After a committee of 1,000 artistes, historians, and music industry members gave their valued opinions, combined with the official fan vote, the great task of unveiling the inductees for the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is finally complete.
The seven artistes that will be felicitated this year are Radiohead, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, The Cure, Janet Jackson, Roxy Music, and The Zombies.
That leaves out Rage Against the Machine, Devo, Kraftwerk, MC5, Rufus and Chaka Khan, and Todd Rundgren, who were on the long list of potential inductees for the year and will have to wait another year before possible inclusion into the Hall of Fame.
A lot has been said about the relevance of Rock Hall in the past few years. While some musicians were absolutely clear about their contempt for the institution, others were relatively tamer and expressed a certain degree of nonchalance. Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson for instance (whose band has been snubbed by Rock Hall time and again for reasons that just don't make sense), recently called the whole affair "an utter and complete load of bollocks." He went on to add that "It’s run by a bunch of sanctimonious bloody Americans who wouldn't know rock 'n' roll if it hit them in the face. They need to stop taking Prozac and start drinking f*****g beer." Strong stuff Bruce!
The brains behind Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor, also shared a similar opinion, although slightly toned down. When asked about what it would be like if they were ever inducted, Reznor said that he "honestly couldn’t give less of a sh*t," before clarifying that "it's nice to be appreciated" but there's nothing less rock and roll than the idea of a hall of fame!
Indeed, that might be the very paradoxical problem at the heart of this honor. For decades, rock and roll has come to be synonymous with questioning authority, fighting for individuality and not giving into the establishmentarian structures.
For bands like Radiohead and The Cure that reveled in being celebrated in the underground and consciously stayed away from the mainstream spotlight, the induction must come across as bizarre.
What makes the announcement of inductees for this year awkward is the fact that at least two of them have publicly expressed their loathing or indifference towards the award.
"I don’t care. Maybe it’s a cultural thing that I don’t understand." That was Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood speaking to Rolling Stone in 2017, when asked his thoughts on the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame that nominated his band that year, but it took another 12 months to give them the official nod.
Guitarist Ed O’Brien was slightly more diplomatic in expressing his opinions. "I don’t want to be rude about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because for a lot of people it means something, but culturally I don’t understand it," he said. "I think it might be a quintessentially American thing."
However, when the announcement finally arrived on Thursday, Radiohead took a more gracious tone. "The band thanks the Hall of Fame voting body and extends congratulations to this year’s fellow inductees," they said in a statement, but there's no denying that they are definitely feeling underwhelmed by the decision and something tells us they would have preferred to not be inducted in the first place.
For Def Leppard, the award has been long overdue as they've been eligible for the honor for the last 16 years (the condition is that the band must have been active for at least 25 years to be nominated). The band swept the majority of the fan voting this year with 547,647 votes, which accounted for 17 percent of all votes cast.
Frontman Joe Elliott said they are "cautiously optimistic" about the possibility of being enshrined into the hall. But three years ago, in an interview with HuffPost Live, the singer insisted that his band would "politely refuse" an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saying it’s "not that important".
Elliott cited the Sex Pistol's refusing of the award in 2006, when Johnny Rotten sent a fax to Rock Hall saying "Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain," and said that Def Leppard would do the same unless fans were annoyed and started a campaign for them to accept it. He even explained his reason for the same, saying "what elitist thinks is an impact is very different to what the regular man on the street counts as impact."
Well, the fans have spoken this year and Def Leppard, like Radiohead, has also been gracious about their induction.
Meanwhile, one can't help but wonder if Rock Hall is pandering a little by awarding Stevie Nicks the honor for a second time. She is now the only woman to be inducted twice — once as part of Fleetwood Mac in 1998 and now, 10 years later for her solo material. In a year that is all about women's empowerment, Rock Hall's decision to induct Nicks again looks like a cheap stunt. Especially considering the fact that her solo material is definitely less impactful on the rock world when compared to say, Rage Against The Machine or Kraftwerk or even Rufus and Chaka Khan for that matter.
"I have a lot to say about this," Nicks said in a statement about the induction, "but I will save those words for later. For no,w I will just say, I have been in a band since 1968. To be recognized for my solo work makes me take a deep breath and smile. It’s a glorious feeling."
Meanwhile, for more than 10 years now, Janet Jackson has been near the top of the list of people allegedly wronged by the hall. The rare artiste boasting No. 1 albums in each of the past four decades, who at her peak scored an unprecedented run of top-10 hits, wasn't even nominated till 2016 and her induction this year is long overdue.
The '60s psychedelic rockers The Zombies, for their part, seemed like the only inductees who were enthralled by the honor. They called it "a career-defining [and] life-defining moment."
"There’s been lots of ups and downs in this 50-year career," singer Colin Blunstone told Rolling Stone. "This is the pinnacle, to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What a reward for all of the ups and downs over the years."
But apart from all the flak and irreverence, there has to be something said about the longtime fans of the many legendary acts that are nominated every year. No matter how much is said about the hypocrisy and absurdity of creme de la creme institutions like the Grammys, Oscars, and Rock Hall, one can't deny that the honor would bring a smile on many longtime supporters of the artistes. Just one look at the twitterstorm of congratulations should prove that.
Maybe this mix of pomp and distaste is both tone-deaf and silly, considering the fact a whole generation of new artistes is now reduced to selling their music for pennies to streaming companies.
The artistes being honored this year might not have even been able to make a living, let alone keep a band together for 25 years, if they'd come up in the current climate of the music industry. But for now, we can all sit back and watch the strange ritual of glorifying a select few legends onto a pedestal that keeps getting less relevant as the years roll by.
The 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on March 29, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.