Being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a lot like earning Michelin stars as a chef — Does not having this recognition mean you aren’t putting out good shit that people love? Absolutely not. Some amazing musicians (and chefs) will never be recognized in these particular ways for their brilliance. But what if you happen to fall into a class of people who happen to be perennially ignored for the honor? Doesn’t the system seem just a little…what’s the word…exclusionary?
Last week’s announcement of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2020 brought a lot of the same old bitching about the voting system and who is even up for nomination back around again for the 34th time since inductees started being named to it in 1986. One of the most repeated complaints is the very low number of female artists who are inducted. This year, Whitney Houston was the only female inductee. Granted, Whitney Houston was one of the best selling pop artists of all time, but it seems weird to me that women who inspired her, like Chaka Khan or Roberta Flack, have never made the cut.
NPR crunched some numbers this year to let us know that less than 8 percent of all Hall of Fame inductees have been women. The hall voters have bemoaned that including a bunch of all-male bands has skewed the numbers. But men are clearly not the only ones who make music. Most of my favorite musicians are women. NPR also put together a great list of 41 female artists who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, like yesterday. My only beef with their list is they are trying to put PJ Harvey and Tori Amos up against each other…why not just make the list 42 women? Come on. Tori has to be one of the most prolific songwriters, piano players and performers of our lifetime.
These fuckers at the Hall of “Fame” are ignoring most of the grrls who have made the music industry rich. Boo hiss. Let’s take a look at five of the artists they ARE inducting this year. I’m not gonna write about T. Rex because they were before my time, but apparently they were influential and that Bang a Gong (Get It On) song is pretty catchy.
I adore Depeche Mode. Their music is dark, mysterious, full of the 1980s, synth and sex. Not mad at this selection. Their existence influenced the music of another 2020 inductee, Trent Reznor, aka Nine Inch Nails. Who I also happen to love. But Depeche Mode remains unique, at least to me, in the fact that I want to listen to my favorite albums of theirs all the way through. Each one of their songs is like a complete little universe. Everyone’s probably heard their more popular jams like “Personal Jesus” or “Enjoy the Silence” (which I wish still played on the radio all the time), but one of my personal faves is “Clean” (which, maybe not so coincidentally, is also on Violator). The video is kinda fun, too.
“Now I’m clean
I don’t understand
What destiny’s planned
I’m starting to grasp
What is in my own hands
I don’t claim to know
Where my holiness goes
I just know that I like
What is starting to show
Nine Inch Nails
Whereas Depeche Mode’s electronically driven music is, overall, a happier kind of introspective, Trent Reznor made Nine Inch Nails into his personal hellscape of self-hatred. His music has always been perfect for angsty teenagers who feel they are too “weird” and “different”, and then grow up to be semi-successful adults who still despise themselves and everyone else. Not mad at this selection, either. I got to know his music when I was in high school and I have vivid memories of listening to NIN’s 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine on repeat in a boyfriend’s basement (maybe that should have been a tip-off it wouldn’t last?). I still pop that CD in when I’m feeling particularly angry or rejected. Both “Closer” and “Hurt” have been huge hits for NIN, and rightfully so, but the whole debut album will always be my favorite. “Something I Can Never Have” has to be the song that rips my heart out the most.
“In this place it seems like such a shame
Though it all looks different now,
I know it’s still the same
Everywhere I look you’re all I see
Just a fading fucking reminder of who I used to be”
The Doobie Brothers
All the current members and some former members of the band are being inducted after some years of waiting. These dudes are pretty sweet. They can rock and roll. Their music from the 1970s is still on the radio all the time here in northwest Iowa, mostly with “Rockin’ Down the Highway” or “Black Water.” My personal favorite of theirs is “China Grove,” and I even posed for a picture with my parents while I was in Texas inspired by it. I grew up making up a lot of lyrics to this song, too, since I couldn’t understand if they were saying “Johnny Ho” or “Time to Go” or what.
“The people of the town are strange
And they’re proud of where they came
Well, you’re talkin bout China Grove
Oh, China Grove
The Notorious B.I.G.
Even though he only had two albums released before he was unsurprisingly killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. is still considered one of the greatest rappers of all time because his rhymes were pretty slick. His music is not really my jam. I think it’s even more misogynistic and violent than some of his peers, but what do I know. I can still get down to “Hypnotize” and “Big Poppa.”
“Ya got a gun up in your waist, please don’t shoot up the place (why?)
‘Cause I see some ladies tonight
That should be havin’ my baby, baby”
Whitney was an amazing and magnetic singer who, alongside Mariah Carey, really inspired me. When I was a little girl, I belted out song after song of theirs into my hairbrush microphone. They made me want to be a diva. I never quite got the voice down, just the attitude. It’s very unfortunate that Whitney’s induction into the Hall of Fame came after her death — not only did she deserve to see this honor, I would have loved to see her performance. Pretty much everyone in the world knows the lyrics to “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard soundtrack. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is a song you must include on any playlist you use to clean your house to. But my favorite Whitney song has to be “I’m Your Baby Tonight.”
“I’ll be down for you, baby
Lay all my cards out tonight
Just call on me, baby
I’ll be there in a hurry
It’s your move, so baby, baby decide
Whatever you want from me
I’m givin’ you everything
I’m your baby tonight ”
Let’s add some more ladies to the Hall, shall we?