Death to All Halls of Fame

Groucho Marx had the right idea about clubs

Death to All Halls of Fame
Trophies make everything better

If you're the type of music fan who believes some artists are objectively better than others and/or the type of person who gets a kick out of treating art like sports and rooting tribal-style for your favorites to "win," then today is probably one of your favorite days of the year. I'm talking, of course, about the day that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces its latest class of inductees, and if you haven't already seen this year's list, well, I'm here to serve:

They finally made it

Now, look. I have nothing against any of these artists (with the exception of Jimmy Buffett, who continues to suck from beyond the grave), and there's nothing wrong with a little recognition. But allow me to submit the following argument: If you have not only made a living through your art, but derived so much wealth and/or left such a huge impact that people are willing to entertain the very idea of enshrining your name in a giant fucking building that has been erected purely for the purpose of absorbing tourist dollars through the guise of honoring your achievements, then friend, you have won. I mean, honestly, if you've ever paid a single bill using money you've earned through your art, you've won. Everything else is gravy, and thin gravy at that.

But the worst part — the worst part! — is the dreary discourse that bubbles up from the cultural depths like curdled milk every time a hall of fame or major awards show announces its new nominees and winners. Who got snubbed? Who was delivered the unjust kick in the shins that is being excluded from some mostly meaningless and utterly subjective honor? We must know, and we must argue it to death. So help me, when I am king, awards shows and halls of fame will be the first things to go. Tomorrow's music titans will content themselves with their platinum records, goddammit.

But first! First I want to say that this might be the year that the RRHOF finally did us all a favor and ushered in an act whose standing is and has always been so minimal that admitting them to the Hall serves as a tacit admission that its critics were always right and none of it means a single goddamn thing. That act is Foreigner.

Again, as I said just a few paragraphs ago, I have nothing against Foreigner. I have enjoyed a number of their songs. But we're talking about a band whose commercial viability lasted a single decade and left virtually no imprint; yes, you're probably going to hear one of their hits if you listen to a classic rock station long enough, but I think it'd take an awful lot of rhetorical jujitsu to make any kind of persuasive argument on behalf of the idea that Foreigner has ever been the slightest bit influential. At their peak, they were fine. Fine! They sounded a lot like other bands who were also fine, many of whom have toured sheds with Foreigner at various points over the last 20 years. But did they ever represent anything close to the very best that rock 'n' roll — mainstream or otherwise — had to offer? If this question leaves you with even the slightest impulse to say "yes," I want you to look at yourself in the mirror for several minutes and think about the implications of the thing you mean to say.

Noted Friend of Jefitoblog Jason Hare made the point this morning that the Hall is "running out of classic rock bands," which is true, and also conjures the hilariously entertaining specter of future classes including the likes of Kansas or Styx. But on the other hand, I think it'd be far easier to argue for the induction of either of those groups ahead of Foreigner — to say nothing of a band like Toto, whose cultural impact was greater by a ridiculous margin. Fuck "Africa" and "Rosanna," just think about all the albums Toto's members played on during the late '70s, all of the '80s, and the early '90s. If you gave a single shit about the Top 40 in the '80s, you were listening to Toto whether you knew it or not.

Anyway, this is all stupid, and I haven't even gotten to the part about Big Mama Thornton being inducted six years after Bon fucking Jovi. If you're a consumer, love what you love, don't love what you don't love, and remember that the communion between art and audience is where the magic happens, and really the entire point of all this. If you're an artist, remember that if your art has struck a chord with a single person, then you're already in the only hall of fame that matters. And to prove that I'm anti-halls and not anti-Foreigner, here's a playlist containing my favorite tracks from all of their studio albums as well as assorted solo and side projects.