How important is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anyway?
As I read through this year’s list of nominees, this question swirled in my head. Sure, Chic is on the list. Again. For the 11th time, they appear on the list. Then there’s Depeche Mode, Yes, Janet Jackson, The Cars…..Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Chaka Khan, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), Journey, The Zombies, Bad Brains, J. Geils Band, Joan Baez, Kraftwerk, MC5, Joe Tex, and Steppenwolf. I think I’ve gotten them all.
It seems like every single year I write something about the Hall of Fame. Quite frankly, I detest it. I dislike it to the point where it really isn’t worth my time—yet here I am, writing about it again.
It seems to me that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the one accolade everyone loves to hate. The process, in my mind, is absurd. The nominating committee of the RRHOF Foundation gets together and comes up with a list of nominees. The list is publicized, and then some 600-historians and members of the music industry vote upon the all-powerful although in the past few years (since 2012) they’ve bestowed that same glorious right to vote upon the public, so our collective opinion is also taken into account. The top five vote- getters are then inducted.
First of all, the nominees, or at least a reasonable percentage of them—are questionable. I could sit and name names, but the reality is, those that I may find odd are the same bands and artists that someone else probably sees as shoe-ins. So, I’m just going to leave it that I find a lot of the nominees to be questionable, and the inductees typically make me roll my eyes.
Secondly, Chic has been nominated ELEVEN DAMN TIMES. Come on now. That alone tells me something is screwy about the process. Yes, Chic is disco. Yes, Americans (in particular) have forgotten just how much disco-elements we use in our music even today. Even so, eleven times? Unbelievable.
Thirdly, I’d argue that outside of the US, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means nothing. Just yesterday, one of my friends commented that they never hear about the RRHOF, and they live in the UK. I have no doubt that’s true. Many (including myself) say that the heart of the music industry is here in America, which is probably why the Hall of Fame works here – but the rest of the world doesn’t care. I can’t blame them, because really, is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that important anyway?
I doubt it. Each year when Nile, as the sole surviving member of Chic is nominated, he graciously tweets something about being happy to be on that list, but he also mentions how many times he’s been on it. In my head, it’s becoming a terrible joke. What makes him any less deserving than Green Day—a band that has been around for a fraction of the time—but was inducted in 2015, the very FIRST year they were even eligible? Absolutely nothing but votes.
Who votes? Who decides? The RRHOF description of their voters is remarkably vague. “some 600 historians and members of the music industry, including those who have previously been inducted.” Then there’s the public, of course. Fans are going to vote for their favorites regardless of whether they’re the most deserving. In the same way I voted umpteen times for Duran Duran to win the MTV EMA this year or “Best World Stage” without watching the other nominees to see if their performance really was the best, fans are going to get out the vote for their favorite, and I can’t blame them. But, that does not equate (in my mind) to being deserving of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ultimately what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame comes down to is a glorified popularity contest. The only people I ever see commenting on its importance are those who make a living commenting on such things (the aforementioned music historians), those who have been inducted, or perhaps fans. As many Duranies mention, in any interview where the band has been asked, they carefully word their answer about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band recognizes that the process is entirely political and not at all indicative of any success the band may have had, their continued relevance, or inspiration they may have given to other bands along the way. It is difficult for me to argue the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in any other light, because I too, see the nominating process and the joke it has become.
Each year I read the list of names, and while of course, there are several on there that should and deserve to be there, there are just as many that I seriously question. Even bands I adore, like Depeche Mode or The Cars, I really have to wonder about. What makes them any more deserving?
Most awards come down to popularity. I’m well-aware that the MTV EMA’s are also awarded based on vote. Is it any different? In some respects, yes I think it is. The EMA’s are not trying to decide the most important acts of our time based on the previous twenty-five years (or more) of work. They reflect a single year, and in many aspects they reflect a single song and how it was received by the public.
Ultimately, this post isn’t going to convince anyone of anything. It’s simply a conversation starter in the same way that morning talk shows might spark discussion. Speaking of which, in case you haven’t heard, Lori Majewski (author of Mad World and fellow Duranie who once was the editor of her own fanzine named Too Much Information: the Definitive Duranzine ) along with co-host Nik Carter have their own brand new music talk show called Feedback on Sirius Channel VOLUME. It airs 7-10 AM EST live in all time zones and then repeats as soon as it ends, and is also available on demand. We wish Lori the very best!