2018 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, and Nina Simone
Criteria: 2018 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees. Names are in alphabetical order.

(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)
Last Updated: 2017-12-16
2018 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
How do you basically ensure an outcome in what is supposedly a free election? An interesting question after a particularly contentious year in the real world where America grappled with issues centered around similar problems.

While The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame doesn't have the far-reaching implications of elections for national office which shape the future of society, the Rock Hall is systematically altering the perception of the musical past with their flaws in the electoral process.

The issue here isn't outright corruption - not quite - or interference from foreign entities (say jazz or blues fans, not Russians) designed to upend the democratic process for their own insidious motives, but rather the outcomes are in a way preordained by the machinations of the Hall voting process itself.

So how is this possible? How DO you ensure an outcome without actually altering ballots? Well the answer is quite obvious - just do what The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame has been doing for years and which once again has resulted in a class that was largely predictable yet far from representative of the most worthy candidates available in 2018.

Let Freedom Ring
The Hall persists on refusing to acknowledge the two intertwining problems. The first is a never-changing nominating committee which offers up the names for each ballot and thus has the most power as to who ultimately gets in. Because new musical, cultural or generational viewpoints are rarely brought into this room the same taste-based choices are what emerge from that room on each year's ballot resulting in a version of rock history that overwhelmingly reflects their specific narrow demographic. 

This homogenous perspective is then compounded by the equally narrow demographics of the larger voting body which is made up of past inductees and hand selected critics and industry insiders who get a ballot.  Rather than take steps here to off-set the huge cultural advantages certain eras and styles have, they see to it that those advantages are emphasized further thereby guaranteeing those same eras and styles that the Hall's most powerful factions prefer are rewarded by the voters. 

The word to describe all of this is DISENFRANCHISED. Entire segments of rock are not represented, largely black styles and more recent forms of rock (which by the Hall's standards means any artist or style which thrived after 1987), because there isn't commensurate voting blocs to allow them to match the aging white male vote that dominates the rolls or, in many cases, even make the ballot as newer candidates are forced to wait years to be considered after becoming eligible.

So as a result you get what you've gotten this year. One of the worst classes in the Hall's sordid history. There are worthy inductees among them for sure, it'd almost be hard not to have one or two, but the story of the election isn't who got in but who didn't. The two most qualified candidates - LL Cool J and Radiohead - saw their chances thwarted for reasons of demographics alone, being a black rapper means you have two strikes against you right away with this electorate and for a band that thrived in the 1990's and 2000's means that the majority of those casting ballots weren't aware they even existed, as most voters stopped listening to music mid-way through 1980's.

But none of this is surprising anymore. This has been the intent all along of those who've entrenched themselves as the power brokers of The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame - to validate the eras, styles and artists of their own interests, while purporting to objectively showcase rock's diverse history. 

They haven't done that yet and with this year's class they wind up taking another step backwards in that regard.
Though the inductees are listed alphabetically it's perhaps appropriate that we'll start with the most qualified and work our way down this year as Bon Jovi have the misfortune of highlighting a forgettable class which will tend to obscure their strong qualifications that could more than stand on their own. As the most successful hair metal based group in rock history with five #1 hits and two absolutely huge albums in the 1980's they provided a defining sound for that decade with a litany of emotion soaked power ballads and gritty working class anthems that made them stadium superstars. Despite these solid credentials for years they suffered from a lack of respect from voters for epitomizing what was seen as a shallow musical style as well as the Hall's resistance to more recent eras, something that became less of an issue this year when some of their strongest competition on the ballot had even more recent heydays that voters typically ignored.  Nevertheless Bon Jovi themselves are a deserving inductee even if they are one of the weaker headliners thanks to the otherwise questionable class.
One of the many artists who were forced to wait years to even be nominated thanks to the Hall's resistance to focusing on names when they first become eligible, The Cars finally made the grade on this, their third try. Despite the wait we knew it was only a matter of time however as they had no major demographic hurdles to clear and after failing to beat out three candidates with weaker credentials in the last two elections they took advantage of the thinning ranks of those with similar demographic-based support and punched their ticket at last. Truthfully they were among the few white 70's based acts left with legitimate gripes as to being excluded this long as The Cars were vital in the popularization of New Wave, a key stylistic movement that bridged the 1970's and 80's and continued to thrive well into the MTV generation. Though only among the top seven candidates on this year's ballot they were helped enormously by the fact the five which didn't get in all resided in eras or styles the Hall voting body traditionally ignores.
Another group, like The Cars, who cover the same years albeit in a different style, but appealing to many of the same voters who dominate the proceedings making them a predictable if less deserving choice for entry. With the signature sound of renowned guitarist Mark Knopfler the group was well respected by their peers who jumped at the chance to induct them on their first appearance on the ballot. They're not completely without merit and they did have one of the defining albums of their era along the way, but outside of one earlier hit had a comparatively thin catalog for a group around as long as they were and never defined any unique rock subgenre or broke any new ground, thus depriving them of influence. With so many acts with more well-rounded credentials, both on this year's ballot and still waiting to be nominated, this was another case where the demographics of the voting body played a significant factor in their election.
While the first two names reached the threshold for induction and the third could at least have a halfway decent argument made for them (though the most qualified artists left out trounce them) the same can't be said from here on in. Not surprisingly the beneficiaries of the subpar choices reflect the Hall's ongoing infatuation from artists that date back to the 1960's and early 70's. Though The Moody Blues actually had hits in three different decades giving them potential appeal to multiple voting blocs, the overriding qualifications for marginal candidates to be elected has long been being a white act from the time period they represent and this only reaffirms that unfortunate trend. Though they were a lasting presence on the scene they were never a defining act of any era or style. Certainly groups like this are worth remembering but there's a difference between that and elevating them to the level of immortality a Hall Of Fame induction implies. Yet because of who they appeal to their inclusion is hardly surprising and but also hardly defensible.
Another inductee that's not surprising and one that plays into another unfortunate trend the Hall is long guilty of perpetuating. Though Nina Simone is arguably the most impactful artist among this year's class it wasn't in rock - or any of its subgenres - where she made that impact, yet in honoring her it gave the Hall the chance to disingenuously say, "See, we're not racist!", to counteract their lack of recognition for most black rock styles for the past thirty years. LL Cool J, The Meters, Rufus and Chaka Khan were three of the five most qualified artists on the ballot this year, all from black forms of rock and all with multiple nominations to their name, and yet again none got in. Last year it was Janet Jackson who was by far the most qualified name on the ballot and she too failed to make it. Simone's induction therefore gives them a convenient "out" that lets them sidestep the issue while continuing to promote the same whitewashing of rock history. The sad thing is Nina Simone, one of the most notorious protest-oriented artists in music history, would've surely spoken out against this ongoing institutional bias but her death in 2003 ensures another year with no black voices to be heard.
Finally a chance to celebrate something done to right a wrong, a rare occurrence for a Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame that rarely does anything right. But even here they can't get it completely right as their continued manipulation of their own rules proves. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was on the Main Performers ballot this year and had absolutely no chance of making it. In fact it's doubtful half of the voters even knew who she was or how vital she'd been in setting many of the rock precedents back in the 1940's with her vibrant guitar playing backing her impassioned gospel sides. Because the Early Influence category is not voted on by the general electorate, which is where she was best qualified, they simply had to name her after the election while giving voters an extra choice on the main ballot such as Janet Jackson, Eric B. & Rakim or De La Soul, all among the most qualified modern artists yet to get in. Instead the Hall, like it has so often of late, put her on the ballot with the intent all along of inducting her under a different category designation making her ballot appearance a sham. There is no doubt Tharpe belongs in the Hall, but there was also no doubt that she'd get in this year by the Hall's own machinations which further taints their credibility. Her induction should be cause for overdue celebration, not ongoing controversy of their own making.
When sports Halls Of Fame announce their inductees each year there may be some debate over who meets certain standards and even occasional dispute over a particular choice, but there's hardly ever any grounds for questioning the integrity of those Halls Of Fame themselves or the qualifications of the voters entrusted with evaluating the candidates. Not so with the Rock Hall where the institution itself has become an despotic body reflecting a purposefully rigid and myopic worldview within a system that allows for no transparency, no ethical safeguards, and no tolerance for legitimate objective criticism.

Those are often the types of regimes that appear to those on the inside to be the most secure by denying the need for cultural diversity and disenfranchising those with dissenting views in order to perpetuate blatant self-interest. But the grab for absolute power and the corruption that follows is what inevitably leads to revolt, to impeachment and to exiled disgrace. It might not happen as soon as we want it to but it happens eventually and so it will happen at some point to those overseeing Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame.

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