Feb 21, 2024 - Music

What is rock 'n' roll? Hall of fame ballot fuels debate

Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston hold hands on stage while singing.

Will Mariah Carey follow in Whitney Houston's footsteps as a Rock Hall inductee? Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

What do Mariah Carey, Cher, Sade, Mary J. Blige and A Tribe Called Quest have in common?

  • They're among the nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2024 despite not being traditional "rock" artists.

Why it matters: This year's ballot continues the contentious debate over what types of acts the Rock Hall should honor.

Catch up fast: The list of nominees also includes Dave Matthews Band, Eric B. & Rakim, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Jane's Addiction, Kool & the Gang, Lenny Kravitz, Oasis, Sinéad O'Connor and Ozzy Osbourne.

The intrigue: While there is plenty of rock to go around, half of the nominees fall into genres like hip-hop, pop and R&B.

  • It follows a trend of the Rock Hall honoring non-rock artists including Eminem, Missy Elliott, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson in recent years.

What they're saying: Rock purists like local music historian and former WMMS program director John Gorman aren't pleased.

  • "The Rock Hall's nomination system remains broken," Gorman wrote on social media. "There is a fallacy in linking popular music and rock 'n' roll as one in the same. They're not."

The other side: Since becoming chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in 2020, John Sykes has focused on expanding the traditional definition of rock 'n' roll as a guitar-driven genre.

  • "I saw an opportunity to really look back to the original genesis of rock 'n' roll and trace it to the present, which is where hip-hop and R&B and the music that's moving culture today all came from," Sykes told Billboard last year.

Troy's thought bubble: To Sykes' point, rock 'n' roll grew out of a variety of diverse genres like blues, country, jazz and folk.

  • The Rock Hall also has to deliver a show on Disney+ and ABC and names like Mariah Carey, Eminem and Dolly Parton are bigger draws than classic rock "snubs" like J. Geils Band, Boston and Bad Company.

What's next: The class of 2024 is scheduled to be announced (and infuriate some people) in late April.

🗣️ Email [email protected] and tell us: Should the Rock Hall be inducting hip-hop, pop and country artists?

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