer/songwriter styles of that era got co-opted by the Easy Listening format, an evolution of the Middle Of the Road format, whose artists and programmers often opposed rock and roll in its early days.  At least one voter has said they wouldn't vote for any iteration of Middle Of the Road music, which they believe Carly's catalog to largely be.  Additionally, retrospective radio formats have done a poor job of preserving her legacy beyond a single song.  If your parents didn't love Carly, you probably only know one or two... maybe three songs.

Whom she'd pave the way for:  If gender of your singer/songwriters doesn't matter, then she could pave the way for another singer/songwriter who, despite having a substantial career, is largely remembered for one song that has a lot of speculation about its meaning... like Don McLean.  Warren Zevon might also fall into that very category.  She could also open the door for other singer/songwriters like Jim Croce, Nick Drake, or women like Roberta Flack or even Helen Reddy.

Biggest threats: Dionne Warwick and Lionel Richie are the other two artists whose catalogs have that soft rock appeal, and are the most similar.  Dolly Parton might have been a factor, and Kate Bush could also be a detractor.

In the end:  It doesn't feel as certain as the others, but I have a hunch that the power of "You're So Vain" will grab a lot of the older living inductees who liked her music.  And enough of the critics to give her the edge over Richie or Warwick.  Odds of induction:  60%


5. JUDAS PRIEST

Heavy metal band.  Third-time nominee.  Seeded #5 for 2018, and also #5 for 2020.

Why they might make it:
  They're one of the most important heavy metal acts of all time, let alone those not yet in the Hall.  Innovative, influential in both sound and image, they've got the resume for induction.

Why they might not:  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has been less than on the ball when it comes to inducting heavy metal acts.  Additionally, on a cursory, Americentric level, this band is usually considered a one-trick pony.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  Metal, metal metal.  Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Pantera, Megadeth.  All of these could benefit from a Judas Priest induction.

Biggest threats:  Pat Benatar is the other classic rock act, and Rage Against The Machine is the other hard rock band, the closest to metal on the ballot after them.  Punk rock bands the MC5 and New York Dolls might steal votes too.

In the end:  This is the third time I've seeded Judas Priest at #5, and I'll be honest, this time it REALLY feels like a gamble.  However, the last two times, they were on ballots that were really congested with other bands that even if not metal, did occupy a similar space and share a common audience.  That's not really the case this year.  And "purists" like Eddie Trunk will have absolutely no quibble with voting for both Pat Benatar and Judas Priest, and maybe Rage Against The Machine too, and giving the middle finger to other subgenres represented on the ballot.  It's not like catching the southbound express lane just past Northgate at 10:30 in the morning, but it's about as opportune a chance as this metal act is going to have.  And this time, I think it's going to happen?  Odds of induction:  52%


6. DOLLY PARTON

Country music legend with decades of relevance.  First-time nominee.

Why she might make it:  She's a national treasure.  Her music is quality, and proof that quality really knows no genre boundaries.  She's also been influential on a multitude of artists across different genres, including the more traditional rock scape.

Why she might not:  Because she asked people not to vote for her, and people are willing to do as she asks, especially because she was so polite and gracious with her request.  Additionally, anyone with even an iota of cynicism can smell the disingenuity of the Hall on this one.  Dolly's name will sell tickets to the induction ceremony.  She's just that well-loved, and the Hall's making a grab for the cash.  Cynics may not want to let that fly, and her request gives them a perfect out.

Whom she'd pave the way for:  She'd bust the door wide open for country acts that were influential on rock and roll music.  Willie Nelson has been talked about for years as being worthy of induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  I'd also include Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris as artists who could get some looks.  Waylon Jennings too, and let's add Hank Williams, Jr., because why not?

Biggest threats:  Herself.  But for the purposes of the exercise, let's include friendly artists like Dionne Warwick and Carly Simon.  And let's add Fela Kuti, another artist whose music some would balk at calling part of the rock and roll landscape, but is nevertheless very deserving.

In the end:  This one is the biggest wild card here.  How many got their votes in before Dolly issued her statement?  How many would have voted for her?  I think Dolly's attempted withdrawal created enough initial confusion to present the opportunity for the Hall to induct her in the Award For Musical Excellence category in case she doesn't get enough votes.  Her most recent statement that she would graciously accept the award if voted in, made on the day the votes were due, further gives the Hall license to induct her this way, with the full knowledge that she'll be gracious about the award, and they can say that in good conscience, they believed she would've gotten the votes, so they decided to induct her.  Besides, country artists who may not consider themselves rock is exactly one of the things this category was reimagined to accommodate, or so they would probably claim.  Her two statements, and their timing, created a situation tailor-made for the Hall to induct her one way or another, and have there be absolutely no controversy about it.  She's getting in this year.  I'm about as certain of that as I am of Eminem getting in.  Which category?  There, I'm not sure.  It's the big question mark.  So for the Performer category.... Odds of induction:  50%


7. EURYTHMICS

English new-wave/synth-pop duo.  Second-time nominee, seeded #11 for 2018.
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Why they might make it:  Their sound is infectious and one of those that might contend for epitomizing the entire decade of the 1980s.  Additionally, Annie Lennox as both a musician and a public figure for femininity and feminism, makes them a formidable contender.  Dave Stewart's production genius and industry connections help, too.

Why they might not: New-wave and synth-pop are not having an easy time making inroads.  The Cars took three tries, same with Depeche Mode, and we're just now getting to Duran Duran, too.  There's some dragging of the feet in this subgenre from both the NomComm and the voters.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  I'd expect Annie to break down the door for more women.  Maybe we could finally push through Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Estefan And The Miami Sound Machine, as well as more synth-driven acts like the Pet Shop Boys.

Biggest threats:  Duran Duran is the most obvious competition.  Followed by Devo.  And Kate Bush.  Powerful women of the '80s also include Pat Benatar and Dolly Parton.

In the end:  They've got a fighting chance.  With the Dolly situation being what it is, they could be the sixth Performer inductee, with Dolly getting inducted in AME.  I don't think there'll be seven, but if so, it's them.  Sadly, I don't see any People Of Color getting inducted in the Performer category this year.  I hope I'm wrong, but I'm drawing the final line here.  And maybe not even them.  Odds of induction:  49%


8. LIONEL RICHIE

R&B legend, formerly of the Commodores, with a major solo career in the '80s and '90s.  First-time nominee.

Why he might make it:  Currently on the Hall's radar for appearing at last year's induction ceremony and inducting Clarence Avant.  He's a superstar of the 1980s whose reach extends slightly into the country community, and he retains relevance as an American Idol judge.

Why he might not:  Since the start of the new millennium, the Hall has a less than stellar track record with any kind of R&B, particularly R&B that isn't rap or hip-hop.  They also don't have a great track record with smooth, easy listening that isn't from a classic '70s singer/songwriter.  Additionally, some worry that a Lionel induction will instantly terminate any chance of induction for Lionel's group, the Commodores.  They believe both deserve induction, but that if the solo act goes first, the group will be left out in the cold.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  Hopefully, it would lead to the Commodores being inducted as a group later on.  Beyond that, maybe big names in smooth soul like Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White, or fellow Motown act Boyz II Men.

Biggest threats:  Carly Simon and Dionne Warwick also have an easy listening style, while those who want it a little funkier may opt for Fela Kuti.  Or if it's a decade thing, Eurythmics and Duran Duran are also popular picks from the '80s.

In the end:  He's a strong contender, no question about it.  I went back and forth on this one.  Oh boy, did I.  So, I'm not counting him out, but not picking him to get in either.  Odds of induction:  45%


9. BECK

Indie superstar from the '90s.  First-time nominee.

Why he might make it:  He's a critical darling, who has maintained a level of commercial success too.  He also doesn't have too much direct competition.  He almost seems like an artist groomed to get inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Why he might not:  He had major success with "Loser" but has never been able to duplicate that level of mainstream success.  While I just said he has maintained a level of commercial success, that level has been middling at best, in terms of singles, one of the perils of having that indie sound.  He also just hasn't risen to the top of the conversation much this cycle.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  This is one that's truly out of my element.  I'm not sure whom else he'd pave the way for, at least those who have a realistic chance of being part of the conversation.  Gorillaz is the only one I can point to at the moment.

Biggest threats:  Eminem is the big name for those who want a '90s star.  Rage Against The Machine might take away from him as well, as could artistic, musical nomad Kate Bush.

In the end:  I initially had him in my top five.  But in addition to him just not coming up in the discussion much, Dolly's withdrawal attempt also gave a better chance to some other artists, and Beck wasn't one of them.  He sank while others had a newly increased chance.  And that feels like where we are with him.  Odds of induction:  40%


10. DIONNE WARWICK

Female pop singer with a decades-spanning career.  Second-time nominee, seeded #7 for 2021.

Why she might make it:  She has a lengthy career, has worked with a lot of big names, and is having a huge resurgence in popularity due to Twitter.  The Hall does like to strike while the iron is hot.

Why she might not:  Most of her big hits were either hits on the Adult Contemporary charts, or could have been.  Songs she made popular could have fit very comfortably on The Lawrence Welk Show back in the '60s, which is to say some have trouble considering her all that "rock and roll."  For crying out loud, even Perry Como covered "That's What Friends Are For."

Whom she'd pave the way for:  An induction for Warwick would probably lead to the induction of the songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach & Hal David in the Non-Performer category.  Because of her collaboration, she could help the Spinners get nominated again, or maybe get nominations for other women of the earlier years, like Connie Francis.

Biggest threats:  Carly Simon and Lionel Richie are the most direct competition, in my opinion.  Popular women artists Pat Benatar and Eurythmics could also steal some votes.

In the end:  From the votes that we know have been cast, she's got a pretty good shot.  And the older inductees may vote for her as a name they recognize.  I just don't think it'll quite be enough.  Odds of induction:  37.5%


11. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

Hip-hop act from the early '90s.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  They're pioneers of a certain style of hip-hop, artistic, dare I say literate, and the membership formed a kind of synergy, resulting in some amazing beats and jams.

Why they might not:  Very little name recognition.  And if you've heard of them, you still maybe can't name a single song by them.  Not a steady presence in the pop charts, and thus, didn't break as big as some other names on the ballot.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  An induction for this group could open the doors for De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, and a return nomination for Eric B. And Rakim.

Biggest threats:  Eminem is the bigger rap name on the ballot that more people will recognize.  Rage Against The Machine and Beck both had some rap elements to their songs and were from the same decade, so they also could steal votes.

In the end:  Again, the sample we have is very promising for A Tribe Called Quest, but it's also very heavily slanted and niche.  Like when the early polls in an otherwise red state show the Democratic candidate in an early lead.  There's some initial surprise, followed by the realization that there are many more precincts to report yet.  If we couldn't have two rap inductees in the Performer category when Public Enemy and N.W.A. were on the ballot, it's definitely not happening here either.  Odds of induction:  35%


12. FELA KUTI

Afrobeat pioneer.  Second-time nominee, seeded #14 for 2021.

Why he might make it:  One thing that a nomination for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will do, and that the Hall does right in this regard, is bring greater awareness to great artists that the general populace is unfamiliar with.  The curiosity of the name has sparked curiosity of the music, and the interest has been sparked in many.

Why he might not:  Aaaanndd there have been many others who have dug in their heels, doubled down on the willful ignorance, insisting being big in the U.S. is the bar to clear.  What percentage of those people are in the voting bloc may be higher than we wish to acknowledge. He just has almost no name recognition in the States.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  A whole continent of musical greatness awaits.  The most likely would probably be Yassou N'Dour, who has worked with a few names well-known to the English-speaking world, like Peter Gabriel.  King Sunny Ade and Sun Ra could get some recognition as well.

Biggest threats:  His own obscurity in the United States.  For the sake of what this heading is supposed to mean, Rage Against The Machine released a lot of political music, and A Tribe Called Quest is probably the next funkiest artist on the ballot.

In the end:  When Fela Kuti returned to the ballot this year, the Hall was probably expecting a lot of the same enthusiasm to be reflected in the fan ballot.  And then the nation of Nigeria rose up on Twitter and gave the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame the middle finger.  "Fool me once, shame on you, Rock Hall," seemed to be the consensus opinion, and the Hall looked pretty bad for it, for their tactics which are business-as-usual in North America, but apparently culturally unacceptable for them.  Especially the spam email they kept getting hit with.  I think there's a real chance that the Hall will induct Fela Kuti in Award For Musical Excellence as a way to extend an olive branch without actually making an apology to fans of Fela from far away.  Just don't tell those fans that Award For Musical Excellence isn't the same as a Performer induction, that it's not the same honor, despite how much John Sykes insists it is and shovels it into the fire.  Afrobeat isn't getting the votes though, so here... Odds of induction:  33.33%


13. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Politically charged nu metal band.  Fourth nomination, seeded #8 for 2018, #11 for 2019, and #13 for 2021.

Why they might make it:  The insider nature of the Hall bodes very well for this band, with guitarist Tom Morello being on the Nominating Committee.  Additionally, the Hall loves politically charged music, and they were that.  They were also innovative in their sound.

Why they might not:  They are a band you know the name of, and may even relate to the ethos of the name itself, but you might not know any of their actual songs.  

Whom they'd pave the way for:  Getting this band in could refocus efforts to other hard bands of the era, particularly grunge, and garner a return nomination for Soundgarden, and maybe a nomination for Alice In Chains.

Biggest threats:  Judas Priest is the most obvious competitor.  Pat Benatar is a hard-edged rocker that could steal votes as well.  And if the voters want politically charged music that comes from a more authentic place, they might throw their votes to Fela Kuti instead.  And don't ignore the potential for early punk rock like the MC5 and New York Dolls.

In the end:  They're starting to become old hat, but it's obvious they're not going away, they're going in.  Just not this time.. Odds of induction: 30%


14. DEVO

Post-punk, art-rock band from Ohio.  Third nomination, seeded dead last at #15 for 2019, and #9 for 2021.

Why they might make it:  The Hall loves to reward artistic creativity, and these guys had it.  Their music was fun but powerful, they had a gimmick, and they are innovators.

Why they might not:  They might be a little too far out there for some, and a one-trick pony to others.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  They might pave the way for an avant-garde act like They Might Be Giants to get inducted.  Their music is fun at parties too, so maybe acts like the B-52's or Violent Femmes.

Biggest threats:  Duran Duran and Eurythmics occupy a similar sonic space, and Kate Bush is also rather high art music, like them.

In the end:  This is one of those acts that, if and when they do get in, it'll be to everyone's surprise.  They're a band that we can point to with what's wrong with the induction process, allowing voters to only vote for five, and only allowing five to seven Performer inductees per year.  Or just point to any "categoried" inductee that could/should be a Performer.  In any event, they're not getting in this time.  Odds of induction:  25%


15. THE NEW YORK DOLLS

Early punk-rock band.  Third nomination, unseeded their first nomination, seeded #15 for 2021.

Why they might make it:  They were highly innovative and influential, both in terms of their music and their image, and the critics loved them.

Why they might not:  Outside a few of the big names, punk rock really isn't having an easy time getting into the Hall.  Additionally, they really never had major commercial success, and their circle of influence attenuates sharply the further you get from New York City.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  They were also progenitors of glam in a way, so maybe the Sweet gets looked at?  Or maybe just punk rock acts like the Dead Kennedys.

Biggest threats:  The MC5 are the most obvious and direct competition.  Judas Priest is there for those who'd rather have metal than punk.  Pat Benatar and Rage Against The Machine are also threats to them.

In the end:  This is just the third nomination for the New York Dolls, but their return last year was quite unexpected.  This will be interesting to watch and see how much patience the Hall and certain members of the Nominating Committee actually have.  I think there's a very real shot for them to be inducted in Early Influence this year, despite my despisal for this type of shenanigans.  But with only three nominations, maybe the Hall isn't ready to do that to them yet.  We'll know shortly.  Meanwhile... Odds of induction:  20%


16. KATE BUSH

Experimental British musician.  Third nomination, seeded #17 (but not dead last) for 2018, and dead last at #16 for 2021.

Why she might make it:  The Hall loves the artistic, experimental musicians, and Kate is most definitely that and then some.  Additionally, the inductions of Roxy Music and T. Rex show that the Americentric bias in the ranks of the voting bloc is starting to erode and crumble.  Lastly, remembering how the ceremony went last year, they could easily give her the Todd Rundgren treatment, with a pre-recorded acceptance speech from Kate, much like Tina Turner did, and get her induction over quickly and painlessly, thereby freeing up more room.

Why she might not:  There's still a strong Americentric presence in the Hall, and artists who work on their own timeline with no deadlines have trouble staying in the spotlight.  Not that she coveted it, but we're discussing what helps and what hurts getting into the Hall.

Whom she'd pave the way for:  Tori Amos is the most direct descendant of Kate Bush, stylistically, and thus would benefit the most.  Bjork is another artist in that vein who could get some consideration.

Biggest threats:  She's got competition from many directions.  Devo, Eurythmics, Duran Duran, and Pat Benatar all come from the formative days of MTV like Kate; Carly Simon, Dolly Parton, and Dionne Warwick are also strong female presences that could be competition; and Beck is a fellow iconoclast that occupies a similar, albeit not parallel, space as her.

In the end:  Much like Beck, Kate Bush seemed to have fallen out of the discussion for awhile, until she rebounded back into it somehow.  Too little too late though, in my opinion.  Odds of induction:  15%


17. THE MC5

Hard-rocking proto-punk band from Michigan.  Sixth nomination.  Their first nomination for 2003 predates my seeding system, seeded #12 in 2017, #14 for both 2018 and 2019, and #15 for 2020.

Why they might make it:  They're an extremely innovative and influential band, helping to give rise to punk rock as a subgenre of rock and roll.

Why they might not:  They just don't have the name recognition.  They're not well-known enough to stand out above some of the other names.  Also, with Kraftwerk having been made an Early Influence inductee, how much more so the MC5?  The ballot fatigue makes it look like this will happen.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  There are some punk or hardcore punk acts that could get nominated, like Black Flag, or nominated again, like Bad Brains.

Biggest threats:  The New York Dolls, Judas Priest, Pat Benatar, and Rage Against The Machine are the most like the MC5 in terms of sound.

In the end:  At this point, y'all know how much I abhor the redefinition so they can jury-rig a solution without addressing the main problem of only allowing voters to vote for five and only inducting five to seven Performer inductees.  Drum beaten, horse dead.  Yadda yadda yadda.  In the current reality that makes me roll my eyes, it's been declared inevitable by those hip to the Rock Hall Ruse that this group will be called an "Early Influence."  Abandon all hope of a Performer induction.  Odds of induction: 10%


And with that, we have sown the seeds, but not sewn up the discussion.  My predictions run pretty much the same as Nick Bambach's, which shouldn't be too surprising, since I believe both of us nailed all six Performer inductees last year.  Anyway, this is just a prediction and not a preference.  I'd honestly be just as happy to be wrong as I would to be right, happier in fact.  Sadly, with a White rapper on the ballot, I think that may allow the Rock Hall voters to represent music predominantly made by African-American artists without actually voting for any African-American artists.  It's a thready, tenuous trend I've been noticing, and one that I can only articulate very clumsily, so I won't try to expound on it.  But the result is, I'm predicting no People Of Color to get in this year as a Performer.  

As for the other categories, the Non-Performer category is anyone's guess, but if used, it'll be someone with their hooks in the Hall in some way, shape, form, or fashion.  Years ago,  Roger Friedman at Fox News claimed to have uncovered a collusion of sorts to induct one person one year (I think it was David Geffen in 2010), and then Doug Morris the next year.  The first one he predicted did get in, but Doug Morris still hasn't.  It wouldn't be a surprise if he did at some point, especially after Clarence Avant got in.  But as for the other two categories, we could see them used to remove a few more names off this year's ballot that don't get the votes  As mentioned above, I think there's a strong possibility for the MC5 and New York Dolls to get the Early Influence treatment.  I really hope not, but at this point, it feels like holding back the tide with a broom.  And in the Award For Musical Excellence category, there's a good chance we could see Dolly Parton inducted there, after all the hubbub and confusion her attempt to withdraw caused.  And as mentioned before, I also think it's possible for Fela Kuti to get in this way this year as a half-hearted and half-assed peace offering to the nation of Nigeria after last year's disappointment, which honestly is little more than a failure to communicate the reality as opposed to what they believed.  And to bring up a name that we quickly noticed wasn't nominated, agreed would get an Award For Musical Excellence induction this time, and stopped talking about for the past three months, I also suspect we will see Chaka Khan inducted this year in this category.  Pat Benatar is the one name from the list of inductee hopefuls that I created back in 2004 who is on the ballot this year, but if Chaka gets in, her name was on that list as well, so hopefully one of those two will extend my streak.  We'll know soon enough.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Listening And Liking The 2022 Nominees

 Time now to take a quick look at the nominees for the Class Of 2022 in terms of how much I enjoy listening to them.  Some I really enjoyed, some I can only enjoy when I'm in the right mood or doing something as opposed to something else.  It's not the most objective way to be subjective, but I have a blue-collar life to live that includes dozing off in my recliner if I try to relax.  But the uptick of this ballot is this: whatever artist I was diving into that day was my favorite.  Mostly.  Some days were just rough though.  Even so, the music is always a highlight, and that's why I do this.  I love music, these nominations give me both an excuse and a helpful direction to go in when expanding my horizons, and it's great discussion fodder. 


The ballot-filling episodes of "Who Cares About The Rock Hall" show that it certainly is often a combination of merit and personal tastes.  And those that score high in both regards get the checkmark.  Usually.  The Dolly Parton situation notwithstanding.  So let's rank the artists by how much I enjoy them, list a favorite song, and average out the ranks.


1. Eminem

His more immature songs are sometimes the epitome of a haunted house with a very cheery paintjob on the exterior.  Some of his hooks and samples are so bouncy and catchy, it's hard to take the lyrical horror seriously, like an eight-year old boy spouting things he doesn't actually understand.  Although I gotta admit, I do think the line "God sent me to piss the world off" is pretty funny.  I think we all have days when we feel that is our cosmic purpose in this creation.

Favorite song: "We Made You"
Merits rank: 8
Average of ranks: 4.5


2. Dolly Parton

I once read a Cracked.com article that included the statement, "Nobody doesn't like Johnny Cash."  There are those who don't like Elvis.  Some who don't like the Beatles.  Some who don't like U2.  Crazy as it sounds, some who don't like the Four Seasons.  I myself have a slight Led Zeppelin allergy.  But nobody doesn't like Johnny Cash.  The same can be said about Dolly Parton, pretty much.  You don't have to like every song, but you get to.  Heck, she's even enough to have Tennessee made the spokesman for the Southern States in one of comedian Ben Brainard's videos.

Favorite song: "Tennessee Homesick Blues"
Merits rank: 1
Average of ranks: 1.5 


3. Devo

I don't love every song, especially their covers of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" or "Working In A Coal Mine," but admitting to not liking those two songs seems sacrilegious to the Devo fans.  But the weirdness and reimagination is part of their overall charm.

Favorite song: "March On"
Merits rank:  16
Average of ranks:  9.5 


4. Pat Benatar

It's a little tricky.  I like a lot of her songs, and I don't like a few of them.  And ones I don't like are some of the big crowd pleasers.  But overall, I like her music.

Favorite song: "All Fired Up"
Merits rank:  9
Average of ranks:  6.5


5. Beck

I'm not a huge indie guy, but Beck certainly knows how to make it interesting.  Even some of the less celebrated stuff was pleasant to listen to.  And hey, the episode of Futurama he was on was pretty awesome.

Favorite song:  "Mixed Bizness"
Merits rank: 4
Average of ranks:  4.5


6. Eurythmics

I have to admit, if you're basing it off of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" or "Here Comes The Rain Again," you really haven't listened to their music.  This is an artist I like a lot more than my work on Retro Weekends at the lite rock station would have had me believe.  And big thanks to Nick Bambach for mentioning my favorite song by them among the playlist tracks on his "Rock In Retrospect" podcast.

Favorite song:  "When Tomorrow Comes"
Merits rank:  10
Average of ranks:  8


7. Judas Priest

Admittedly, my first day of binge-listening was a disaster.  I think I may have even exited Spotify and decided to socialize with my coworkers, to their chagrin.  But we all have bad days.  The second day went a lot better, as did the third, as evidenced by their ranking this high.

Favorite song:  "Nightcrawler"
Merits rank:  5
Average of ranks:  6


8. Duran Duran

Duran Duran is a group that my ability to appreciate was badly damaged during my fast food days by off-key coworkers who changed all the lyrics to be about either boobs or weed.  And not even cleverly.  Haphazardly, not even trying to make them rhyme,  Outright butchery.  Fortunately, this band's quality of musicianship is good enough to eventually overcome that.  

Favorite song:  "Ordinary World"
Merits rank:  3
Average of ranks:  5.5


9.  Lionel Richie

Of the nominees whose catalogs might possibly be deemed "too schmaltzy," Lionel's is the one I enjoyed the most.  I could definitely hear some of the country flavors that were spoken of with regards to his solo work, but there were also some rhythmic underpinnings--both kept the experience of diving into his solo work from being too tedious.  Only tedious thing was hitting "Skip" on the Commondores' songs that were thrown into the mix.  Nothing against them, but they're not the nominee.

Favorite song:  "Angel"
Merits rank:  12
Average of ranks:  10.5


10. New York Dolls

This is not really music that works well while I'm working.  But while driving, they're a lot more fun to listen to.  However, the later stuff is not as good, in my opinion, partly because the lead singer is harder to understand on those later albums.

Favorite song:  "Personality Crisis"
Merits rank:  13
Average of ranks:  11.5


11. The MC5

This band actually drops a bit, mainly because Spotify kept shoving live albums (besides the first one) and Wayne Kramer MC50 tracks down my ears.  I get the catalog is limited, but this was just bad work by the algorithms.  Fortunately, I remembered and enjoyed a lot of the albums' tracks from the previous years' research.

Favorite song:  "American Ruse"
Merits rank:  17
Average of ranks:  14


12. Carly Simon

I have to admit, her albums of standards covers did next to nothing for me.  A few of the songs were pretty cool, but I almost got more excited when the songs from the Winnie-The-Pooh movies would come up.  Her originals are pretty solid though.  No denying that.

Favorite song:  "You're So Vain"
Merits rank:  15
Average of ranks:  13.5


13. Fela Kuti

As  I said last year, it's pretty much a cultural thing.  Enjoy the first few minutes of the introductory groove, mind wanders until the vocals kick in, struggle to understand the words with his African accent.  It's not a good system, and I do try to do better.  

Favorite song:  "It's Highlife Time"
Merits rank:  2
Average of ranks:  7.5


14. Kate Bush

If you want a working definition of "inconsistent," look no further.  Kate Bush ranked #4 on the personal taste list last year and has dropped below artists she was higher than last year.  I really can't explain it.  Last year, I guess I was really into the musical theatre feel of her music, and this year, not.  I like musical theatre, and her voice is beautiful.  But sometimes I just got annoyed listening to her.  I really don't know what to tell you or what happened.  Maybe the stress at work ruined her for me.  Maybe I'm just getting older and crankier.  Anyone's guess.

Favorite song:  "Love And Anger"
Merits rank:  14
Average of ranks:  14


15. Dionne Warwick

My appreciation for the Bacharach/David tunes that could easily have fit in the setlist for The Lawrence Welk Show has not grown.  (And I like The Lawrence Welk Show, by the way.)  My appreciation for her '70s songs though, has not diminished. So it balances out.

Favorite song:  "Once You Hit The Road"
Merits rank:  11
Average of ranks:  13


16. Rage Against The Machine

This has been a suprisingly pleasant listening experinece this year.  The stress of the workplace that may have hindered Kate Bush makes this group a lot of fun this time around, despite not really making any ground in relative rankings.  That said, I also feel the songs tend to be interchangeable to the point where if they did get inducted, they could just do a big-ass medley and no one would notice, like cobbling together segments from a bunch of James Swearingen's old compositions  Seriously, I have trouble matching Zach De La Rocha's repeated hooks and lines to the correct songs they come from.  

Favorite song:  "People Of The Sun"
Merits rank:  7
Average of ranks:  11.5


17.  A Tribe Called Quest

They're at the bottom of the list because an hour after listening to them, I can't audiate a single song of theirs, except the hook, "Can I kick it?  Yes you can!"  I'm listening to this group now while typing this entry, and I forgot that "Can I Kick It" sampled "Walk On The Wild Side."  Q-Tip's voice is like Teflon to me; nothing he says sticks in my brain.  I feel I gotta take responsibility for this one.  This is not an act to listen to while at work, or even casually.  You have to be able to take time and sit with it while you listen.  And if the COVID results I'm currently waiting on are positive, I'll at least have the time to do that for a few days.  As it is now, it's just not sticking in my brain, and I feel it's only fair then to place them at the bottom.

Favorite song:  "Can I Kick It"
Merits rank:  6
Average of ranks:  11.5


So by looking at the average ranks given, they average out and rank thus:

1. Dolly Parton
2. Beck
2. Eminem
4. Duran Duran
5. Judas Priest

6. Pat Benatar
7. Fela Kuti
8. Eurythmics
9. Devo
10. Lionel Richie
11. New York Dolls
11. Rage Against The Machine
11. A Tribe Called Quest
14. Dionne Warwick
15. Carly Simon
16. Kate Bush
16. The MC5


Looking at the top five averages, it stands to reason that my fan vote should be going to Beck, Duran Duran, Eminem, Judas Priest, and Dolly Parton.  And that's sixty percent accurate.  As a native Michigander, Eminem and the MC5 are on my ballot.  Pat Benatar is the only nominee who, if inducted, would extend my streak of getting names off my aggregate list of hopefuls that I wrote back 2004, before I really understood the Hall.  So, she gets my vote.  Judas Priest gets checked, because let's get the heavy metal in for crying out loud.  And the last vote is going to Dolly Parton.  I like Dolly Parton, but I don't worship and obey her blindly.  She deserves it, and the Hall absolutely makes room for artists who mostly stay in the lane of a parent genre, but include some pop sensibilities at some point in their careers.  Maybe she can smell the Hall trying to cash in on her cache just as clearly as the rest of us can, and she's diplomatically telling the Hall to go fornicate itself.  Or maybe she genuinely doesn't or didn't pay attention to how the Hall operates, since she didn't think she'd ever be nominated.  Either way, cache-grab aside, Dolly absolutely belongs in the conversation, and I'm still voting for her.

Coming soon, the official predictions.  And holy hell, it's a sloppier mess than my ten-day hold.  Stay tuned.



Friday, April 8, 2022

2022 Nominees' Merits

After taking much longer than expected, I've now taken it upon myself to rank this year's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominees by merits that make an attempt to be objective.  What makes an artist truly worthy?  Surely we can't simply stan an artist into the Hall, can we?  And yet if the fanbase is large, that does affect my category of Impact.  But is that fandom just a moment in time?  That's why we have the twenty-five year rule, right?  So that it's not just a matter of loving someone hard enough to get them inducted, like some sort of Care Bear stare, emitting love of an artist from our tummies, beaming them directly into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

Unfortunately, that is a part of the process, except you have to be one of the insiders shooting off that abdominal adoration arc.  That said, it is not completely unchecked; otherwise, the Singles category would have never happened, because Little Steven wouldn't have had to come up with a way to enshrine his temper tanrums.  So what keeps the bellicose bushwah at bay?  Standards.  Everyone has their standards, and that includes me.  When it comes to standards for the nominees, I use the I-5 system I created:  Innovation, Influence, Impact, Intangibles, and Issues.  What did they do that no one else had at the time?  Who took their leads from them?  How big a name are or were they?  What extraneous factors add that certain oomph to a nominee?  Why might some, especially members of the voting body, be against this act being nominated?  

It's a significant matter to figure out if an act deserves induction, but it's not a precise science.  Sometimes I have been noted to give too much weight to the Impact factor and not enough to Innovation or Influence.  I have tried to be a bit more careful, but I do see that some of the less popular pioneers still rank low. So, having done my best, let's look at the ranks of these nominees by merits.


1. DOLLY PARTON

Innovation:  Not s strong category for her, but the pop sensibilities she blended into her brand of country were a somewhat new creation.

Influence:  A massively influential star to country music, female artists, and even singer/songwriters of various genres.

Impact:  So massive.  So many records sold, both singles and albums, and name recognition that is through the roof.  If she started a cult, the membership would eclipse scientology within a year, easily.

Intangibles:  With all the awards she's received from within the recording industry, her status as a mutlitudinous talent is undeniable.  

Issues:  While country is recognized as a parent genre of rock 'n' roll, when an artist stays comfortably in the lane of a parent genre, never even considering themselves to have fused any rock elements into their music, it makes conversation about induction into the Rock Hall a tad bumpy.  Addtionally, while her agency over her image is a huge step forward, that image flirted with self-parody at times, and the Hall definitely takes itself very seriously and may not want that as part of the narrative they wish to create.


 2. FELA KUTI

Innovation:  His fusion of soul and funk with the music of his homeland Nigeria resulted in a musical and cultural explosion.

Influence:  Because he is credited with Afrobeat's creation, and its continued existence and relevance in the musical world, his influence is both massive and consequential.

Impact:  Though his sales in colonial cultures aren't nearly as impressive, his sales and name recognition in Nigeria and in fact all of Africa makes this a stronger category than some would expect.

Intangibles:  In addition to being a musical and political revolutionary, his songwriting displays a gift for words and analogies that would impress Emerson and Longfellow.  

Issues:  I wish I could sit here and tell you the chief objection to his nomination is that his band Africa 70 wasn't nominated with him.  I really wish I could tell you that.  Reggae was influenced by soul music, much like Afrobeat, and recognition of reggae as part of the rock and roll diaspora is an uphill battle.  How much more so a style that isn't well-known in the States.


3. DURAN DURAN

Innovation:  First forming in the late '70s, they are one of the first synth-rock bands to break big and solidify the sound.

Influence:  How many of the synth-pop bands that followed in the immediate wake were influenced by Duran Duran may be a little hard to tell, but their immediate influence was very palpable until Nirvana came along.

Impact:  They have Top Ten hits that could be called Forgotten 45s'; that's how successful they were.  You cannot discuss popular music of the 1980s and not mention this band at some point.

Intangibles:  Their mutualistic relationship with the budding MTV format saw them as one of the pioneers of the modern music video, in terms of concept and execution.

Issues:  Some of their songs haven't aged well, and the overall new wave style of their songs is, or at least was, a punchline for a spell there.


4. BECK

Innovation:  People talk about his music as if they're still trying to identify it with fitting nomenclature.  A miasma of paradoxes in styles that still manage to work together.

Influence:  In the immediate sense, he helped kick open a door that made the pathway for other artists possible.  Long term, he's pretty singular, but still inspirational.

Impact:  He has a handful of charted pop singles, and is much more successful on the modern rock charts.

Intangibles:  A critic's wet dream.  An artist's artist, but would still play in Peoria.

Issues:  Perhaps a bit too sporadic and inconsistent.  Following your own creative process schedule can be a liability as well as an asset.


5. JUDAS PRIEST

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.


6. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

Innovation:  When you talk about about formative acts of the sound of '90s hip-hop, this outfit is near the top of the list.

Influence:  Their influence on hip-hop and rappers to come, as well as on their contemporaries was massive.  Widely influential.

Impact:  A handful or two of charted singles.  Albums charts, four top ten albums with a fifth that is critically well-regarded.

Intangibles:  With their level of artistry, and renown of the individual members, they're a synergy, so much more than the sum of the parts.

Issues:  You've heard of them if you're a music lover, especially of hip-hop.  If you're a casual pop music fan, the name "A Tribe Called Quest" probably sounds like the name of a video game.


7. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

Innovation:  Among the pioneers of nu metal, combining punk, rap, metal, and even elements of reggae, and brought it as close to the mainstream as can reasonably be expected.

Influence:  Because their scene was more underground, it's a little harder to measure, but a lot of the nu metal bands took their lead from this band.

Impact:  A few charted songs on the Album and Modern Rock charts, and a couple charted albums.

Intangibles:  There is a sense of authenticity to them, and congruity with their name, their music, and their image offstage.

Issues:  Their lyrics are often incomprehensible, so you don't know what they're saying, only that they're angry.  Additionally, not big on longevity.


8. EMINEM

Innovation:  Nope, unless you count lyrical content that rappers didn't approach before him.

Influence:  Massive influence on the current generation of rappers.

Impact:  Immense.  Several Top Ten hits, over four dozen pop hits (including the Bubbling Under charts), and he's penetrated our vernacular, giving us the term "stan" that has since been watered down a little to be a hyperbole of fandom.  

Intangibles:  Despite breaking through later than a lot of rap royalty, he is still listed among them as one of the greatest, most skillful rappers of all time.

Issues:  When John Sykes and company talk about "youth culture" as it relates to rock and roll, they mean people who can have a driver's license but can't run for a seat in the U.S. House Of Representatives, and who are still figuring out their own sense of identity and what kind of impact they want to leave upon the world--not an eight year-old boy who doesn't know what he's saying but still carelessly slings naughty words, shocking statements, and violent threats around because it gets him the attention he craves and because he thinks it's funny to see the looks of shock and clutching of pearls from grown-ups.  In his songs, Eminem frequently comes off as exactly that.


9. PAT BENATAR

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.


10. EURYTHMICS

Innovation:  A lot of the synth-rock acts came up together around the same time; so who pioneered what is hard to say.  But Eurythmics were definitely unique in their version of it, with the dominant pulsations through many of their songs.

Influence:  With Annie Lennox at the helm, Eurythmics were highly influential to many female and female-led acts to come, as well as a lot of dance music acts.

Impact:  They had a solid run of pop hits, some dance chart hits, and a handful of charted albums.

Intangibles:  Annie Lennox is a solid feminist figure, and Dave Stewart is a producton wizard.

Issues:  Not everyone is on board with the legitimacy of synth-pop and synth-rock; plus, Annie Lennox's solo career may detract votes from the "Small Hall" thinkers.


11. DIONNE WARWICK

Innovation:  Some might call her '60s records a kind of prototype of the "Quiet Storm" style of music that Roberta Flack and Sade would later grow and popularize.

Influence:  In addition to being influential to her inducted cousin, a number of songs she first recorded were later covered by soul singers and groups.

Impact: Just a huge list of charting singles and albums, top ten hits in three consecutive decades.

Intangibles:  The songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David are heavily respected, despite not being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame either, and Dionne's legacy is strongly entwined with theirs.

Issues:  She's the Black artist your racist granny liked, and used her fandom as evidence that she therefore couldn't possibly be racist.  The Rock Hall may not want to inadvertently validate the latent audience.


12. LIONEL RICHIE

Innovation:  As a songwriter, his style helped smooth soul in its transition from the disco era into the style that was popular in the '80s.

Influence:  He has been an influence to a wide and diverse swath of singers from different genres and genders.

Impact:  Five number one hits as a solo artist.  Several top tens in consecutive fashion in a short time span, and is a name you still know.

Intangibles:  Partially in his Influence column, he has a huge amount of respect from fellow musicians, ranging from R&B to country and beyond.

Issues:  The primary issue is that he's jumping his former group, the Commodores, and that an induction here will snuff out any chance of their induction ever.  Issues with his solo career itself is that some may find his smooth R&B a little too soft and schlocky to be credible.


13. THE NEW YORK DOLLS

Innovation:  One of the foundational acts of punk rock, shaping its simplicity and catchiness.

Influence:  They influenced a lot of punk bands, especially in the New York scene.

Impact:  A few charted albums, but nothing in the upper half.  No charted singles.

Intangibles:  They were also influential in terms of image, and critics loved them.

Issues:  Those they influenced surpassed them in terms of influence, commercial success, legacy, and possibly even image.  In short, even bigger giants are standing on their shoulders.


14. KATE BUSH

Innovation:  Her sound is incredibly unique to her that it cannot be called anything but groundbreaking.  Her infusion of Celtic, Bohemian, and so many other influences is just staggering.

Influence:  Big Boi from Outkast is a noted fan who took songwriting cues from her, as do a lot of singers and songwriters.  The most direct descendants of her sounds would be artists like Tori Amos, Dido, and Annie Lennox.

Impact:  She's much more commercially successful in her native United Kingdom, but even in the States, she had several charted albums and songs on the Mainstream Rock charts.

Intangibles:  Her performances pioneered the usage of headset microphones.  More importantly, her overall level of artistry, particularly by Western standards, is extremely high.

Issues:  Her self-imposed decisions regarding her output and public appearances in general, let alone touring, have diminished her ability to reach larger audiences and reach superstar level.


15. CARLY SIMON

Innovation:  Ehhhhh.....

Influence:  Influential to fellow singer/songwriters and to artists in the general adult contemporary arena.

Impact:  Five top ten pop singles and five top ten pop albums; twenty-five pop hit singles (including the Bubbling Under charts) and twenty-five charted albums on the Billboard 200.

Intangibles:  She's an esteemed singer/songwriter from the '70s, and has picked up a few awards along the way, including the Best New Artist Grammy.

Issues:  History has not been kind to her legacy, as oldies radio and other "blast from the past" formats often reduce her contributions to a single song, while the rest of it is dismissed as too easy listening to receive commercial airplay.


16. DEVO

Innovation:  They were them.  They were around at the genesis of post-punk and constantly pushed the sonic envelope with a style that was still considered ahead of the times twenty years later.

Influence:  Not the most widely cited of the post-punk bands, but due in part to their innovation, they were always in the conversation of highly influential bands of that ilk.

Impact:  Folks might be shocked to discover that they actually had several hits across the various trade publications, included multiple entries on Billboard's dance music charts.  They also charrted several albums.

Intangibles:  They're a highly respected band among musicians for their artistry, both visual and sonic.

Issues:  "Oh yeah, they had that one song, didn't they?  Did they do other stuff too?"--the general public  


17. 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."


Despite the numerous failed attempts to get them into the Hall, I actually have a huge amount of respect for the MC5.  They may be the lowest ranked on this list, but they are still extremely worthy of enshrinement.  And that's the point.  That's how strong this ballot is.  When the list of nominees came out, and we heard a lot of familiar names trottled out again, people expressed dismay by saying, "Nothing against the artists themselves."  And I think that from reading this ranking, they would double down on that sentiment, only with a more positive tone of voice.   No doubt that my ranks ruffle feathers.  But no matter who ranks seventeenth on your list, there isn't a name you wouldn't at least begrudgingly admit is worthy of induction.  For me, I only am upset that the majority of these artists won't be inducted.  

They all deserve induction, but not all of them are my cup of tea, and soon, I'll be giving the list of personal tastes for these seventeen nominees.  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Musically Excellent Voices

Several years ago, I was lounging about at home, listening to the Music Choice channel for Solid Gold Oldies.  Mixed in the playlist of songs I'd heard so many times was a song I'd never heard before.  "Hey Jean, Hey Dean" by Dean And Jean (not to be confused with Jan And Dean) came on, and I perked up my ears, as this was something relatively new for me.  It's an upbeat song about throwing a party when you're broke and on the verge of losing everything.  What I really noticed most about the song was that the heavy lifting in it seemed to be done by the background singers, who carried the entire chorus, as well as the fills in between lines of the verses--which kind of makes sense given the song was co-written by Ernie Maresca.  I'd almost bet those background singers had longer careers than either Welton or Brenda, the real names of Dean and Jean--much like Paul And Paula, whose real names were Ray and Jill.

When the Sideman category was created for the Class Of 2000, it was hailed as a huge success for the institution.  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was enshrining the session musicians who left an indelible mark on important records, whose styles of playing were almost as unique as fingerprints.  The Hall has inducted drummers, guitarists, bassists, pianists, saxophonists, and even a harmonicist.  But an important category of session contributors that has yet to be seriously acknowledged by the Hall is background singers, and that needs to change.

This is a position I've held even before the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom came out, but it's been amplified by it.  One of the people interviewed in the documentary (I think it was Lou Adler) went so far as to say the background singers were the record at times.  I think my opening anecdote takes that point nearly to the extreme, but there's a lot of truth to that idea.  When you think about the songs of the '50s through the '70s, and even beyond, a lot of the appeal, as well as the invitation to sing along, comes from the background singers.  If I say "Gimme Shelter," what's the thing you most want to extol about that song?  If you said anything other than "Merry Clayton," you're a lying sack a monkey doo.  The debate between Dion's solo career and his work with the Belmonts as being the more worthy of enshrinement has a few different facets to it, but I'd wager the work of the Del Satins on "Runaround Sue" giving it such a Belmonts' feel is a bit of a factor.  And how many of you have to pause yourself to remember that Curtis Lee was not the bass voice on "Pretty Little Angel Eyes"?  Sadly, the world has all but forgotten Arhtur Crier, as well as the rest of the Halos who filled in beautifully on the harmonies.  That's not even touching on the careers of the Blossoms or the Andantes.  Great backing singers make invaluable contributions to the songs we love, by adding harmonies and/or additional rhythmic cadence to a song, even if it's sometimes with nonsense lyrics.  And sometimes, their parts are the most fun to sing along to.

So why has the Hall not enshrined these singers?  Some of it may be as basic as not thinking of them as musicians.  When we talk about musical groups, it includes bands, but if we talk about bands, it won't include all groups.  If that previous sentence made perfect sense to you, then you know what I'm talking about here.  Even until now, I've intentionally refrained from calling backing vocalists "musicians" for this very purpose.  But singers are musicians.  Everyone can sing, right?  No, and even if everyone could, not everyone can sing well enough to make worthwhile contributions to the rock and roll landscape.  You don't need training to be a singer?  A lot of instrument players were self-taught.  Hell, I can play bass guitar.  Not well, mind you, but back in college, when my roommate was at class, I sometimes opened up his case and figured out how to play the bass riff from "With Or Without You."  Not with any official hand positions, but just by pushing the right string down in the right place and strumming it.  (Sorry Brad!)  I even touched on this during the nomination cycle for the Class Of 2012, particularly in reference to the Spinners: if shows like American Idol taught us anything, it's that being a singer does require actual musical talent, and those who are accomplished singers have every right to be called "musicians" as those who specialize in membranophonic, idiophonic, electronophonic, vibraphonic, or other aerophonic instruments.  I.M. Pei may have designed the museum to look more like a guitar than a larynx, but not looking like a spinnet hasn't kept Floyd Cramer from induction.  So, it's not a good reason to keep Lisa Fischer out either.  

Another possible reason may be that the era of backing vocalists has largely passed.  It isn't just because of my own predilections that my examples have largely been from songs recorded before 1970.  Modern music has seen a decrease in the usage of session singers in major hit records, and a lot of the big vocal groups of the past thirty years have been prefab, which the critics, and by extension the Rock Hall, have little to no respect for.  A lot of this is the decrease in demand, as rap and danceable pop music tend not to necessitate harmonizing, and rock bands are supposed to be as self-contained and in-house as possible in their musicianship (or at least have that image).  Some of this decrease is because of the technological advances that have also been able to edge out other varieties of session musicians as well, and some of it is just due to the financial realities of the music industry as it stands now where additional voices are often the easiest and first expenditures to cut when trimming the fat on a recording budget.  As the demand for session musicians seemingly nears extinction, the contributions of auxiliary vocalists appear to no longer be contributing to the evolution or perpetuation of rock and roll.  It seems to be a character trait of a previous generation.

That perception becomes especially detrimental in the context of the current era of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  John Sykes is definitely looking to modernize the Hall, as he seeks to promote his definition of "rock and roll" as the "soundtrack of youth culture."  To make matters worse, these singers, who would have been excellent candidates for the Sideman category, may have an even tougher time becoming Award For Musical Excellence inductees, as that category teeters precipitously close to being little more than an alternative Performer category because the voting bloc won't do the NomComm and board's bidding.  The reimagining of the categories could very easily prevent any more session musicians from getting inducted because all the focus has shifted to using that category to appease Little Steven, Alan Light, Lenny Kaye, or any other member of the Nominating Committee.  Maybe not: we saw Randy Rhoads get inducted last year; however, it's also tempting to argue that Rhoads' induction was to placate Tom Morello and other metalheads on the committee as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead all perennially languish in the voting tallies.  We don't know, nor might we ever know, but we do know that the ceremony's real-time run time and subsequent broadcast time tend to play a factor in how many inductees we get.  And because of that, the new executions of both this and the Early Influence categories have the potential to stifle further conversations.  Again, hypothetically.  Much of this is still unknown.

What is known is that other than Patti Scialfa of the E Street Band, there is no AME inductee whose primary contribution was as a backing vocalist, and that makes backing vocalists another major oversight on the part of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Given the Hall's love of Elvis Presley, I would seriously argue for starting with the Jordanaires.  Hell, they were credited on many of his records of the '50s and '60s.  They could even be retconned as a Performer inductee like the Famous Flames and Midnighters were in 2012, but I believe that AME is much more likely given that they did session work for so many singers besides Elvis.  Also, part of me wants to see them in because they'd then be the only grouip to be inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  That'd be wicked awesome, in my opinion.  But in addition to the King's singers, let's add the Queen Of Rock And Roll's backing singers, the Ikettes (I know, the irony, but still).  The Cookies would be a great selection too.  So would the Dreamlovers, if we can ever get some love for the Cameo-Parkway legacy.

Since LL Cool J was an Award For Musical Excellence inductee last year, I'm guessing the subcommittees that decide the other categories' inductees won't meet until after the voting deadline passes and all the votes are tallied.  And because this is a category decided entirely by a subcommittee, this is truly a matter where the Rock Hall could simply do it if they wanted to, presumably not answering to anyone.  So while the votes are still being cast and counted, I want to challenge the Award For Musical Excellence subcommittee to take a hard look and strongly consider inducting backing vocalists as part of the Class Of 2022.  It's a glaring oversight that you have the simple, unique, and presumably absolute power to correct.  They've spent their whole careers in the wings and shadows.  Long past time to bring them out and give them a few minutes of the spotlight at your ceremonies.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Pleasantly Disappointed: The 2022 Ballot

 With the ballot having come out this past week for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2022, the general consensus is a resounding, "Eh."  I'll admit, that for me, much of the sentiment on my part is that which I've already expressed.  Most of the acts I love most have already been enshrined, and of the ones that haven't, many I agree probably don't pass the bar, and those that I think do, the Hall has clearly moved on from that era.  If I were a one-man veterans committee, wielding the level of power they gave Little Steven when they first tried the Singles category, you'd think the Hall was really playing catch-up.  Five Satins?  In.  Jesse Belvin?  In.  Jan And Dean?  In.  Lesley Gore?  Retroactively inducted in 1990.  That's just a start.

Anyway, some thoughts on this ballot:


Great minds think alike:

We all knew Eminem was going to be on the ballot, most of us picked Duran Duran and Rage Against The Machine too.  The only other correct prediction I got was Pat Benatar.  I wasn't really thinking she'd show up, but was just expressing my dumbfoundedness from when she previously missed.  It worked.


There's deductive reasoning... there's deja vu.....

One thing about this ballot to note is that there are more return nominees than first timers.  That doesn't happen too often, and that's often why it's so hard to guess the ballot.  The NomComm tries to keep a healthy number of new names on the ballot, and there are still several, but this ratio is a little heavier than it usually gets.

"Nothing against the artists themselves..."

Between the three podcasts hosted by members of the community, when listening to their ballot reveal and reflect episodes this past week, if I'd done a shot every time someone said words to that effect, I'd've been picked up by the police after trying to proposition a statue in a park somewhere.  And every utterance of that sentiment says the same thing that many of us have said: the system is flawed.  Broken?  Nah, bruh.  The Hall was founded by gatekeepers who wanted the number of enshrined small and predominantly at their discretion.  The system is working exactly as designed.  Worthy, revolutionary artists have become ennui because the Hall continues to think too small. They saw how well received the large class was this past year, and they appear to be digging in their heels.  Maybe not.  We don't know how many will get in, but all the press seems to indicate that the Performer category is going to remain narrow for the foreseeable future.  And to address Mark's point, it isn't because of Sporcle, it's because the Performer category has that extra level of validation.  When you go in one of the other categories, you have the approval of the people inside the room.  When you go in as a Performer, you have the approval of not just them, but a larger body of peers.  To be fair, if the ballot simply let voters vote for as many acts as they wanted, the level of respect and validation that these acts actually have would be more accurately reflected.  The Hall's process is so flawed that it has yielded contempt upon itself and its institution--by the institution itself.  The usage of the other categories corroborates that.  And while I am rehashing old discussions and arguments, the point I'm trying to make is, that's why this happens.  Term limits of NomComm members, fresh faces, and even adding diversity to the Assembly Of The Hoagie isn't going to induct the names that deserve it.  In fact, the very opposite is what happens: it tells those acts that they don't matter.  End of sentence.  It'll get new names on the ballot, but it won't put things to right.  Bigger classes are the answer.  Rock and roll spreads out in too many valid and important directions to be kept to classes this small.  Yeah, maybe that means letting in acts like the J. Geils Band, but it also means having Judas Priest and the New York Dolls already in by now too.  To add a clause beginning with "more than" to the question "Do they deserve induction?" presents a faulty paradigm as the reality we're now stuck with.

Which brings us to the idea of wasted space on the ballot.  That's what's being said about the MC5, the New York Dolls, and even Fela Kuti, and on the flipside, the lack of Chaka Khan on the ballot.  If last year was the writing on the wall, as many believe, than the MC5 and possibly the New York Dolls will be getting enshrined in the Early Influence category for their legacy as punk progenitors, while Fela might get enshriend as an Award For Musical Excellence inductee.  So many are asking, "Why bother nominating them when they'll just be inducted in aother category regardless?  It's wasting a spot on the ballot, right?"  Well, I think that's exactly why they did it.  They don't see it as wasting space.  They see it as making one final stab before being graced into the Hall.  It's not a wasted space.  This is how they make it look on paper that they are inducting a higher percentage of nominees every year.  Whether or not they'll do this every year or just until they can reduce the number of Past Nominees who haven't been enshrined to a much lower number, we shall see.  But this is to make the percentages look better.  It's called lying with statistics.  But hey, just as long as the eventual obituary leads with "Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer," right?


Culturally crossed

One of the more interesting side stories since the announcement has been the fan ballot, namely, Fela Kuti going from near top of the heap last year, to currently dead last.  Last year, the Rock Hall site received an unusally high influx of traffic from Africa, all to vote for Fela Kuti in the fan ballot.  And then Fela didn't get inducted.  Those of us in the watching community weren't really fazed or shocked by it.  And to be honest, we thought it was old hat.  We had seen the Dave Matthews Band finish first but fail to get in, and it's not like the top five in the fan ballot have ever all gotten in.  But the Hall is also an American institution.  And we watchers are mostly American, too.  To us, agreeing to receive promotional emails from the Hall as a condition to voting is business as usual, par for the course.  Apparently, that is one way the world wide web is not universal.  The African base that voted for Fela last year was not thrilled.  They felt they'd been played for suckers, and weren't having it a second time.  They didn't appreciate business as usual.  And they let us know how they felt about it.  This puts another spin on the fan ballot.  What the Western world just takes to be backdrop is not seen that way everywhere apparently.  Maybe the Hall should take that into consideration next time they nominate an artist not from the U.S. or U.K.  And maybe lay off the slick-as-slime spiel in their promotions. Doubtful it'll happen though.  All they saw was the number of clicks.  Rock on Fela fans; like the Who, you won't get fooled again.


Step forward, step back

We still don't have a female rapper nominated.  The number of women on the ballot is a lower percentage.  It's a small consolation to see Duran Duran nominated, an act that I'd seen multiple women on Twitter advocating for.  Then again, Duran Duran is a band that the Hall was most likely going to have to deal with eventually, so maybe not progress.  But I don't expound on it as thoroughly as the women in our community.  Go read what Michelle Bourg and Evelyn McDonnell write about it.  Listen to Mary on Hall Watchers.  But it is interesting to see Dolly Parton get nominated.  And less surprising to see Carly Simon, but still unexpected.  Another shot for Dionne Warwick, Kate Bush, Eurythmics, amd Pat Benatar.  No Alanis though.  


It's not a bad ballot.  Some pleasant options.  And also congrats to Beck, Lionel Richie, A Tribe Called Quest, and Devo for getting nominated this time around.  May the fortunes be ever in your favor.