Friday, October 21, 2016

2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

Once again, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced the nominees for a new class.  Within the last year or so there has been a shake-up on the nomination committee, which has resulted in better and more varied nominees.  They reduced the number of members, which sounds ominous, but I think they kicked off mostly dead weight, and the fewer members gives them a chance to really debate and kick these names around a bit more.  Previously ignored genres and eras seem to be getting more attention.

The problem in recent years lies less with the Nominating Committee and more with the voters themselves.  The voters are critics, record industry folk and all living inductees.  Therein lies the flaw.  While I respect Jerry Lee Lewis, I am not sure how much he can really evaluate the contributions of Kraftwerk to modern music.  Although, there is word that they expanded the voters by a couple more hundred, and I bet it was to add more critics and experts to dilute Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Simmons.  Estimates vary, but there are around 800-1000 voters who will cast their votes for these nominees.

If recent patterns hold, then 5-7 of these 19 nominees will be announced in December as part of the Class of 2017.

If you go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, you can cast a fan ballot (they will let you vote once a day, reacting to the fan vote debacle of last year where a bot flooded the fan vote).  The total fan votes will count as ONE ballot.  Hardly any real influence, but at least you can feel like you played a small part in the process, so I appreciate it.  Also, don’t know if it is just coincidence or it just logically falls this way, but every year the #1 vote getter in the fan poll has also been inducted.

I will briefly discuss the nominees, give you my personal picks, and then my prediction of what will happen.  In alphabetically order…

Joan Baez: in some respects it is strange that she has not been inducted already.  The Hall loves singer-songwriters, and she was on the folk front lines with Dylan and others in the early days.  Not a fan, but I respect her impact.  It is hard to figure out her chances.  It is a crowded field with big names, yet the Hall likes their singer-songwriters and there might be enough 60’s refugee voters to give her more votes than you might initially expect.

Bad Brains: More than any other nominee, this one reflects the new blood on the Committee.  I’ve got to be honest.  I’ve heard the name, but I had to look them up to figure out exactly who they were.  Hardcore punk pioneers who also experimented with reggae and other styles of music.  Influential on the punk and 80’s underground.  A bit too obscure in this field to have much of a chance, but the nomination itself is a victory.

The Cars: One of my all time favorite bands, am so glad to see them back (they were nominated for the first time last year and didn’t make it).  They’ve clearly got some boosters on the Committee.  I have to think they came close last year, and I think they’ve got a good shot this year.  Ric Ocasek’s acerbic 80’s pop is just so sharp and brilliant.  I will push hard for the Cars this year.  Ocasek has worked with a lot of artists as a producer, and many of the voters are artists.  The Cars are one of those few bands that still have a cache of cool and hipness, yet they are also all over classic rock and 80’s radio.  They had critical respect and also sold a ton of product.

Chic: Have mercy on Nile Rodgers and Chic!  Please!  Induct them already.  The Nominating Committee is being stubborn here, this is a record 11th nomination.  Looks like the voters are being equally stubborn.  On this, I think the Committee is right.  Chic were pioneers in dance and funk music, and Nile Rodgers
has been an influential producer.  I don’t know if it is still some anti-disco bias (although ABBA and Donna Summer are in), or whether the voters just don’t appreciate the same band being forced on them.  But this is embarrassing.  As far as I go, I always feel like they are worthy, but there are usually five candidates that I want more.  Maybe that is part of it too.

Depeche Mode: Very happy to see this nomination, this is their first.  The Committee has been trying to get more 80’s pioneers in, but the voters don’t seem to be biting.  In the last few years, The Cure, The Smiths and The Replacements have been nominated but not inducted.  I feel like the same will happen here.  All should get in eventually.  Although before Depeche Mode, there is another nominee this year who should go in first (see Kraftwerk.)

Electric Light Orchestra: Surprisingly, this is the first nomination for Jeff Lynne’s band.  Gotta admit, not a big fan.  Lynne is too Beatles-influenced for me, and wears those influences way too much on his sleeve.  They have their fans, and Lynne has worked with a ton of already-inducted artists, so I think ELO has a decent shot.  He is also the only remaining Traveling Wilbury not inducted.

J. Geils Band: The story is that Jann Wenner and Steve Van Zandt are the big boosters for J. Geils.  For me, this is a case of a great band, but not Rockhall worthy.  There are a lot of great bands that should not be in the Hall of Fame (just as there are many great athletes who don’t quite get to their sports Halls of Fame).  Great blues-based rock band with a fierce live reputation, but that ain’t enough.

Janet Jackson: There has been a huge Induct Janet movement building over the last few years, and she is unquestionably Hallworthy.  She was nominated for the first time last year, and it was a surprise that she didn’t get in.  She will.  So many of today’s pop divas owe Michael’s little sister.

Jane’s Addiction: We definitely are moving into the 90’s now.  Was not a fan, and I wonder how much of this is for Perry Farrell’s work on Lollapalooza.  I don’t see them getting in this time around.

Journey: Woo!!  Hold up cigarette lighters now for the power ballads and Steve Perry’s pink muscle shirts!  A Journey nomination would have been impossible five or more years ago, but in recent years there has been a more populist trend (Chicago and Steve Miller got in last year, KISS and Rush recently).  Despised by critics, loved by the masses.  Corporate Rock at its best (or worst?)  I’ve always loved Journey, and I think they have a shot at topping the fan poll (like Chicago did last year).  Is “Don’t Stop Believin’” the 80’s “Stairway To Heaven”?  I say let ‘em in.  If Rock and Roll is a popular music, as in for the masses, then Journey is it.

Chaka Khan: She’s been nominated with Rufus and also solo, which is kind of confusing.  I think she’ll be overshadowed by Janet Jackson, although she could also split some votes and prevent either of them from getting in.

Kraftwerk: I think the most influential and deserving of any of these nominees.  You cannot overstate their influence on any music that is electronic, programmed, dance or synth-based.  The problem is that few Americans have actually listened to their music (they are German).  I happen to love their music, but I doubt they get in this time around.  If the voters were only made of music historians, they’d be a shoo-in.

MC5: Furious punk precursors and revolutionaries.  Not a lot of name recognition, though.  Probably should be in for the track “Kick Out the Jams” alone, which is more rock and roll than anything else I can think of.

Pearl Jam: If there is anything such as a sure thing, this is it.  Pearl Jam will get in, they can already start writing their acceptance speech and plan their setlist for the ceremony.  This is the first year they are eligible, and like Nirvana a couple of years ago, the nomination and voting is a mere formality.  Pearl Jam has everything the Rockhall wants and needs: still a working and beloved band so it modernizes the Hall, respected by everyone, but (unlike Nirvana) they also are as close to a classic rock band that the 90’s produced.

Steppenwolf: It looked like the Hall was finally ready to close the door on the 60’s, but not quite.  There are still some stragglers.  Steppenwolf were huge for about five years, and have some absolutely iconic songs (“Born to Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “The Pusher”).  Not pushing for them, but wouldn’t be upset if they got in either.  They are one of those borderline bands.

Joe Tex: Great funky soul artist.  In my view kinda second tier, and probably won’t make it through this field.

Tupac Shakur: The first rap/hip hop solo superstar, his ghost still haunts the whole genre.  The old “does rap belong in the Rockhall” argument is dead amongst everyone not named Gene Simmons.  Many predict Tupac will get in this year (the first year he’s eligible), but I have a feeling he may wait a few more nominations like NWA did (who finally got in last year).  The lifestyle and subject matter of his music still makes many voters uncomfortable.

Yes: The fact that Yes is still trying to get inducted is patently absurd to me.  There are genres that have been neglected by the Hall, and progressive rock is definitely one, but come on.  Whether you are a fan or not, just objectively speaking, any artist who has been an innovator and at the forefront of any genre within rock and roll should by definition be in the Hall.  Add their longevity and that they have innovated and helped to define a genre and gotten substantial airplay and sold tons of records…what is the deal here?!

The Zombies: Another Steve Van Zandt 60’s pet project.  That’s not quite fair, The Zombies were a great band with some, pardon the pun, haunting pop songs.  Borderline for me.

So, there you have it.  My personal votes:

The Cars
Depeche Mode
If a 6th and 7th: Pearl Jam and Janet Jackson

What I think will happen:

Pearl Jam
Janet Jackson
If a 6th and 7th: The Cars and Tupac Shakur

What do you think?

As usual, to discuss all things Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Future Rock Legends is the place to go.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

GNABB Reluctantly Endorses Hillary Clinton

In the almost eight and a half years that GNABB has been helping to shape American culture and thought, the editorial board here has never endorsed a Democrat. We espouse a center-right ideology around these parts. But we at GNABB must now break from party for the good of country. This is less an endorsement of Hillary Clinton than a complete rejection of Donald J. Trump. But in order to reject Trump and save our country, that necessitates a default endorsement of Clinton. (Stein and the Green Party are silly, and Gary 'Aleppo' Johnson had a shot at a protest endorsement, until he proved himself less informed than my six year old).

Oh where to begin. I actually don't think Trump, at heart, is a racist. He's almost as bad, though, in the sense that he uses racism as an opportunist does. He carelessly courts a dangerous and until recently mostly dormant (other than in dark corners of the internet) racism amongst frustrated working class whites and those who pander to them. This racism was slowly fading, or at least had been kept around dinner tables and in chatrooms. Trump has brought this ugliness into the mainstream culture. But I also blame the Left. I blame them for creating an intolerable and intolerant politically correct environment in higher education, for supporting a vitriol-laced attack on law enforcement, for a weak and feckless foreign policy for eight years...the time had come for a strong, conservative resurgence. But instead of finding the next Ronald Reagan, the Republicans found Donald f*cking Trump. A crude, sexist, bloviating, attention-seeking, delusional (remember this one from the convention: "I alone can fix it"), insecure/pompous reality TV star with a frightfully short attention span. Trump is not stupid. Far from it. He is a master manipulator. But he cannot seem to focus long enough on any one topic to really deal with serious issues. Watch his interviews. The guy is all over the place without saying anything.

Trump's economic plan, such as it is, would add trillions to our debt.

I can't even discern a coherent foreign policy. At different times, he has said the following: he would crush ISIS, let the Russians handle ISIS and we should stay out of it, we should go take Iraq's oil, we should encourage nuclear proliferation in Asia, we should rethink NATO (just as Putin has visions of a new Russian Empire), Vladimir Putin is a great guy, Mexico will pay for a Wall that it does not want to exist, Brexit was a great idea. I know it's a campaign line, but what Clinton says is true. Trump is a man who can be provoked with a tweet or a well placed insult. Just look at this week. Clinton masterfully distracted him and drew him into a feud with a former Ms. Universe who put on some pounds. Imagine how Putin could toy with Trump for the next four years?

I could go on and on, but I don't really need to. I have proudly been a Never Trump conservative from the beginning. Trump has highjacked the Republican Party. Both parties have masses of people that have voted for them, but have been kept out of the decisionmaking. The Democrats contained their kooks when they were able to shut the Bernie Sanders movement down; unfortunately the Republican Party has been taken over by its most ignorant, unthinking, reactionary constituencies. Trump is not a conservative. He has no ideology at all, in fact. I stand with Mitt Romney and George H.W. Bush in their resistence and criticisms of Trump.

Finally, I oppose Donald Trump because I have two young daughters who I have been raising to respect themselves. Do I want their president to be a man who engages in public vendettas with almost any woman who publicly criticizes him? A man who has very publicly called certain women "pigs" and "dogs," even if they were just Rosie O'Donnell.

Perhaps one of the scariest things about Trump is that he is easily baited and cannot let criticisms go. Look at how viciously George W. Bush was attacked during his presidency, and how visciously Barack Obama has been attacked during his. Can you imagine Donald Trump being able to focus on the tasks of the presidency while being constantly criticized by his opponents and the media? He simply cannot let things go. He would spend most of his days in twitter wars and responding to every journalist who wrote a negative op-ed piece. In fact, he has openly discussed making it easier to sue journalists for defamation of public figures (translation: curtail freedom of speech and press).

I don't really have positive arguments for Hillary Clinton. She is capable, knowledgeable. She will continue the damaging policies of the Obama years, but we can recover from that. I think she is less ideological than Obama, and once elected, she will probably tack back more towards the center like her husband eventually did. At least that is my hope. She's got to keep the silly Bernie supporters in line until after the election. Then she can be reasonable again. By many accounts, she actually was a fairly effective Senator, and even many of her former Republican colleagues will quietly admit that she worked well across the aisle and listened to opposing views with a relatively open mind. Again, I hope that is the case and that she would be that kind of president.

But I do know that we cannot have Donald Trump as president. OK. So I just endorsed Hillary Clinton. I need to go take a shower now.