Are you ready to rock??? Presenting…ABBA!
If those two sentences are confusing you, you’re not alone. Today, the LA Times announced that ABBA – among others, including the less shrug-inducing Genesis, The (almost Air Supply sounding) Hollies, reggae-ska-pop artist Jimmy Cliff and the Stooges (the band where Iggy Pop got his start) – was set to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, approved over other bands that might, more objectively, rock – like the less-family friendly KISS.
Perhaps ABBA (despite their Garden of Eden themed dress in the above photo) is a more family-friendly choice – with recent popularity resurgence thanks to a long-running happy-ending’ed Broadway musical and movie adaptation. But – especially having seen “Rock of Ages” on Broadway this week and having my face melted off by two hours’ worth of hard rock and 80s hair metal – most of the “Hall of Famers” on this list seem downright soft pop/easy listening in comparison.
In her LA Times commentary, writer Ann Powers makes the point that the induction of ABBA and the Stooges marks a shift in how rock-and-roll is defined. “The old boundaries around rock — both as a blues-based, American music and as art of a higher order than slick commercial pop — would seem to have dissolved,” she observes. But she doesn’t think this is a bad thing:
The binary split represented by ABBA and the Stooges is further complicated by the induction of other unlikely third parties: Genesis, repping for the long-scorned subgenre of progressive rock, and Jimmy Cliff, whose ska-pop spin on reggae brought Jamaica to Hollywood. Even the induction of the Hollies messes with the formula a bit, since that band was the poppiest of the British Invasion. This all bodes well for the Rock Hall, an institution that grows more interesting with every violation of its own rules.
Who owns rock-and-roll, anyway? Don’t guidelines for rock-and-roll change as society’s acceptance of music changes? Today, the Beatles might be classified as soft rock or pop. Who is to say that a pop band can’t rock or that a rock band can’t pop? Where should anyone draw the line?