Popular Music- “Picking Winners”
Artists become eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include “the influence and significance of the artist’s contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” Obviously, some artists become inductees because they are enormously popular. Others are inducted in recognition of the importance of their contributions outside of their popularity. And, for some, it is both.
Your assignment is to select four contemporary artists relatively new to the world of popular success — or about to break into the realm of popular success — that you believe will be inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 25 or so years. You need to offer both your predictions and a critical defense of why you believe your predictions are likely to come true.
This assignment comes from an informal survey that I conducted for many years when INART 115 was taught in a classroom. I would ask the class to identify four or five of their favorite current recording artists that they believed would still be popular in five years. Around 80% of the artists who were selected had vanished from the charts sometime during the following year.
In this assignment, your critical judgment and reasoning are more important than your picks…only time will tell if you are good at picking winners. Your picks may be defended because you believe that their popularity will continue and you need to explain why you hold such an opinion. Your picks may also come from a belief in the importance of their contributions and, again, you need to critically defend your choices. Think of yourself as a Rolling Stone or Spin or Pitchfork reviewer looking into the crystal ball and trying to see the future. Jon Landau wrote a famous essay in Boston’s Real Paper in 1974 that heralded the coming of Bruce Springsteen this way:
“Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.”
Landau then went on to explain in detail why he believed Bruce Springsteen was “rock and roll future.” He was, of course, right and in the years since that essay he has become Bruce’s manager and one of the most powerful men in the music business.
Remember, the assignment is to select artists that are “contemporary artists relatively new to the world of popular success – or about to break into the realm of popular success.” U2, Tom Petty, Madonna, Radiohead, and Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t fit into the category of “artists relatively new to the world of popular success” (U2, Tom Petty, the Chili Peppers, and Madonna have already been inducted). More to the point would be artists like Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Li’l Wayne, Drake, Katy Perry, MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, Florence and the Machine, Kanye West, St. Vincent, Adele, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, and so on.
Try to see “rock and roll future” today like Jon Landau did back in 1974