- Publish Date
- Thursday, 16 January 2020, 12:18PM
Rock fans across the country were stunned by Wednesday morning's revelation of the 2020 honorees: Whitney Houston, the Notorious B.I.G., Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and The Doobie Brothers.
Not that any of this year's inductees are undeserving, but the 2020 Hall of Fame class comes at the expense of four of the five artists who garnered the most fan votes, including the top two.
It's the first time the artist with the most fan votes did not get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that same year.
Dave Matthews Band will have to wait for its Hall of Fame party, despite dominating the fan vote with 100,000 more votes than second place vote-getter Pat Benatar, who also did not get in. Two iconic hard rock acts, Judas Priest and Soundgarden, were also left on the notable omissions list.
The Hall of Fame voters picked third place Doobie Brothers for induction this year.
The fan vote comes with no guarantee of enshrinement (it amounts to, at best, a ludicrous 1/1000th of the total Hall of Fame vote tally), but it was established to serve as a heavy suggestion by the rest of the Hall of Fame voters. The voters defiantly ignored that suggestion this year.
If the Hall of Fame voters are ignoring fans enough to shun their top two choices — and four of the top five — the Hall has some major questions to answer about what it's supposed to represent.
Within minutes of the induction news breaking, fans resumed longstanding complaints about the Hall's "disgraceful" selection process. Many evoked Steve Miller's glorious 2016 induction night rant against the organization, during which he characterized it as being full of "gangsters and crooks."
The Electoral College-like manner in which inductions unfolded this year didn't do much to dispel those accusations either. This year's snubs make it more apparent than ever that the Hall amounts to little more than a country club with exceedingly confusing standards for inclusion.
At least if the Hall of Fame voters upheld tradition and inducted Dave Matthews Band — one of the highest-earning touring acts in music history — the organization could have credibly argued that its voters always listen to the fans. If that was ever true, it's not so anymore.
This past fall, Matthews referred to the musical diversity of the 2020 Rock Hall nominees, joking to Billboard that the list was "outrageous." He humbly cast doubt upon his own band's 'rock and roll' credibility and unknowingly foreshadowed Wednesday morning's frustrating news.
Make no mistake, pop stars and hip hop legends deserve recognition, too.
Houston is a cultural icon and musical hero for many previous and future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.
And while it drives some people crazy, the impact of Biggie and prior hip hop inductees like Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Beastie Boys on the musicians that came after them is inarguable. They're not entirely rock, but whether you like it or not, they are essential to the story of modern music.
The problem is that the inductions of Houston and Biggie, as well as Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, fly in the face of fans who enthusiastically engaged with the Hall of Fame's selection process.
There are some acts whose induction seems inevitable. Houston, Biggie and Nine Inch Nails (especially after Trent Reznor's 2011 Academy Award) were sure to get in at some point. The same could be said for Dave Matthews Band.
Depeche Mode's induction this year is a pleasant surprise.
By and large, fans spent their votes on artists who might have an expiration date with regards to their nomination, especially as fans of those acts are concluding that the Hall doesn't value their opinion.
Wednesday's news makes it look more likely that Judas Priest is doomed to never overcome the Rock Hall's heavy metal prejudice. To ignore Priest is to ignore one of the most impactful genre's of music in the world. Priest has already been at it for 50 years; when the band retires and stops filling arenas and periodically shocking the industry with strong album sales, who will be its advocate?
Following Nirvana and Pearl Jam's respective inductions, Soundgarden is the next logical grunge band up for induction. But with Chris Cornell gone too soon and the release of the band's final album up in the air, are the Hall of Fame voters going to keep caring in a few years?
Benatar's exclusion this year, despite a second-place finish in the fan voting, is telling of problems with the demographics of the Hall of Fame voters. True, another woman, Houston, will be enshrined this year, but the Hall of Fame has had a troubling habit of inducting only one woman at a time. And speaking of Houston's case, music's most important female artists shouldn't have to die to be recognized.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame set a deleterious precedent Wednesday. It highlighted it's murky induction process and made a mockery of its own attempts to engage with fans.
Just like the artists it seeks to aggrandize, the Hall of Fame is nothing without the fans who pay for admission every day. Will those same people be paying attention in a year?
This article was first published on iheart.com and is republished here with permission