Rock Hall’s handling of nomination withdrawal once again proves the need for change

Written By Rachel Ross, Co-Opinions Editor

In November of last year, I wrote a piece about my thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s completely bogus, utterly inept, absolutely unfair and pure rubbish induction system. Needless to say, I don’t think very highly of it, or the way the organization is being run. Since that piece, a new class of inductees was announced. Overall, I didn’t feel as though I had enough to say about it besides more of the same, so I didn’t write a piece about it. But then Dolly backed out.

Along with Duran Duran, Kate Bush and a collection of others, Dolly Parton was nominated for induction this year. Yes, that’s Dolly Parton as in country music. This didn’t exactly phase me though; this is the kind of nonsense that makes up a usual nomination list for Rock Hall. Of course, this isn’t to say Dolly doesn’t deserve recognition. She’s just not really fit for recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, something that she seemed to agree with, considering she bowed out for that exact reason. She released a statement explaining that she doesn’t believe she has earned the right to be inducted and doesn’t want votes to potentially be split because of her. I think it’s absolutely worth acknowledging and commending how gracefully and respectfully Dolly handled the situation. I have always thought highly of her for her grounded nature and personability, and this only affirms that. 

At this point, I figured that would be the end of it; I mean, what else could happen? They’ll take her name off the list, and that will be it. Except they didn’t take her name off the list; Rock Hall is refusing to adhere to Dolly’s wishes. They released their own statement trying to justify why Dolly, a country artist, was nominated, their main point being that, “From its inception, Rock & Roll has had deep roots in Rhythm and Blues and Country music.” 

I guess they’re nominating people on loose association now. Their explanation sounds more like something they scrambled to piece together last minute as opposed to an actual well thought-out reason. Everything is influenced by something else. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge those influences, but it’s equally important to acknowledge when something has surpassed them and become its own thing. I’m thinking Rock had already taken shape and become its own independent genre by the 60s when Dolly came into the picture; I don’t think she was a part of the early beginnings. I am incredulous about this new low that Rock Hall has seemed to reach. Who are you to keep someone on the ballot if they say they don’t want to be? Dolly doesn’t want anything to do with you. The artist herself is telling you that she doesn’t want to be nominated, and you just don’t care? Apparently not. Clearly all they care about is selling this loose association and justifying the original nomination. 

This situation brings up a problem that I failed to discuss before, mostly because one would think it’s so blazingly obvious what’s wrong that it couldn’t even develop into a problem at all: Rock Hall’s insistence on nominating artists that don’t have anything to do with Rock. 

Country does not equal Rock. Rap does not equal Rock. Dubstep does not equal Rock. I realize that last one hasn’t really proved to be a problem yet, but give them long enough and we’ll all be asking ourselves how Skrillex ended up on the nomination list. These are indisputable truths. They’re different genres; they are not a part of the Rock umbrella in any way. At a certain point, something needs to be established as its own entity. Maybe what Rock and Country music have become stemmed from the same place, but they’re not in that same place now.

That would be like saying “Shrek” is a Disney movie because one of the guys that founded Dreamworks used to work for Disney. It’s the Rock Hall, so anyone that falls outside of the umbrella is ineligible for nomination. I don’t understand why we even need to be having this conversation. Certain things I can see having a debate on. The New York Times seemed to question Kate Bush being categorized as a Rock artist, which I find problem with; while Kate Bush is almost her own genre entirely, she fits best into the same space that Roxy Music or Siouxsee and the Banshees exist in, which is to say Art Rock or Alternative Rock. But at least that’s a conversation that has a little bit of back and forth. Asking if Eminem belongs in the Rock Hall is a conversation that promptly ends by the next line with, “No.” 

Again, of course it’s not to say that these artists don’t deserve recognition; Eminem is fine, but he’s not a Rock artist. What sense does it make that you’re nominating and inducting Rap and Country artists before certain genre staple Rock artists? People that are directly tied to the genre, not loosely associated. But that brings us back to one of the problems that I discussed last time, which is the seemingly random way in which artists are chosen for nomination every year. This whole situation only adds another branch to Rock Hall’s tree of disrespectful offenses. Not only do they dangle the promise of induction in worthy artists’ faces just to snatch it away based on unclear factors, utilize memorabilia or services from people they won’t induct, and present this illusion of voice to fans when in actuality they have little effect on the proceedings, but they also allow non-Rock artists to be inducted before key genre players. Sorry Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motörhead, we need LL Cool J in here right now! 

The whole thing has dissolved into this horrible joke that isn’t an honor for anyone anymore. Forget about the shady induction system for a minute, and think about it from the artist’s perspective. At this point, what is it even supposed to mean for a Rock artist to be inducted when the Hall has become so polluted with people that have nothing to do with the genre? On the flip side, what is it supposed to mean for a non-Rock artist to be inducted into a hall of fame that’s supposed to be about Rock music? And that’s exactly why Dolly backed out, and why it’s so commendable that she did. 

So I guess the obvious solution to this obvious problem is to change the name of the organization. I don’t see anything wrong with this. They can just be the Music Hall of Fame, as opposed to pigeonholing themselves into Rock. They’ve already strayed so far from the original idea that there’s really nothing holding them to the current name anymore. The argument that the name and the title is supposed to mean something or stand for something is completely invalidated by their actions. If you really cared so much about preserving Rock history, you wouldn’t have dove into other genres like you did. I think some hardcore Rock fans would probably be angry, but they’re probably already angry about the direction the organization has gone in and the major artists they’ve continually snubbed. If anything, the change would probably help with their public image and reception; it would give people one less complaint to throw at them and a prominent one at that. 

They need to pick one or the other. Either go all in on Rock or finally acknowledge that you’re pretty much letting anyone in at this point. It seems to me like it would be easier to go all in on everything at this stage of the game; that’s the position that they’ve created for themselves. 

Something needs to change, because the joke that this place has become gets less and less funny as the years go on. Dolly or anyone else doesn’t deserve to be shoved into a category that they don’t belong in; it’s unfair to them. Rock Hall, I want to like you, but you make it extremely difficult. I want to be able to respect the organization that’s supposed to be acknowledging and celebrating something I care about very much, being music and its rich history. Learn from this experience with Dolly, do some self reflecting, and drop the Rock in the name. 

You’ve already dropped it from everything else, so what difference does it make?