Re-evaluating the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction of ABBA

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been inconsistent when it comes to inducting pop acts who primarily just stood in front of a microphone.

Michael Jackson got in. So did Madonna. Of course, those artists had a little something extra. They were lauded as much for their performing as they were for their songwriting and impacts on pop culture.

Yet, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey can’t quite break the barrier. It’s a mentality that goes back to the Rock Hall’s consideration (or lack thereof) of crooners. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett will probably never get in. But Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin were okay.

Our “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Remixed” series looks back on every year of Inductions, fixing mistakes and re-evaluating resumes.

[See previous remixed classes: 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009]

Rock Hall voters and purists prefer if you have a guitar in hand or a band behind you. But we’re not afraid to have a controversial act as our headliner for the Remixed Class of 2010, especially when she may be the greatest singer of all time:

  • Whitney Houston
  • Cheap Trick
  • The Cure
  • John Mellencamp
  • The Pretenders
  • Dick Dale*

Fiction vs. Reality: The Rock Hall’s actual Class of 2010 was rather lame. You had ABBA (we’ll get to that in a little bit), Jimmy Cliff, Genesis, The Hollies and The Stooges. For as much as the Rock Hall likes to put on a show, this was lacking in terms of buzz.

Still, The Stooges were a no-brainer. In fact, we inducted them way earlier. The same goes for Genesis. Not as much of a no-brainer, but still an act we put it rather easily.

Jimmy Cliff was a surprise, given that he was only the second reggae artist the Rock Hall honored. Cliff was influential, primarily through the film “The Harder They Come” and its accompanying soundtrack, which made reggae music popular in America. However, if we were to honor another reggae artist outside of Bob Marley, it would probably be Peter Tosh or Toots and the Maytals.

As for The Hollies, we saw a clear cutoff between the British Invasion groups worthy of the Rock Hall and the ones that just missed like The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, Small Face and a few others.

It was much easier for us to honor artists like The Cure, John Mellencamp and Cheap Trick before our 10-year eligibility cap ran out on them. Heck, you could make the case The Cure could have been first-ballot hall of famers as one of the greatest post-punk acts ever.

To us, Mellencamp is up there with Tom Petty and Bob Seger as an iconic Americana artist. Cheap Trick’s influence on rock music touches everyone from Green Day and Nirvana to The Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters (all Rock Hall caliber acts).

The Pretenders, meanwhile, were a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2005. We felt like the Rock Hall rushed that. But not because the band wasn’t worthy. The Pretenders join our Remixed series, just five years later.

Biggest debate: We really have two huge debates here. The first is honoring Whitney Houston, an artist “rock” purists will scream foul on.

Yet, we’re looking at the parameters the Nominating Committee has set up for who is eligible. Under that, Houston belongs in.

Acts like The Supremes and Aretha Franklin set the stage for her. And if the Rock Hall wants to induct Beyoncé or Taylor Swift someday (which it surely does), it better get to Houston, one of the most successful pop artists for the better part of two decades, first.

So what about ABBA? This is one of the oddest inductions in the history of the Rock Hall. They’re Sweden’s ultimate import, a pop culture force during the 1970s that has sold hundreds of millions records worldwide.

Of course, the Rock Hall isn’t just about success (or we’d be inducting Nickelback and Creed someday). You need influence. We can get behind Whitney Houston because she’s the blueprint for the modern female pop singer.

But what happens when you remove ABBA from music history? You lose “Mamma Mia!” and Ace of Base. And we’re okay with that.

*Legends Committee: Dick Dale isn’t a sexy pick, which is probably why he hasn’t even been nominated for induction. But surf rock deserves its time in the spotlight.

In real life, the Rock Hall made that happen with The Ventures’ 2008 Induction. But we’re higher on Dale, aka the “original kind of the surf guitar.”

Dale’s impact defies that genre, putting together instrumental music that would influence someone like Jeff Beck and a level of showmanship that hard rock artists would borrow from for decades to come.

What’s next: 2011 comes with a collection of snubs.


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