Debate Over Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Selection Process Likely To Continue With 2019 Inductees

Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, The Cure, Roxy Music and The Zombies make up class of 2019

By now it’s an all too familiar annual ritual in the music world, at least in America. On Thursday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame revealed its new inductees. The 2019 class includes Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, The Cure, Roxy Music and The Zombies. While a good deal of music fans stopped paying attention long ago, others still care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a music nerd, so I count myself as being part of the latter group.

I’ve no doubt that among those who follow the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the debate about the selection process and who should be in is going to continue. While I don’t want to be overly judgmental and I’m luckily not a music critic and don’t aspire to become one, I have to say I’m a bit surprised about some of the inductees. Of course, I can’t claim this would be the first time.

Radiohead Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019

Let’s start with Radiohead. In June 2017, guitarist Ed O’Brien told Rolling Stone, “I don’t want to be rude about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because for a lot of people it means something, but culturally I don’t understand it. I think it might be a quintessential American thing. Brits are not very good at slapping ourselves on the back…It just feels non-authentic to us.” Most of the band’s other members expressed reservations as well. That’s totally fine with me. What I don’t get is why the Rock Hall has inducted them anyway. Presumably, they won’t show for the induction ceremony, and I just feel sorry for their fans – unless of course they don’t care either!

Janet Jackson Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Janet Jackson. I hate to say this, but the thought her selection at least in part reflects political correctness can’t escape my mind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s dreadful that the Rock Hall mostly remains a white boys club, and there’s no question women are underrepresented, especially women of color. But should Janet Jackson really have been the choice here? How about Ella Fitzgerald? Sure, you can say as a jazz singer, she wouldn’t be a perfect fit for an institution that has ‘rock and roll’ in its name. But they inducted Nina Simone last year. Or how about Mavis Staples, an amazing African American female artist? Yes, she’s already in the Rock Hall as part of The Staple Singers, who were inducted in 1999. Still, there are numerous examples of artists who have been inducted more than once – as part of a band and solo. Just look at 2019 inductee Stevie Nicks!

The Cure_Def Leppard Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

I never paid much attention to The Cure. Boys Don’t Cry was kind of nice at the time but completely over-exposed. Ironically, it might actually make me cry if I have to listen to the song one more time! Def Leppard, who won the fan ballot and got in the first time they had become eligible, may also trigger some debate. A British band that became hugely popular in the ’80s by mixing hard rock with pop elements, Leppard were oftentimes dismissed by the critics. In this context, I think The New York Times rightly called them the equivalent to Bon Jovi, who were inducted last year. While I wouldn’t have considered them, I don’t have any particular problem with Leppard or Bon Jovi for that matter – in fact, I generally like the latter.

Steve Nicks_The Zombies_Roxy Music Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

I’m happy about Stevie Nicks, a great singer-songwriter who like Leppard made it in the first she had become eligible. Additionally, I’ve always liked Time Of The Season and She’s Not There, so I find it nice to see The Zombies among the 2019 inductees. I also generally like Roxy Music, though I have to add I don’t know them particularly well beyond their big hits.

This year, the induction festivities will happen at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on March 29. HBO and SiriusXM will broadcast an edited version of the event sometime thereafter. Last year, the broadcast happened in early May.

What do you think about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the 2019 inductees? Feel free to leave comments. My only request is let’s keep any discussion civil, please.

Sources: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, Rolling Stone, New York Times

17 thoughts on “Debate Over Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Selection Process Likely To Continue With 2019 Inductees”

  1. The one I have an issue with is Stevie Nicks actually – she’s already in for as part of Fleetwood Mac, and I don’t think she did enough as a solo artist to justify her status. She’s always seemed like she needs a collaborator to bring out her best, and it’s hard to justify why she’s in and someone like Kate Bush isn’t.

    The Zombies’ catalogue is small enough to question their inclusion, but it’s terrific, and I’m not a huge fan of Def Leppard – but overall a very good inclusion.

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    1. I’m okay with Stevie Nicks and look more at her entire body of work including Fleetwood Mac. For the latter, I think she wrote some true gems like Landslide, Rhiannon and Dreams. But I can also see the argument that she already has been recognized for her accomplishments with the band via the Fleetwood Mac induction.

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      1. My interpretation is that it’s for her solo work. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to anything beyond the radio hits, but it feels like her solo career tailed off after her first couple of releases.

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  2. The other night my friend Gunther called and immediately started on a rampage on why is Janet Jackson and Def Leppard going into the Rock Hall for? I steered the conversation into- what is the criteria for this Hall of Fame? How do you evaluate these people? It’s not like for example the Baseball Hall of Fame where the accomplishments are there on the field and in statistics… I don’ think the Rock Hall should be that concerned with how many albums or hits an artist has- should popularity matter that much? And as far as viewing the artists as a critic- how do you judge? Personally I think Janet Jackson- Def Leppard and Stevie Nicks are bad choices. Stevie Nicks solo career hasn’t been that illustrious in my opinion- she’s already in with Fleetwood Mac. .. Def Leppard may have been popular but in my opinion aren’t very good… as Gunther said Janet Jackson isn’t rock… How do you evaluate? I don’t think any Prog Rock band other than Pink Floyd belongs and I am not a fan of the Def Leppard type bands- so none of them get in my Hall of Fame.. but that is what I look at- How do the evaluators evaluate? I am well pass really caring. I do think the other ones who got in- should be in- for this coming year.

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      1. After I posted that- I thought on it a little more- that is a Hall of Fame where the criteria is…confusing to say the least. I don’t lose any sleep over who is on/ out but maybe the best way would be to have different sections–[now this is off the top of my head at 4am } a section for the pioneers of rock.. heavy metal, prog rock, folk rock, the british invasion, punk, etc.. I think in this years inductees for example they are trying to make different segments happy– Def Leppard gets in- hard rock people are happy. Janet Jackson- pop fans are happy, Radiohead-alternative rock…etc. just an idea.

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      2. Man, I am impressed you’re reflecting on that topic at 4:00 am in the morning! 🙂

        The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame already has a category for pioneers (called “Early Influences”), but your idea to introduce additional categories for different music genres is interesting. I have two additional suggestions:
        – Increase the weight of the fan vote (if I understand it correctly, the collective fan vote currently is aggregated and only counts as one the more than 1,000 votes that determine the inductees)
        – Rename the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to something broader, such as Music Hall of Fame (note: I have to give credit to my good friend Music Enthusiast here, who previously expressed that thought – don’t remember what name he came up with, but it was something like that)

        In addition to “Early Influences,” current categories include (from Rock Hall website):
        – “Performers” (honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn’t limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills)
        – Ahmet Ertegun Award (formerly known as the non-performer category, honors songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on rock & roll)
        – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Award for Musical Excellence (honors performers, songwriters and producers who have changed the course of music history. These artists have dedicated their lives to creating influential, important music infused with originality, and have achieved a level of timeless distinction)
        – The Singles (Introduced in 2018, this category of recognition focuses on the songs which have established a permanence in our history and influenced rock and roll. These songs have had an immense cultural impact and merit a place in history)

        I guess what we’re mostly talking about is how to better tackle the “Performers” category. While sub-dividing it into different music genres undoubtedly would add some complexity to the process and make it more like the Grammy Awards, I think it would be worthwhile to explore that approach.

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      3. Those are really good ideas. Another idea- of course it would still be controversial. The Rock Hall is built like a Pyramid- have a Pyramid of Hall of Famers- The greats- your Elvis- Berry- Beatles- Stones would be at the top – have four layers below- in decending greatness- the bottom layer being your largest in size- for say the Def Leppards, Stevie Nicks, Yes, etc the questionable picks.

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      4. It would just continue the arguments that are going on now! The Prog Rock and Hard Rock folks would be upset that their favorites were at the bottom of the pyramid.

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  3. Much to unpack here. Firstly, let’s get over our naivete and admit that ALL awards have a political feel to them. When I was younger I used to take the Academy Awards as gospel. “This MUST be the best movie. They said so.” But then the scales fell from my eyes when I realized maybe they were rewarding a guy for being overlooked. For example, it’s generally believed that Scorsese got one for “The Departed” when he should have gotten one for “Raging Bull.” And now the Academy has to make up for all the non-white performers it overlooked. So if you start – as I do -with the premise that all awards are fun but at the same time somewhat tainted, you can take a more realistic approach.

    I think my recommendation was to rename it the Popular Music Hall of Fame and then have subcategories of rock, blues, soul, etc. As to the argument that, say, Janet Jackson is or is not rock, that ship sailed (at least) when they inducted Miles Davis who was hardly a rock fan. So this, to me, seems like a meaningless argument. Get over it.

    As to the actual inductees: I think it’s irrelevant whether Radiohead wants to be in or out. Bob Dylan did not want the Nobel but they gave it to him anyway. (“We are going to reward you whether you like it or not, young man.”) Not everybody wants a particular reward but that’s apart from whether or not they deserve it. I am no Janet Jackson fan but she was highly influential. She has her own name apart from MJ. If you discard the rock and roll thing, she should be in, IMHO.

    The Cure? I dunno. I know, like, two of their songs. Can’t say. But if you’re looking for that alterna slot, isn’t Joy Division a better choice? I’m not necessarily a fan of theirs either but they seem quite a bit more influential. Nicks should be in, IMHO. Another very influential singer even outside of Mac, especially with female artists. She’s truly an icon, like her or no. And I do.

    I have no particular feel for Roxy Music one way or the other but they have fans so, coin toss. I voted for the Zombies, so yeah. Both Def Leppard and Bon Jovi can kiss my fucking ass. I wouldn’t vote for them to wash my car. As to the hard rock fans, I used to watch “That Metal Show” on VH1. Host Eddie Trunk was always bitching that bands like UFO weren’t in there. So really, you can’t please everyone.

    I love the Singles idea and the fact that they were initially introduced by Steve Van Zandt. Lastly, why no Hall of Fame section for music bloggers? 🙂

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    1. I pretty much agree with everything you said.

      You’re right it’s impossible to eliminate political considerations. And no matter how you tinker with the criteria, it’s also never going to be objective. At the end of the day, music largely comes down to individual taste.

      I think giving the Rock Hall a broader name like the Popular Music Hall Of Fame and introducing sub-categories as Hanspostcard also suggested would be good improvements.

      And perhaps also increasing the weight of the fan vote. It’s kind of crazy it gets aggregated into just one of more than 1,000 votes. This pretty much makes it meaningless.

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      1. Maybe I’m the contrarian here but I’m super-ambivalent about fan voting (even though I do it.) Do fans votes count for Emmys, or Oscars or Tonys? So on the one hand, having a small cabal of people vote can seem elitist. On the other hand, one day you’ll have a bunch of Motley Crue fans cramming a million votes in. And then they’ll get in but do they belong there? I dunno.

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