Benjamin Franklin is wrong. There are three things in this world that can be said to be certain: Death, taxes and rock fans losing their sh*t every year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces the nominees for their next induction class.
The announcement usually takes place in October, which is the perfect time for all of this to go down. The leaves are slowly changing and plummeting to the Earth’s floor to their death, and that coincides with the hopes and dreams of fans being crushed that their favorite singer or band has once again been ignored. Every year we brace ourselves, and every year, a majority of us are furious. It’s all very Charlie Brown, Lucy and that damn football.
The recently announced 2019 nomination class brought some genre variety, decade variety and influence variety, in addition to continuing the trend of recognizing some acts that fall under the “long overdue” banner. You know...the acts that are finally getting some love thanks to bringing in some younger blood on the nomination committee and putting out to pasture those who may have been dragging their feet because they thought a certain band wasn’t “cool” or “worthy” enough for induction. For crying out loud, the 2018 Rock Hall class was made up of Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, Nina Simone, The Cars and The Moody Blues, all of which would have been long shots to be nominated, much less inducted, 5-10 years ago.
Despite it lacking gender variety with only three women present among the 15 nominated acts (which is an entirely separate rant for another day), it was a surprisingly decent list that recognized the following artists:
LL Cool J
Rage Against the Machine
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
So, why are some picking apart this selection? There are two big reasons
First, there are those who still get a bee in their bonnet about hip-hop, rap or pop acts being included in the Rock Hall. “Why call it the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you induct non-rock acts?” they might (and usually do) lament. Frankly, there’s a good chance late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun didn’t think that far into the future when founding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in 1983. (Yeah...1983, which was four years away from the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill becoming the first rap album to top the Billboard 200 album chart.) Plus, look back at some of those early induction classes.
1987’s class featured Ricky Nelson...
1988 had The Supremes…
Sh*t...The Bee Gees were inducted in 1997, and ABBA got the nod in 2010!
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is just the snappy name with a good beat that you can dance to; the real meat behind an act’s nomination and induction tends to come down to their influence and reach, which leads to perhaps the biggest, and most legitimate, gripe of recent years.
Out of all of the sub-genres of rock, there’s is no greater fan passion found worldwide than in heavy metal. To its most ardent fans, metal isn’t just a type of music; it’s a lifestyle. It also happens to be the most underrepresented rock sub-genre when you take into account the number of bands/acts eligible for induction.
So, how many actual metal acts are in the Rock Hall? Two: Black Sabbath, who was inducted in 2006, and Metallica, inducted in 2009.
Considering influence alone, the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Slayer, Pantera and Ozzy Osbourne’s solo work should have been inducted long ago, and with the exception of Priest in 2018, none of those acts have ever been listed as a nominee. NONE!
If the Rock Hall is going to be inclusive of other genres, it really needs to see the err of their ways and recognize metal and other overlooked rock subgenres. (Looking at you, prog-rock! Don’t think for a minute that you got lost in this ranting shuffle!)
All of this brings up a big question: If fans have such problems with the Rock Hall and its ceremony, why care this much in the first place?
BECAUSE IT’S LITERALLY THE ONLY MAINSTREAM AWARD CEREMONY THAT STILL CARES ABOUT ROCK MUSIC.
Nearly every single major music award show in recent years views rock as an afterthought. The GRAMMYs, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and MTV VMAs have usually one token rock act on the performance lineup and will air one or maybe two rock award presentations if you're lucky. THAT’S ABOUT IT!
The best, however, is when non-rock acts win rock awards. Remember in 2014 when Lorde won the Best Rock Video at the VMAs and then took the award for Top Rock Song at the Billboard Music Awards for “Royals”? “Royals” is many things, but what it isn’t is rock. The most recent example of this happened just last night (October 10) when Migos, a rap group, won the “Favorite Duo/Group Pop/Rock” honor at the American Music Awards. (Seriously, that happened!)
During the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, however, rock acts honored actually have the chance to shine. They even have the opportunity to air their own grievances about the institution honoring them! In recent years, some acts have used their time to criticize the Rock Hall for their notorious omissions and the high prices inductees have to pay to get a table at the same ceremony that’s honoring them. (Admittedly, the latter is absolute garbage, and I don’t blame acts for being upset.)
It would be shocking if the Rock Hall weren’t aware of the fact that when it comes to mainstream recognition, they’re the only act in town for rock music and fans to the extent that they can be viewed, and view themselves, as an “authority” on the subject. And while a true authority does often look outside their own parameters to help broaden their knowledge scope, they need to take a hard look in the mirror and recognize there’s still a lot of rock that needs to roll into the hall.
Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock blogger that loves the smell of old vinyl in the morning.