Best Records of March 2019

Solange – When I Get Home (In turning down and making quieter, more intricate music, Solange has once again made the most surprising record possible)

William Basinski – On Time Out of Time (it’s made of the sound of black holes consuming each other! It’s so cool!)

The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Shabaka Hutchings continues to make the best jazz music for dancin’)

Ex Hex – It’s Real (Most garage bands go hilariously radio-metal and it’s a reason to hold them in disdain, but not this time. No really. I promise.)

Wander – March (Sometimes some on-the-nose post-rock is just what the doctor ordered)

A Considered Prediction of Every Act to Play Woodstock 50

So we finally get to see, after all of the announcement and hype, what the lineup for the Woodstock that’s happening this summer is. I kick around talking about festival lineups every year, and then every year I decide not to get to it 1. For this, however, since I just did all the Woodstock stuff when it was announced, I decided to wade on in and pass some dang judgment.

There’s a pretty by-now-standard mix of pop stars, aging rock dudes, and probably just about as many original Woodstock folk as are willing and able (which is to say: not that many). It looks like it was assembled to appeal to a large denominator, and to consist of people who do this sort of thing fairly often, and are therefore reliable. It looks, in short, pretty dull.

That said, it probably doesn’t hold up any worse than any other Woodstock, even if it is kind of boring and seems pretty slapdash. So let’s take a look at how this might go!

DAY 1

John Sebastian

WHO HE IS:The former autoharpist for The Lovin’ Spoonful, and a veteran of a couple of other Woodstocks – he only didn’t play 99.

IS HE WORTH IT?: Dude wasn’t worth it in 1969, and he’s literally fifty years older now, so no I’m comfortable saying he is not.

Princess Nokia

WHO SHE IS: A very young emo rapper.

IS SHE WORTH IT?: I’m going to go with “no,” given that every word in that sentence except “a” seems to rule it out.

Anderson East

WHO HE IS: A white R&B dude who is not related to Dave East (a rapper) or Anderson Paak (a much better R&B singer)

IS HE WORTH IT: there is almost no way that he can be, no.

Michael Franti & Spearhead

WHO HE IS: An erstwhile Disposable Hero of Hiphoprosy, who’s also been a reggae dude for well over a decade now, and I think had a hit several years ago.

IS HE WORTH IT: He’s not even worth me looking up if he did, in fact, have a hit several years ago, so I can’t imagine standing in front of his playing.

Maggie Rogers

WHO HE IS: According to Wikipedia, she cites Carrie Brownstein, Patti Smith and Bjork as influences. Coincidentally, so do I. This would be great. We could talk about Bjork records while literally anything else happens, because it’s not like I’m going to be listening to her music.

IS SHE WORTH IT: Nopers

The Head and the Heart

WHO THEY ARE: A sort of folk-rock band. They’re fine.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: They probably aren’t bad live, and “Down in the Valley” is a pretty cool song, so by the admittedly-loosened standards of this here Woodstock situation, probably yes.

Run the Jewels

WHO THEY ARE: Great rappers. One of them is also a great producer.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh, sure. They’re great live and I’m sure they’re great in front of a huge crowd.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

WHO THEY ARE: Denver jam band. This is allegedly different from the other bands that Nathaniel Rateliff has been in, but I can’t pretend to be interested in why.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I don’t want to come off as needlessly pessimistic, but it’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t be that bad. I mean, not memorable or whatever, but probably fine.

John Fogerty

WHO THEY ARE: Another Woodstock veteran, and the dude that used to be in CCR.

IS HE WORTH IT: Yeah, probably, even though he’s fairly old. He wrote a bunch of great songs, certainly.

Robert Plant

WHO HE IS: He used to sing for the Honeydrippers. He made a record in the nineties with Jimmy Page, and another one twenty or so years later with Alison Krauss.

IS HE WORTH IT: God I don’t even know. The odds of hearing a Led Zeppelin song are pretty long, and the odds of wanting to hear one given his actual singing voice these days are somewhat lower.

The Raconteurs

WHO THEY ARE: Jack White and Brendan Benson’s recently-reconvened rock band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh, probably. While I’ve never seen them, I’ve seen Jack White and Brendan Benson separately, and they’re both great, so it seems likely.

The Lumineers

WHO THEY ARE: A Denver jam-folk-rock band that recently lost their cellist.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I don’t know what their cellist contributed, but I’m going go ahead and say “no, not without their cellist”.

Santana

WHO HE IS: Another original Woodstocker. I guess he can only play Woodstocks that John Sebastian plays, because he also has only missed 99.

IS HE WORTH IT: Not for the last several decades, no.

Miley Cyrus

WHO SHE IS: The oldest daughter of the guy who sang “Achy Breaky Heart”

IS SHE WORTH IT: I can’t imagine that she would be. Her televised live performances haven’t been much to write home about, and I’m not sure that being in front of a field full of many thousands of people is going to actually help matters any.

The Killers

WHO THEY ARE: Las Vegas’s premiere rock band of the late aughts.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: An internet acquaintance saw The Killers at a festival some years back and described the reaction to them playing “Mr. Brightside” as “the closest [he] would ever be being inside a riot”. So yeah, that sounds pretty good.

DAY 2

Taylor Bennett

WHO HE IS: Chance the Rapper’s little brother the rapper

IS HE WORTH IT: I have no idea. His music doesn’t do much for me as it is, but it might be fine, and it’s probably better than a nine hundred year old former rock star.

Soccer Mommy

WHO SHE IS: A very talented nineties-throwback power-pop lady

IS SHE WORTH IT: Oh yeah. I missed her the last time she came through Cleveland, and I wish I hadn’t all the time.

Emily King

WHO SHE IS: A rank-and-file R&B singer

IS SHE WORTH IT: Well, her recorded music doesn’t have much to make it memorable (I wasn’t aware, in fact, that she had even made a third record, but I suppose that’s on my attention more than it is on the music), but I suppose it’s possible that she pulls it out live. I dunno. The pickings are slim enough that I’d probably say “Sure”.

Rival Sons

WHO THEY ARE: There is a long tradition of unmemorable nothing-special blues-rock bands playing at Woodstock. Rival Sons are continuing in that tradition.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Almost certainly not.

Country Joe

WHO HE IS: Oh for fuck’s sake. I guess you can’t have a Woodstock without Country goddamned Joe. Let’s here it for the fish cheer, everybody!

IS HE WORTH IT: No. Not now, not ever.

Margo Price

WHO SHE IS: A Jack White-affiliated country singer.

IS SHE WORTH IT: Yes. Her music is good, and I bet it works pretty well in the setting.

Dawes

WHO THEY ARE: A pretty straightforward, if a little bland, rock band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Dawes are fine, and I’ve heard good things about them live, even though I’ve never made it out to see them myself, so I’d say yes. Why not?

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

WHO THEY ARE: A jam-adjacent folk-rock band that had a sort of hit with “Home” a bunch of years ago. If you’ve confused them with The Lumineers, that’s ok, I’m not entirely convinced they’re not the same band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: No

Gary Clark Jr

WHO HE IS: A blues-rock guitar guy.

IS HE WORTH IT: I’ve always enjoyed seeing him play when I’ve happened across it on tv. I’m sure it’s fine at a festival.

Leon Bridges

WHO HE IS: A neo-soul dude who came up via White Denim, which is an interesting bit of business, if nothing else.

IS HE WORTH IT: Sure, I like Leon Bridges a lot, and his thing was made for this sort of event.

Portugal, The Man

WHO THEY ARE: Wasilla, Alaska’s finest!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: No. They haven’t made a good song in a dozen or so years, and even in the early going it’s not like they were that good.

Greta Van Fleet

WHO THEY ARE: Well they’re not Led Zeppelin, I’ll tell you that.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Of course not.

Sturgill Simpson

WHO HE IS: A genuinely pretty-weird country dude, which makes him a rare bird, indeed.

IS HE WORTH IT: Oh, absolutely.

The Black Keys

WHO THEY ARE: Recently reactivated Akron blues-rock band.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: They’ve always been good when I’ve seen them, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

Chance the Rapper

WHO THEY ARE: Chicago’s most positivity-oriented gospel-rapper

IS HE WORTH IT: Oh I bet he’d be a blast. He’s one of the ones I’d be genuinely sad to miss, in fact. If I were in fact going to be sad about missing any of this shitshow.

Dead and Company

WHO THEY ARE: Two of the surviving/still-interested members of the Grateful Dead, plus John Mayer. So if you ever thought that the main problem with the Grateful Dead was that John Mayer wasn’t involved, well, you’ve probably already seen them a dozen times anyway and don’t need me to tell you about them.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Nopers!

DAY 3

Cherry Glazerr

WHO THEY ARE: An actress/model-fronted rock band that appears to be making a big ol’ push to be real-life rock stars. Whee!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: No

Pussy Riot

WHO THEY ARE: A Russian activist group/riot-grrl act

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Their entertainment value depends wildly on what they’re doing onstage at this particular event, but probably.

Hot Tuna

WHO THEY ARE: Two former members of Jefferson Airplane. True story: I thought that one of these dudes died a few years ago, but he did not!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can’t imagine them being worth it, no.

Canned Heat

WHO THEY ARE: Another veteran of previous Woodstocks, and another of those aforementioned nothing-special blues-rock bands.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I would do an awful lot not to sit through a Canned Heat performance, I can’t lie.

The Zombies

WHO THEY ARE: One of the all-time great first-time-around psychedelia bands. They were a part of the British Invasion, even.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I hear they still are, even though I haven’t been able to see it myself. I believe it, though.

Boygenius

WHO THEY ARE: A supergroup comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Daucus and Julien Baker.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: The record is pretty good, and they’re all pretty good separately, so sure, I bet they’re worth it.

Earl Sweatshirt

WHO HE IS: One of the more lasting talents to come out of Odd Future, and a genuinely great rapper.

IS HE WORTH IT: Yes, although I won’t have seen him myself until a couple of months before this event. I’m still willing to bet heavily on it.

Judah and the Lion

WHO THEY ARE: Like…a novelty bro-folk band? I think that’s the best way to describe them.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: Oh god no.

Vince Staples

WHO HE IS: Probably my favorite currently-operating rapper.

IS HE WORTH IT?: He’s fantastic live, and while I would have some misgivings about his ability to come over to a festival crowd, I bet it would still work out.

Common

WHO HE IS: An elder statesman of conscious rap.

IS HE WORTH IT: Yeah, probably

Courtney Barnett

WHO SHE IS: An Australian rock musician and another genuine actual genius.

IS SHE WORTH IT: Oh sure. This stuff was made for festivals, and she’s an amazing live act.

Young the Giant

WHO THEY ARE: They’re a rock band. I genuinely forget who they are, even though they’ve been famous for basically as long as they’ve existed, and I’ve therefore been aware of them for a decade.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can barely remember they exist, I can’t imagine it’s worth standing in front of.

Janelle Monae

WHO SHE IS: R&B’s foremost pansexual cyborg

IS SHE WORTH IT: Probably! I get the impression that a lot of her onstage thing depends on the “show” aspect of it, so it might depend on how much stage production she can get out there, but I also fully acknowledge that this feeling is based on very little, and I could be entirely wrong. In any event, I bet it’s worth it to see.

Brandi Carlile

WHO SHE IS: A full-throated folkie whose most recent album did gangbusters business

IS SHE WORTH IT: I mean, she spent a long time garnering her fans and attention the hard way, which for a folkie means playing out in front of people, so at the very least she’s got enough experience for there to be a reasonable chance. I’m not sure that I’d ever enjoy it, but she’s better than most of what happens here.

Cage the Elephant

WHO THEY ARE: The band that did the song from Borderlands!

ARE THEY WORTH IT: I can’t imagine that they are. I think they did a daytrotter session years ago that I kind of hated, and being several years later in a giant field is probably not going to help matters much.

Halsey

WHO SHE IS: A pop singer who is, to be frank, unusually high on this bill

IS SHE WORTH IT: There are many reasons to enjoy looking at Halsey, but I can’t imagine any of them translate to wanting to do so in such a context

Imagine Dragons

WHO THEY ARE: One of the few reliably hit-making rock bands left in the world.

ARE THEY WORTH IT: They might be a compelling act in a circus-trick giant-drum sense. I dunno.

Jay-Z

WHO HE IS: Beyonce’s husband

IS HE WORTH IT: I’d imagine he can still deliver whatever it is you think you’d be looking for out of a Jay-Z performance in 2019

So now you know!

So there you have. Also, feel free to remember that whatever I say up there, none of this is worth it, and there’s (going on past happenings) a 33% chance it could end in everything being on fire!

Wheee!


  1. for a couple of reasons, first being that there are other people that do it, and they don’t start from the position that giant outdoor festivals are a stupid way to see a band, which makes them more credible and secondly that I listen to a lot of music, but have pretty well winnowed it down to what I actually am likely to enjoy, and so would have to spend a lot of time deep in the trenches figuring out a lot of undercard acts. Woodstock didn’t print their undercard acts, so I’m pretty well familiar with everyone here. 

The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards

Awhile back, I declared that there were some awards shows I was just never going to write about, and this was one of them. I did realize , however, that I cover a lot of things that are of interest to me, and not a lot of things that are decidedly not aimed at me. This is sort of by design – I don’t talk about awards aimed at marginalized/minoritized people because I’m not one of those things, and I don’t feel comfortable inveighing on them, especially in a jokey fashion that declares my favorite of the things involved the “Rightful” winner.

That said, I used to be a kid. It was a long time ago, but it totally happened, so this presents me with an award that is granted to/by a demographic that is outside my own but that I feel I am at least somewhat qualified to speak to the rightfulness of the winning-eligible selections, here.

So unlike the Teen Choice Awards, which occupy a more generalized sort of place, the Kids Choice Awards are specifically granted by the cable television network Nickelodeon. It is admirable how much restraint they are able to show by not pushing too much of their own content, which also brings to mind the also-paramount-owned MTV Movie awards. In fact, they’re very similar in most regards. I suppose that makes sense.

I have to suppose these things, because I have basically no experience with the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. I’ve always liked awards shows, and I must have watched them on occasion when I was a kid, but I don’t remember anything about them in particular, so this is basically a clean slate for me.

That said, this does present a pretty fantastic opportunity, because I genuinely love weird try-hard little awards shows, even though I have basically no idea what place or function Nickelodeon holds in the culture, either at large or among its theoretical target demographic of children.

Anyway, I’m skipping the international categories because they seem pretty specifically focused to the target audiences there, and I don’t want to compound any problems I may have in the first place with problems understanding what children on other continents are into.

How Do You Want to Help?

This category is well-intended and fine, but it also seems like advertising research? Which is also fine, I guess, as long as it gets people thinking about helping other people, which I’m foursquare in favor of. I’m saying even cold-hearted me can’t come up with anything to say about this other than undistinguished approval. Oh, except genuinely if we don’t figure out the environment there won’t be any animals, or schools, or, eventually people to be bullied/in need, so let’s get on the environment, yeah?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I mean, they’re all rightful, but only one of them is about the fate of the literal planet so….

Favorite Social Star

I’m more than happy to cede this one to current events, and point out that Lilly Singh is so good at social media it got her a job as a queer woman of color on late-night television, so she’s the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lilly Singh

Favorite Gamer

I know nothing about this world at all, and I only ever hear about these people when they, say, scream racial slurs and/or get arrested, as a couple of the people here have been. This Markiplier dude seems ok, and hasn’t shouted racial slurs or been arrested, so I guess I’m safe naming him rightful, but man, I hope I don’t live to regret it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Markiplier, I hope

Favorite Video Game

My favorite of these is Marvel’s Spider Man because wheeeeee web-slinging and also beating up criminals but mostly the web-slinging. It’s so good, y’all. THWIPP.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marvel’s Spider Man

Favorite Global Music Star

Well, I appreciate that they’re trying here, but this is not quite like the charity one, because it does one of my least favorite things: it makes “global” music into one homogenous mass. It’s exoticization, and it’s stupid. But I do like J. Balvin.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Balvin

Favorite Social Music Star

You’ll never believe this, but even after as much research as I could muster, I still don’t care about any of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chloe x Halle

Favorite Collaboration

It remains the case that in these all-encompassing, bit-of-everything awards shows, the music categories are frustraing and stupid. This is geared at theoretical children, so it’s especially so. But I do still kind of like “I Like It”. A little bit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “I LIke It” (f J Balvin & Bad Bunny)

Favorite Breakout Artist

I don’t know the eligibility period for the Kids Choice Awards, but I’m happy that Cardi B is here, because I was really staring down the barrel of trying to figure out something nice to say about Billie Eilish otherwise, and that made me itch.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B

Favorite Song

I’m going to, out of circumstances beyond my control here, say something I never thought I’d say, and here it is: Ariana Grande has the best song in this field of people. She also has Nickelodeon ties, which I would think was weird except there’s no way they planned it this way, so I’m comfortable with it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

Favorite Female Artist

At least the Kids Choice Awards err on the side of “obvious” so that I don’t have to do any more thinking than is required, but jeez, Beyonce is not in the same league as these folks. Good to see her here though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce

Favorite Male Artist

Things  are a little tougher down here, but that’s only because the Beyonce of Male Artists is Drake, and that’s a pretty poor substitute. Nevertheless, he’s probably the one here that annoys me the least, even if he hasn’t made a record I’ve liked in a very long time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drake, I guess

Favorite Music Group

I feel like I have more to say about the strangeness of these categories, what with Migos being an entire order of magnitude better than any of the other groups in this field, but also I think it’s just a side-effect of greatness occasionally yielding great fame, or at the very least that occasionally some great gets famous, even if they aren’t related 1. Ah, well.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Migos

Favorite Cartoon

In the interest of moving this along, I’m going to assume that the best of these cartoons is SpongeBob and emerge with my sanity intact.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SpongeBob SquarePants

Favorite TV Judges

The Four was such a baffling, infuriating several hours of television that I want it to win some kind of award, but honestly, the most entertaining the judges ever were happened when DJ Khaled completely checked out by the end of the second season. I’m not willing to call Meghan Trainor particularly good at anything, really. Anyway, the current judges on American Idol are the most entertaining part of it, especially in the early going 2, when the contestants themselves aren’t actually at all entertaining yet, so they should be the winners.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, American Idol

Favorite TV Host

Tyra Banks is, in a lot of ways, the consummate tv host, and also a total goofball, so I think she belongs here, especially since she’s the only person on America’s Got Talent that’s worth watching.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tyra Banks, America’s Got Talent

Favorite Reality Show

On the one hand, I kind of like American Ninja Warrior, but if I’m being honest I rather wish that I liked it more. On the other hand, I do actually watch American Idol, even if I don’t remember anything about it once it’s over, so I probably wish I liked it less. What about combining them into a show about people who have to complete an obstacle course while singing? I think that sounds delightful, quite frankly, and I would watch it every day.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Ninja Idol Warrior’s Got Talent

Favorite Male TV Star

While it’s true that Neil Patrick Harris is the best one here, it’s also true that he’s not even the best male performer on A Series of Unfortunate Events – that’s Patrick Warburton. Nevertheless, since I completely invented a show for the last category, I guess I better play this one by the book.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Neil Patrick Harris, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Favorite Female TV Star

I either actively dislike or haven’t seen even a minute of every show in this category. I’m going to assume that Zendaya is the best one here, because Zendaya is the best generally.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zendaya

Favorite TV Drama

I wonder if Nickelodeon still has any financial stake in the Netflix A Series of Unfortunate Events show. They produced or distributed or funded or whatever the Jim Carrey movie from awhile back, but I’m not sure if they still hold any part of the license. Whether it’s insider trading or not, it’s the best show in this category, so I’m happy to call it the winner. Yay!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Favorite Funny TV Show

Oooh! None of these shows are even remotely funny! I guess Modern Family used to be, so it’s the winner, but it’s kind of a winner emeritus because, well, that was a long time ago.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Modern Family

Favorite Female Voice from an Animated Movie

All of these are fine examples of fine work, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was my favorite movie of 2018, and is about to run the table on the animated categories, so there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hailee Steinfeld, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite Male Voice from an Animated Movie

I mean, it’s a shame, because this set of categories is among the strongest sets in the entire field of consideration, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shameik Moore, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite Animated Movie

Aaaaaand one more.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite Butt-Kicker

After all that, I’m sad to say that there is no Spider-Man in this category, despite him kicking plenty of dang butts. This is all very silly. Danai Gurira did more actual butt-kicking than Zoe Saldana in their respective 2018 MCU appearances, so it goes to her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Danai Gurira, Black Panther (but also in Avengers: Infinity War, even though she’s not mentioned in there, because come on, guys)

Favorite Superhero

Actually, it might just be an artifact of the way their website populates fields that people aren’t nominated for more than one movie, because Chadwick Boseman is only mentioned here in Black Panther also. Also there is no Spider-Man here, despite Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being the best superhero movie of 2018, if not of all time. This seems stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Probably Chadwick Boseman, but really Shameik Moore should be here for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Favorite Movie Actress

Rihanna was the best part of Ocean’s 8 3, which does thorn this up a bit. But honestly, Zoe Saldana has figured out a very capable performance in a role that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily need or have one without her, so I’m happy to just keep giving it to her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zoe Saldana, Avengers: Infinity War

Favorite Movie Actor

This is where I break with my so-far-established tradition and confess that, in terms of who I liked the most as an actor in any of these movies, Chris Hemsworth runs away with it. He was great in Avengers: Infinity War. I would watch an entier movie of Thor’s Adventures with Rocket, yes sir I would.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Hemsworth, The Avengers: Infinity War

Favorite Movie

Critic and podcaster Amy Nicholson has theorized that the reason for Saving Mr. Banks was to rewrite PL Travers’ actual life as a charitable, progressive, generally-admirable person so that Disney was able to cast themselves as being in the right w/r/t any of their Mary Poppins-related decisions, and that specifically it was teeing us up for this re-imagining of the idea. I place this idea here for two reasons: 1) there is no reason for Mary Poppins Returns to be nominated as the favorite anything ever, and 2) I have basically nothing to say here that I haven’t already said before.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Black Panther


  1. that’s not my least confusing sentence, but I assure you I know what I mean, so there. 
  2. which we are, as of the time of this writing 
  3. a movie that I liked quite a bit, contrary to public opinion. Fight me. 

The 2019 iHeartRadio Awards

So last year I started writing about the iHeartRadio music awards, for a couple of reasons: 1) it was brought to my attention what a goofy nonsense-fest it is, and 2) I thought that maybe it might not be long for the world. And indeed it may not be! But here it remains, shambling along to prop up the idea that the world’s largest radio owning-conglomerate is doing something culturally viable, and not dying a slow, public death!

So let’s have a look at whom they’re honoring, and mostly roll our eyes at how terrible this all is. Oh, and they didn’t print the nominees, but there are also categories for the “most thumbed-up” song and artist, as well as “Best Tour” and “Best Label”. For the first couple I get it – these are decided algorithmically and numerically, but the latter two should definitely be here. Also how is “Best Label” even a thing when there’s only three majors and they’re all in conflicting interest with iHeart Media? It’s almost like this entire awards show is a ridiculous sham!

Also I’d like to see the most thumbsed-down artist, to be frank. On to the nominees!

Favorite Tour Photographer

This is a new category, and the nominees are printed, even though the nominees for “Best Tour” are not, because this awards show does not, in fact, make any goddamned sense. Most of this is pretty dumb and uninteresting, but Ravie B is pretty cool. Beyonce has good taste in photographers, generally, but Ravie B is famous outside of her Beyonce work and is very good. So there you have it. This is a popular voted-category, so it’s liable to go to someone who takes pictures of Shawn Mendes, but that’s still not the right answer.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ravie B

Song That Left Us Shook

This is another new category, and another one that’s voted on by the fans (which means it’s probably going to go the Ariana Grande song). None of these songs left me “Shook” as such. “This is America” had a great video. But actually the end of the video for the Sam Mendes/Khalid song “Youth” where you see all the kids from the video and their jobs and hear them talk and stuff is actually pretty moving, and while that isn’t part of the song, it’s still pretty much all I’ve got here, so in it goes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shawn Mendes and Khalid, “Youth”

Best Solo Breakout

This category consists of every non-Camila-Cabello member of Fifth Harmony and a woman who was in Girls Generation, and given that Camila Cabello is basically the only member of Fifth Harmony with any real reason to have listened to in the first place, I’m going to have to go with the woman who was in Girls Generation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tiffany Young

Cutest Musician’s Pet

First of all all of these are good boys. Every single one of them. Mooshu only loses points by belonging to a Chainsmoker 1. Hatchie, Asia and Gracie are about as good as little dogs can be. Edgar is a very distinguished gentleman and I’m happy to know about him. Goodwin is also among the top tier of adorable dogs. But this category (and my heart) belongs only to Piggy Smallz

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Piggy Smallz

Social Star Award

Guys there are too many people in this category and I don’t care about any of this, so I’m giving it to Trixie Mattel, who was once a guest on a podcast that I like and is therefore better than the rest of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Trixie Mattel

Best Music Video

Once again I find myself very happy that “This is America” is in the world, because I don’t even know why most of these things are nominated, let alone how to evaluate them against one another.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Childish Gambino, “This is America”

Best Cover Song

You know, I didn’t know that I was going to speed through these categories. I thought to myself “I bet I will have things to say about these people and about pop music, because this is a good opportunity to do so”. But nope. Halsey covered Juice WRLD. Charlie Puth covered Shawn Mendes. Et and also cetera. But actually there is a bright spot here: Khalid covered “Fast Car” and it is incredible. It solves the “Khalid’s songs aren’t as good as his voice” problem 2, which is nice, and is kind of why you’d want somebody to cover something in the first place.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid, “Fast Car”

Best Lyrics

I have made it a matter of record before, but will state again for the present situation: I am not a lyrics person. I have, however, a bunch of literature-examining training. Now, in a way this isn’t fair – lyrics are not the same as poetry 3, and while it’s possible to evaluate them outside of the songs in which they appear, it is also somewhat diminishing to the thign they represent. This category, then, is about as useful as “best bassline” or “best synth part” or whatever, in that it is examining a portion of a song, which is definitionally the combination of all the different bits. That’s fine. Everyone in the world cares more about lyrics than me, so I’m willing to go along with it for the sake of our purposes here, but it leaves me in the position of having to say that almost all of this is terrible. “Without Me” is a bad song with bad lyrics. “Consequences” and “Girls Like You” don’t have bad lyrics, but they’re not anything special. “God’s Plan” at least has some clever wordplay. It’s not good, but some of it is clever. “In My Blood” is probably the best lyric of the bunch, when taken as an example of one word following another with no additional context which, again, is a butt-stupid way to look at song lyrics. “Thank U Next” is also clever, and makes its point in an interesting way, I suppose, and since it also provides most of the thing you’d actually want to hear about a song that wouldn’t be at all interesting with different lyrics, it wins here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

Best Fan Army presented by Taco Bell

I love when one category is sponsored in awards shows. It’s almost always the “Best New Artist” category and it makes me laugh all the time. As thought it wouldn’t be here without the gracious philanthropic vision of the fine folks at….Taco Bell. Ha! Anyway, this, like all “Best fans” categories, will go to BTS for the entire foreseeable future, for all the usual reasons.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The BTSArmy

Songwriter of the Year

Mostly this category is indicative of this entire awards show – by which I mean it’s full of lowest-common-denominator nonsense and stuff that the record-selling industry is trying to make happen – but I like Frank Dukes for two reasons. 1) He co-wrote some pretty good Frank Ocean songs 4 and 2) he almost has the same as Frank Dux, who was a highly entertaining nutbar. That’s about all I’ve got for this crop of people. I’m happy to be moving on.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Frank Dukes

Producer of the Year

Or I would have been happier to move on, if this category wasn’t somehow even worse. I guess it goes to Marshmallo because his music is fine, such as it is.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year

In researching this last year, I found that I quite liked Calibre 50. Since I still only have two years very casual research to go on, it may come as no surprise to find that I still quite like Calibre 50.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50

Region Mexican Song of the Year

I’m not the only one, clearly, as I find myself with two Calibre 50 songs to choose from here. IT is not exaggerating to say that this makes this one of the most difficult categories, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50, “Mitad y Mitad”

Best New Latin Artist

This one is hard, but I ended up going with Lele Pons, because I still miss her Vine. And Vine generally.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lele Pons

Latin Artist of the Year

I feel equally about J. Balvin, Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee, who represent the sort of triumvirate of American-penetrating Latin pop music. I guess I’ve never proclaimed Bad Bunny the rightful winner before, so I’ll give it to him this year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bad Bunny

Latin Song of the Year

These get harder as they get farther away from Calibre 50, I don’t mind telling you. I guess I like “Dura” the best of all of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Daddy Yankee, “Dura”

Best New R&B Artist

The “new artist” categories at the iHeart awards are simultaneously the hardest to evaluate and also the most sort of existentially hilarious – the radio wants to be able to break these people, but can’t, so they have to convince you that they’re right about them being the next big thing and….hoping that they’re right? It’s an amazing thing to consider, quite frankly. Anyway, I like H.E.R. fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: H.E.R.

R&B Artist of the Year

Ella Mai is up for best New R&B Artist and for R&B Artist of the year. That’s a tall order for a lady with one hit. I suppose this says everything important about the state of the Media Conglomerate Formerly Known as Clear Channel in 2019, though, doesn’t it?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SZA

R&B Song of the Year

I will say that I often remark about the dire quality of the work in these awards shows (or all awards shows, really), but it does make the prospect of figuring out which one of these is the most deserving pretty easy. In this case, though, it’s the pleasant-but-slight “Boo’d Up” butting up against a third-rate Miguel song in the form of “Skywalker,” so I went with the one that doesn’t have Travis Scott on it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ella Mai, “Boo’d Up”

Best New Hip Hop Artist

It is strange that XXXTentacion’s entire thing happened so fast that he’d be up for best new artist anywhere, but there you have it. It’s a weird time to be alive. All of these people make truly terrible music, tho. Even without being a pretty deeply unsavory person, XXXTentacion made awful music. Lil Baby makes awful music. Lil Pump makes awful music. Juice WRLD makes ever-so-slightly-less awful music, and BlocBoy JB, well, he comes out of this looking very good. His music is still awful, just the least awful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BlocBoy JB (begrudgingly)

Hip Hop Artist of the Year

Kendrick didn’t do much more than produce the Black Panther soundtrack, but it’s still more of a contribution to hip hop than any of the rest of these dildos. I mean, Cardi B’s record is fine and all that, but I don’t think it’s enough to put her over the top. In this category I mean. More on her music (which, you may remember, I do like) later.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar (somehow)

Dance Artist of the Year

It’s a banner year when this category has two artists I almost kind of like. I still think Calvin Harris is about as good as radio dance music gets, but I don’t hate Marshmello, and I’m calling this a kind of progress.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calvin Harris

Dance Song of the Year

Calvin Harris is fine, and I’m on the record as sort of liking Dua Lipa, so “One Kiss” is the obvious winner here. Plus the video is fun.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calvin Harris, “One Kiss” (f Dua Lipa)

Best New Country Artist

Back at the American Music Awards, this category went to LANCO because they didn’t have a Wikipedia page, and looking them up on Wikipedia just sent you to the page for an airline. That made me laugh. They probably also win here because their song isn’t that bad, but it might just be residual goodwill from the time when they lost their Wikipedia page to an airline. Heh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: LANCO

Country Artist of the Year

Oh my god I can’t say the thing I say ever year about how these categories are all the same people every year because it’s the beginning of the year and if I start complaining about it now I’ll lose my mind before it’s time to stop but I CANNOT ANY LONGER CONSIDER WHETHER JASON ALDEAN IS BETTER THAN LUKE BRYAN OR WHATEVER OH GOD. At least I like Luke Bryan on American Idol. That’s something.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Bryan

Country Song of the Year

I genuinely do not like any of these songs. Not even in my usual grumbly way, just in the way that all of these songs are terrible and I hate them. I appreciate Luke Bryan’s earnestness, even if his song sounds like it was written after he got hit in the back of the head with a shovel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Bryan, “Most People Are Good,” but it’s really a dreadful song. It’s just better than the rest of the songs here. Kind of. If you squint.

Rock Artist of the Year

I mean, the Country Song category was brain-meltingly bad, but at least it wasn’t this bad. For the first time in my life, I have to consider the fact that I would rather hear a Five-Finger Death Punch song than set myself on fire, which I can’t say for any of the other bands here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Five-Finger Death Punch, but I am seriously going to start gibbering with madness if things don’t turn up for this category soon.

Rock Song of the Year

Can we talk about this Bad Wolves cover of “Zombie”? It’s kind of the only thing in this category I find compelling. It’s obviously terrible. Like, all-time world-class terrible 5. It’s also in this category, and not in “best cover song”, and I’m not sure if that’s a vote of confidence or an insult. It’s also not actually even the best cover of “Zombie” released in the wake of Dolores O’Riordan’s death – that would be Vic Mensa’s cover, which rules – so it’s essentially nothing. Truly, this is the bottom of the barrel for inconsequential awards-show nominating.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually, I’m giving to Vic Mensa for his cover of “Zombie”, which also did not make “best cover version” and should have. It also was not nominated here.

Best New Rock/Alternative Artist

I guess what I’m wondering is this: what is the point at which the iHeart folks stop even pretending that there’s any such thing as rock music on the radio? They’re kind of doing it here – by merging it with “Alternative” here as they have, they have acknowledged that they can’t fill out a category without adding a bunch of synth bands anyway. I have no problem with this. I’m happy to cede that rock is not a major commercial force. It seems to be doing pretty well under those circumstances. Anyway, all of these bands are awful, but Billie Ellish has convinced a bunch of people that whatever she’s doing is worth hearing, and I appreciate that kind of marketing savvy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bille Ellish (who is very bad, but cannily-marketed)

Alternative Rock Artist of the Year

This is not quite as bad as the country song category, or the regular Rock artist category 6, but it’s still pretty dreadful. I think the dude from Imagine Dragons seems cool, but his band sucks real bad. I liked Portugal, the Man’s first record, but they suck pretty bad. Sucking pretty bad is better than sucking real bad, and the rest of the bands in this category are beneath consideration, so there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man

Alternative Rock Song of the Year

The cancer that is Weezer’s cover of “Africa” is, of course, mentioned here, because the world is terrible and I hate living in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello, “Happier” (f Bastille)

Best New Pop Artist

Seriously, this is another of those awards shows where I seem to come strongly out in favor of someone (in this case Marshmello) despite the fact that I don’t actually even like them, they’re just better than the rest of the field.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello

Best Collaboration

I will say this for “The Middle” – it is a deeply unlikable song, but it also seems like it’s been around forever. I don’t know what sort of song-based alchemical magic that is, but I have transplanted that song to having been released, like, ten years ago, despite the fact that Maren Morris herself is, like, twelve. It doesn’t make me hate it less, but I acknowledge that there is a thing there. Anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “I Like It” (f Bad Bunny and J Balvin)

Best Duo/Group of the Year

I have said here and elsewhere that if I had been much younger when twenty one pilots had started out, I would definitely not have been immune to their thing, and that sets them ahead of the rest of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: twenty-one pilots

Male Artist of the Year

At least the presence of Kendrick Lamar here makes this one easy, and means I don’t have to say anything about any of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar

Female Artist of the Year

Ariana Grande was more entertaining than most of these women, but her scream-singing gives me panic attacks. Dua Lipa makes some of the most interesting music of these women, but it’s not that interesting. That would be a real toss-up if it weren’t for the fact that Cardi B has them beat on both fronts.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B

Song of the Year

I think maybe it’s time to burn the entire radio industry to the ground.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The blazing inferno of justice.


  1. and, admittedly, gains most of his points because he’s still smol 
  2. a problem he shares with, charitably, 67% of the people in this category. 
  3. This is a weird thing to say and it probably makes some of the assembled all hackles-y, so I will footnote it thusly: I think that there are lyrics that do work as poetry, but the two things aren’t actually related. A good poem that is set to music may be a good poem, but most lyrics are meant as artifacts of the songs that they are a part of, and therefore have a different and separate job from the job of a song lyric. You can read some more of this when I wrote about Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize here, but the upshot is that good lyrics are functionalist (i.e. they exist most of the time to facilitate the singing of the song – which is the musical contribution of the vocalist), and poetry is the ends in and of itself, and that most musical acts that exist to prop up their own lyrics are pretty fucking terrible. 
  4. which actually happened outside of the period of interest for this awards show, and probably shouldn’t come up, but, y’know, it’s true anyway. 
  5. I thought this plenty at first, and then I saw the video, which if you haven’t seen it, is mind-blowing. It starts with an assertion that Dolores O’Riordan was going to come sing on it (I have not reason to believe that isn’t true, I guess), and ends with a quote about Dolores O’Riordan from….the singer of Bad Wolves. In between they, like, look real sad and have some models cosplay the original “Zombie” video. It’s amazing. 
  6. if you merged these two together, like they did in the song category, you might even have something like a reasonable list. Maybe. I mean, probably not this year. But maybe in theory. 

An Ordinal Ranking of Things That Turn 20

A now-annual tradition here at ONAT, as of this year, since I started doing it last year and now am doing it again! And this is how tradition is made, kids!

So all of these things came into existence in 1999, my sixteenth year, and here they are enumerated in order of how great it is that they happened. This is not every great thing, but this is the things that are inarguably, indisputably great, and without which the world would be somewhat darker. Thank you and goodnight.

Futurama

Sleater-Kinney – The Hot Rock

Octavia Butler – Parable of the Talents

The Roots – Things Fall Apart

Ted Chiang – “The Story of Your Life”

Bonnie Prince Billy – I See a Darkness

The Iron Giant

Wilco – Summerteeth

Freaks and Geeks

Galaxy Quest

Terry Pratchett – The Fifth Elephant

Mystery Men

Good Eats

Jonathan Lethem – Motherless Brooklyn

Mogwai – Come On Die Young

Toy Story 2

Home Movies

Office Space

 

The Best Records of February 2019

Nivhek – After It’s Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (It’s a surprise album by Liz Harris operating under another name! It is also super-great even by those already-high standards)

Teeth of the Sea – Wraith (most Teeth of the Sea records are great, and this one manages to smash together a bunch of different electronic genres, and also manage to squeeze in some rockin’. Very impressive stuff)

Theon Cross – Fyah (if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times: I do not have enough tuba jazz in my life)

Mandoline Orange – Tides of a Teardrop (much-ballyhooed, highly effective country music, which is always welcome)

Signor Benedick the Moor – Spirit Realm Final (we see the return of agressive SBthemoor here, although it’s also still weird as hell)

A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 10

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a place that I find, as an institution, vexing. The actual, physical hall of fame – the pyramidal building on the lake in Cleveland – is pretty cool, but it is spoken and thought of often as an intangible – as a sort of arbitrating body on the worthiness of the body of rock musicians. My thought, for many years upon surveying lists 1 and the like was to think that they have about a fifty percent success rate for getting it anything like right.

But what if it doesn’t? Previously I listened to and considered each of the best-selling albums of all time, and learned that they were considerably more of a mixed bag than I had thought 2. So what if the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the same sort of deal?

And so it’s time to dive in and take a look at what the nominees and their enshrinement actually are.

Click the links for Part 1,Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 and Part 9 of this series.

Class of 2002

Isaac Hayes

WHO HE IS: The world’s foremost rhythm and blues scientologist, and the chef on South Park.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was instrumental in changing R&B, albeit not always in great ways. He also deserves full credit for being weird as hell, and inventing the cocaine-inflected long-jam-style R&B number.

AND…?: Despite all of that sounding pretty dire, I do actually like Isaac Hayes. I think most of what he influenced is lamentable, but his music itself is pretty good, and while it’s true that there are a few too many tinny, high-end-heavy long-ass songs in his middle career, he did lots of good work generally.

THE VERDICT: Yes

Brenda Lee

WHO SHE IS: An influence on rock and roll who’s up here with the performers because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a somehow-ahistorical museum. I know, I think it’s weird too.

WHY SHE’S HERE: She had a tonne of hits, it’s true, although it’s also kind of surreal that the one that has survived the most is “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. She was a good singer, and had been very popular. She also has an absolutely crazy backstory about a singing career that started when she was, like, nine.

AND…?: Eh. She’s not the worst choice.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

WHO THEY ARE: Gainesville, Florida’s premiere rock band.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They sold an unfathomable number of records, and inspired the kind of cultish devotion among their fans that most bands can only dream of. They existed as a band for several decades with no significant drop in quality – they had hits for a very long time, and their fans (as far as I can tell) liked each of their albums. They were a touring and sales juggernaut, and they probably managed to inspire a bunch of people to pick up instruments and do some extremely-likable rocking.

AND…?: Extremely-likable they may have been, but I actually don’t like them. I mean, they’re fine. I’m not mad about it. I just don’t hear any of that stuff I mentioned in the other paragraph, and I’m not sure how other people do. To be honest, I find the rapturous reception of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ music to be utterly baffling.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Oh sure. I just don’t get it, that’s all.

Gene Pitney

WHO HE IS: A singer who became a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, and by no means a rock and roll dude.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was an influence on a bunch of rock and roll dudes, but recorded after the period that the HOF decides influencer must be in, and I’m tired of harping on this. Anyway, he wrote a bunch of hits, sang and played on a bunch of hits, and was generally responsible for a bunch of hits.

AND…?: Oh, whatever. He was fine. His songs are fine. It’s all fine. I dunno. I just don’t see it.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really.

Ramones

WHO THEY ARE: Probably the first punk band 3, definitely the best New York punk band, probably the best punk band.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Punk was, one way or another, an enormously influential development to the sound and approach of rock music. While the Ramones didn’t do this, it’s the set of venues/labels/allies that formed around post-Ramones punk rock that enabled the independent music scene to develop, and to continue to be present now. In a less-nebulous, more-immediate sense, they were responsible for injecting an appreciation for simplicity and for prizing communicative intention for musicianship (that is to say, making “what you mean” more important than “how you mean it”) into the rock discourse, and also for writing a bunch of super-great songs.

AND…?: Oh, I love the Ramones unreservedly and think they should be in every Hall of Fame that will have them.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Talking Heads

WHO THEY ARE: The most famous of the artier end of the original set of punk bands, and the subject of one of the most beloved concert films ever made.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They were instrumental in fusing a bunch of things to what would eventually be known as new wave – the uptown disco scene that sort of mutated out of the punk scene [^4], the eventual infusion of “World” music, and a level of easily-grasped musicianship and songwriting that meant they could have actual for-real hits and stuff, thus making them one of the most successful of the New York punk and post-punk bands.

AND…?: I have a somewhat complicated relationship to the Talking Heads. They were a singular, interesting, motivated band of talented artists and at least one genuine actual visionary, not to mention an absolute stone-cold killer rhythm section. They passed a bunch of different styles and ideas through their band in a way that made it seem coherent, and did so organically, without it ever seeming like they were just gluing parts onto their original conception. They deserve to be lauded for a high level of consistency across their entire run, even after having interpolated being rock stars into that, which is admirable. All of these things, on paper, mean that I admire the Talking Heads a great deal, and have thus listened to (as far as I’m aware) their entire recorded ouvre more than once in an attempt to find something about it to like, and I really don’t. There are songs that I like (although not that many), and I have said many times that I wish I could hear the things about the band that their fans hear, but I can’t, and I find their records to be sterile and kind of boring. I’m willing to admit this is my failing or whatever, I just have never been able to hang anything on their music.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Certainly, but with no real pleasure on my part.

Jim Stewart

WHO HE IS: The founder of Stax records

WHY HE’S HERE: Because he founded Stax records with this sister 4, which means he helped the world hear Booker T & the MGs (Stax’s house band), not to mention Otis Redding. Also early albums by Richard Pryor, for that matter, but that has less to do with Rock and Roll.

AND…?: It’s weird that his sister wasn’t inducted also, but I suppose that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his place as a non-performer.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure.

Chet Atkins

WHO HE IS: The country gentleman! Mr. Guitar!

WHY HE’S HERE: He was an inveterate sideman (he’s inducted in the sideman category) who played on a bunch of country songs you probably know. He also made a bunch of records of his guitar playing, some of which are quite good 5.

AND…?: I like Chet Atkins. He has exactly zero to do with rock and roll, and he’s inducted as a sideman for acts that have not themselves been inducted, which seems weird to me, but hey, he did great work and he’s not the weirdest choice.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Why not?

Class of 2003

AC/DC

WHO THEY ARE: Radio monsters and surprisingly durable karaoke favorites. The world’s most rockingest Australians.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They did a lot of rocking. They sold a bajillion copies and have a bunch of songs that continue to prop up rock radio stations as we speak. They’ve managed to achieve a sort of consensus status – no matter what flavor of rock music it is you’re after, you probably like AC/DC at least a little bit. They also managed to weather changing singers in midstream, which is no mean feat.

AND…?: I don’t love AC/DC – I can’t remember the last time I put them on recreationally – but if i’m somewhere where AC/DC is playing, then it’s probably the best thing that’s playing (i.e. because I’m listening to the radio or someone else’s bar jukebox picks), and I’m probably happy that they’re there.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

The Clash

WHO THEY ARE: The British punk band with the most radio hits.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: The radio hits thing, probably. Although it’s worth noting that the Clash also sort of started the eventually drifting together of punk and country by pretending to be cowboys  6, and they were also pretty happy to bring the commingling of punk and reggae that was already peppered through British punk rock to the mass audience.

AND…?: I used to love The Clash. Like, deeply love them. I haven’t listened to them seriously in awhile, although I can happily listen to “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” just about any time.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yeah

Elvis Costello & The Attractions

WHO HE IS: British punk’s first New Dylan. He was in a loose collective with frequent collaborator Nick Lowe and I think Joe Jackson who were described as “angry young men” in some official capacity, and despite the fact that I have no idea why.

WHY HE’S HERE: He sold a bunch of records and wrote a bunch of songs that people like, and has been more or less the same him for four decades. That’s pretty cool.

AND…?: Elvis Costello is fine, even if the things I like about his music are not things that other people like about his music. I suppose it says something about the degree of depth therein or whatever. Good job, Elvis Costello.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

The Police

WHO THEY ARE: The band that unleashed Sting upon an unsuspecting, undeserving world.
WHY THEY’RE HERE: Because people love them. They were the “new wave” band most willing to play ball, and thus got to be very successful. I suppose, musically, it’s something to have injected the already-suspect corpse of major-label post-punk 6 with all of the worst ideas from prog rock. It’s like…whatever the exact opposite of chocolate and peanut butter is. They did that, and I suppose that’s a thing.

AND…?: I do not like The Police, although I will say this: every once in awhile I will hear a Police song, and they generally have about a thirty-second section where I can kind of hear what they were going for and even admire aspects of it. And then the song goes back to being a Police song and I hate it again. I do think Stewart Copeland was one hell of a drummer, though.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Gosh no.

The Righteous Brothers

WHO THEY ARE: The sixties vocal duo responsible for “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, which, in turn, is sort of the avatar of the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” thing.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They had a bunch of hits and sang real purdy. Plus the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” thing.

AND…?: I dunno, man. I guess. I always have a hard time with acts that are fine, and that made most of their reputation on their mechanical talent 7. I’m inclined to call this one in favor of the Righteous Brothers, but only barely.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED Yes, but only barely.

Mo Ostin

WHO HE IS: A record label dude.

WHY HE’S HERE: He worked for a bunch of record labels. He didn’t start any of them or own any of them, but he managed (?) or ran (?) or, you know, did stuff for a bunch of them.

AND…?: I do not think that the rock and roll hall of fame needs to be in the business of touting the importance of people who are, at best, completely tangential to the music. The people that founded important labels, I can sort of get behind, since the sale of this stuff is a part of the whole general RRHOF mien, but I think I draw the line there.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No

Benny Benjamin

WHO HE IS: The drummer for The Funk Brothers, and thus for a bunch of songs released by Motown.

WHY HE’S HERE: You know, I’m not sure. He was a fine drummer until he wasn’t, but Funk Brothers songs are generally marked by having a bunch of drummers on them – “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” for example, had three – and even then he was replaced by the end (i.e. by the time his drug problem incapacitated him) as often as he wasn’t.

AND…?: Oh, I think the Funk Brothers were underheralded geniuses, and his part in that probably can’t be understated, but I don’t know.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I don’t believe so, no. Maybe ask James Jamerson. He was there.

Floyd Cramer

WHO HE IS: A prolific and remarkable session piano player in Nashville.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was part of the Nashville A-Team and popularized (if not invented) that thing where piano hits the wrong note and then slips into the correct note. This is hard to picture, except that if you picture someone playing “country” piano it’s probably the sound you’re thinking of.

AND…?: Floyd Cramer was great, and he certainly had an impressive body of work. Still not Rock and Roll, though.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Steve Douglas

WHO HE IS: The saxophone player from End of the Century

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, Phil Spector called him in to play on a bunch of records that weren’t Ramones albums, but that’s not important.

AND…?: I think he’s our first saxophonist? I’d have to look this up.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes


  1. also the centerpiece of the museum itself, for those that have never been there, is a very long video encapsulating each inducted class, with clips of performances by most of them and things like that, and is generally a pretty cool thing to behold. 
  2. although they did, as you can read here and going back from there, skew toward “pretty bad” 
  3. I’m no longer having this argument, so please feel free not to, unless you can bump into me ten or fifteen years ago. 
  4. who is not inducted, despite conributing two letters to the record label’s name – STewart and AXton 
  5. he made a wonderful collaborative record with Les Paul called Chester and Lester and a supremely weird record with Boots “Yakety Sax” Randolph and Floyd Cramer, for example. 
  6.  I keep putting “new wave” in quotes because it’s a useful term to separate the bands that stopped being punk by sanding all the edges off and doing videos and stuff for their shiny label-abetted records, like The Police, from other post-punk bands that were merely helping punk evolve, like The Fall. 
  7. see also: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and, for that matter, The Police