2020 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Depeche Mode, The Notorious B.I.G., Whitney Houston, and The Doobie Brothers
Criteria: 2020 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: 2020-01-17
2020 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
There are two ways to look at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame Class Of 2020. The first, and more cynical, way speaks less to who got in and more to who the nomination committee is pushing which means the pool of candidates voters have to choose from continues to feature a disproportionate number of second tier acts from the 1970's, thereby virtually ensuring that less qualified candidates will slip in at the expense of far more worthy acts from later years who are still waiting for a nomination.

But the second, and more charitable, way to look at the Class of 2020 is to say that of the sixteen nominees on the ballot this year five of the six who made it came from among the most qualified candidates giving them a far better percentage in that regard than in past years.

That might not seem like much to celebrate since all Halls Of Fame are designed to honor the most qualified people in their field, but considering the less than stellar history of this particular institution it's always a surprise when they actually manage to pull it off.
For years The Hall seemed to look down on synthesizer driven music as being an anathema to the organic instruments rock had been built on, but styles change over time and that may finally start being recognized. Depeche Mode becomes the first of three synth-based acts to be nominated in recent years to get in and while they arguably had less influence than either Devo or Kraftwerk in this regard, they had far more commercial success thanks to adhering to more mainstream sounds, something which undoubtedly helped their candidacy. The hope is that their induction may lead to more consideration for 80's and 90's dance-rock which made synthesizers even more popular than these guys did, but their induction is well-deserved.
The most surprising thing about The Doobie Brothers induction is that they hadn't already made it years before... or even been nominated! They seem to fit the profile the Hall slavishly respects - a white 70's band with a steady presence on Classic Rock radio. But while it would've been far nicer to see any one of about a dozen far more deserving hip-hop acts from the late 80's and early 90's who've yet be considered get their spot on the ballot (and make it into the Hall), you can't really criticize The Doobie Brothers' candidacy itself much. They were consistent hitmakers for a really long time with solid musical chops and if nothing else it means there's now one less 70's dinosaur band to consider in the future.
The biggest name of this year's class won't be on the stage, which is a shame for a multitude of reasons, the least of which means there won't be the chance to hear one of the greatest vocalists in history tear the house down. But as overdue as her induction is there's sure to be more focus on the fact that she is the only female inducted, as well as even some who find her brand of music to be too far outside of their narrow opinion of what rock entails. But Houston's body of work from the 80's was some of the best celebratory dance-rock ever made and her vocal talent in all styles she tackled was staggering. It would've been nice to have Chaka Khan, one of the few vocalists who could compete with Whitney, on stage to add another woman to the rolls, but at least the Hall finally got one of its more glaring omissions taken care of.
You'd think that now that artists who debuted in the entire first half of the 1990's are eligible there'd be far more inductees who represent that era, but Nine Inch Nails are just one of two in this year's class to fit the bill. The fact this was already NIN's third appearance on the ballot shows that The Hall was determined that this niche be focused on first. Ironically though while Trent Reznor was lumped in with the alternative scene of that era his industrial rock style was almost a category unto itself. Yet there's no questioning its impact or quality and going strictly by credentials it'd be hard to justify their exclusion.
When there's one candidate on the ballot who towers over the others in terms of impact and prestige in their field you'd think it would be assured they'd be destined to headline the festivities as soon as they're eligible. But when it comes to rap, and black artists in general, The Hall has proven that's hardly the case, so the fact that The Notorious B.I.G. made it on his first year of eligibility is a relief as much as it is something to be celebrated. His credentials are beyond question and though his tragic murder cut short his career just as he was entering his prime, Biggie's short time on top produced some of the most iconic anthems of the era as he himself became one of the defining artists of the 90's rock scene that saw hip-hop become its dominant commercial and artistic style thanks in large part to his indelible work.
The weakest entrant of this year's class, though not completely without merit, their induction over slightly more qualified candidates shows that the 1970's still have a firmer grip on the electorate than is justified. But while T. Rex weren't even the best act from that decade on the ballot - not when Rufus & Chaka Khan were there - the glam rock outfit were iconic enough to be worth at least some healthy consideration and their run of eleven Top Ten hits in Great Britain gives this year's class a more international flavor than it'd have otherwise. When looked at from that perspective their inclusion is hardly a bad thing.
Each year The Hall uses this category, now named after Ahmet Ertegun, for transparently self-serving purposes. When the general election produces no females or black inductees, as is too often the case, The Hall tries to sidestep the (entirely warranted) charges of misogyny and racism by inducting someone from those demographics to shield themselves from criticism. Yet when the election actually shows some minimal diversity, like this year, that's when The Hall gleefully rubs its hands together because it's free to induct their friends who otherwise are completely undeserving of any such "honor".

Jon Landau was a rock critic in the 60's who went on to serve as Bruce Springsteen's manager and while he may have been fine at that job about all it is deserving of is a seat at the Springsteen table for Thanksgiving, not a Hall Of Fame induction.

Irving Azoff was the manager of The Eagles, so he's presumably got a few more Thanksgivings to be invited to, but his real power in music came in business deals, including the controversial merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation which is now under federal investigation for multiple anti-trust charges. Maybe The Hall just wanted to honor him before he was imprisoned.

Everything that is wrong with The Hall Of Fame is laid bare with these shameful inductions... Landau for one has been a longtime member of the Hall's own nominating committee, making it a clear case of nepotism on top of it being undeserving for purely subjective reasons, while Azoff has contributed greatly to the monopolization of the industry that hurts artists and consumers alike.

But when there's no independent oversight and the lords of the manor answer to no one but themselves this is what you can expect.
The Non-Performer disgrace aside, this year's induction class at least is pretty respectable and contains no outright egregious inductees among the Main Performers.

That still doesn't mean it's flawless, as the electorate's white male bias is still far too apparent, not to mention dragging its feet on more modern candidates. Though on the surface two acts each from the 1970's, 80's and 90's would seem to be fair and equitable, it needs to be remembered that the 1970's have been eligible for well over a quarter century and yet they still get the same amount of entrants as the 1990's which has only seen artists from that decade on the ballot for five years.

But that also ties in to the Hall's troubling racial history, as it sees fit to basically cap the hip-hop candidates at one per year even though rap has been the most dominant style of rock for the past 35 years. By doing this they ensure that there's not a huge influx of black voters - since inducted artists get votes - which would inevitably tilt the electorate away from the Hall's avowed stylistic preferences.

You could even say that it's hardly a surprise that the two black artists won't be getting votes in the future since both Houston and Biggie are deceased, as was 2Pac two years ago. When you look at the multitude of hip-hop and black vocal groups of the late 80's and 90's that have yet to even be nominated despite being entirely deserving of induction you can see how the Hall works. By keeping out De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, Outkast, Salt-n-Pepa, A Tribe Called Quest, En Vogue, Geto Boys, TLC, Boyz II Men, et. all, it serves to keep that voting constituency artificially low.

If you don't think this form of subtle disenfranchisement enters into their thinking you haven't been paying attention to The Hall's long and troubling history in these matters. They've routinely done this in the past, failing to ever consider Kool & The Gang, The Pointer Sisters, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, The Gap Band, The Commodores, The Chi-Lites, The Delfonics and The Ohio Players which would've brought in lots more black perspectives that would've undoubtedly had a significant effect on the results of the last ten to fifteen years of elections. So instead they look to induct black solo artists (Bill Withers, Bobby Womack, Darlene Love) or deceased acts to keep the racism charges at bay while stuffing the ballots with white groups with plenty of living members that will be more likely to vote for their peers down the road.

This year was no exception as now there will be more than a dozen white guys from the various groups inducted this year who'll get ballots in the future, thereby ensuring the cultural perspective of the voting body remains largely homogeneous.

All of which means that taking The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame seriously is a perilous proposition. If the artists you personally prefer are the ones being rewarded you might think that's all that matters, but the validity of the institution itself, and thus the legitimacy of the inductees, is only achieved when all eras and styles are evaluated fairly and rewarded based on universally objective standards.

The Hall Of Fame has yet to ascribe that thinking and until it does, even when it comes away with a decent class of inductees as it does in 2020, the questions regarding its methods will still remain.

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