Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

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author: quinn bell |  a&c writer

so shiny / pixabay

No Soundgarden? What a rip

Janet Jackson. Rage Against the Machine. The Zombies. Devo. Stevie Nicks. Def Leppard. LL Cool J. The Cure. Rufus & Chaka Khan. John Prine. Kraftwerk. MC5. Radiohead. Tood Rundgreen. Roxy Music. This year’s nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, and there is some ridiculous talent on display. The decision for which artists to induct will be incredibly tough this year, and I don’t envy the judges one bit. That being said, I like to exercise my democratic rights and when I get the chance to vote, I take it (URSU fall by-elections, anyone?). I refuse to let a bunch of very qualified music historians and killer performers alone decide who should win, so I’m voting daily in the fan vote. The top five artists as chosen by fans will get one extra ballot added to their official scores come December. 

There is a problem, though. When I look at the big names on this list (you know, all of them), I feel pretty overwhelmed. Who am I supposed to vote for in the fan vote? I don’t know how anyone could possibly choose among any of these artists. What makes one worthy to be inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame? Is it their influence and impact on the music world, the number of hits they’ve had, their commitment to community? Or is it just being damn talented? 

Luckily for us fans, it’s the top five who will be inducted, and lucky for you I’ve already done some digging on the nominees, so you don’t even have to choose for yourself (did I say democracy?). Here’s a peek at the best of the best of this year’s nominees. 

First off: Janet Jackson. Jackson has to be the most impressive artist on this list. I always knew her for her amazing, over-the-top choreographed music videos from the ‘80s (go watch these NOW). When I saw her name up for nomination, I was tempted to take a line from Jackson herself and ask, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Jackson has had top singles in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s, and her 2015 “No Sleeep” remix with J. Cole was Pitchfork’s Best New Track of that year. Janet Jackson is relevant and impressive. Furthermore, she’s long addressed sexism, self-empowerment, racism, poverty, and all manner of social issues in her music. A very cool, inspiring artist who deserves to be honoured. 

Next is Devo. Like Jackson, they hail from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and have some boppin’ videos; they, too, stick it to the man every chance they get. Devo’s mastery comes in the form of subtle satire, however. Just take a look at their video for “Beautiful World” – half way through, the band is still cheerfully calling the world romantic, but the visuals are all scenes of war, famine, and disease. Mix in more weird, experimental art costumes and some lame-but-wonderful synth sounds, and you get Devo. Their Rock Hall bio makes it clear that they have a special place in rock history: “tearing it down.” If you’re not sure who Devo is, listen to “Whip It.” You’ll know it. 

Art is more important than prestige for Devo: their Spotify page is almost self-deprecating, pointing out that they were only really successful “for a time.” The first part of that also seems true of UK band Radiohead: they, too, seem to be in it for the art, which is amazing. Unlike Devo, they’re still famous. Nonetheless, they’ve been nominated in part for their artistic guts: whenever they find success, they challenge it immediately. Guitarist Ed O’Brien says that they “start with what [they] don’t want to do next” – a step away from what’s been going well and a deep dive into something new. Lucky for them (or perhaps telling of their talent), success follows them. For their willingness to experiment and to let lead singer Thom Yorke dance on screen (watch “Lotus Flower” for a good time), Radiohead deserves to be inducted. 

So, there you have three of my picks for the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame [Editor’s Note: No love for The Cure, huh?]. If you want to vote for revolution and rap-rock, check out Rage Against the Machine. If you’re more into Americana and singer-songwriters, there’s John Prine. Dusseldorf’s Kraftwerk is who you’ll want to listen to if you’re one for EDM-roots and heavy synths. Looking for a teenage hip-hop star who now stars in NCIS? LL (“Ladies Love”) Cool J is also on the list. Hard glam rock? Def Leppard. 

Happy listening, happy voting, and good luck to all the nominees. 

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