The nominees for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, and as always there is just as much noise about who made the list as there is about who didn't. (Hey, cantankerous prog-rock fans: in the words of Regina George, stop trying to make Jethro Tull happen. It isn't going to happen.) But rather than complain about the also-rans who will have to wait another year, it might make more sense to consider those whose names were called on Thursday morning.
Of the 15 acts who have been nominated for induction next spring, less than half will probably be selected. And while skeptics have for years debated everything from why some bands are left out every year, to what constitutes rock & roll in the first place (and why rap groups are nominated for its Hall of Fame, for instance), it would be tough to claim any of this year's nominees aren't worthy of the honor.
Some are worthier than others, however, and if 2015 is anything like the years prior to 2012, only five acts will make the final cut when the announcement is made in December. If so, here's what the Class of '15 should look like.
Chic. If you ever meet Nile Rodgers, don't let him hear you call Chic a disco act. Since forming the group in 1977 with bassist Bernard Edwards, whom he met on the New York subway when both were headed home from gigs, the guitarist has eschewed the label, preferring to think of himself as a traditional musician first. Though the band turned out some of the disco era's biggest hits ("Le Freak," "Good Times"), Chic's biggest impact may have come from its influence on other artists in a huge variety of musical genres. Rap wouldn't be where it is today without "Rapper's Delight," for instance, which sampled the bass line from "Good Times" (a riff also used by Hall of Fame members Blondie and Queen). Two decades later, Chic's music was being sampled by rappers like Will Smith and Diddy, and less than a year ago, Rodgers was accepting a Grammy for his work with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams. Is Chic responsible for every hit song of the past 37 years? No, but it's responsible for a lot of them.
The Smiths. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of decades, you know a Smiths song the second you hear Johnny Marr's guitar. Whether picking out the bouncy opening notes of "This Charming Man" or the haunting echo of "How Soon Is Now?," the sheer uniqueness of his style was overshadowed only by the one-of-a-kind vocals of Morrissey, who as a solo artist in the decades since the band's 1987 breakup has maintained a striking and unmatched loyalty from fans. As a group, The Smiths were no less vital, boldly combining the sharp observation and sardonic wit of punk lyrics with the musical accessibility of early '80s pop and new wave. The band still holds a presence on modern rock radio, speaking to both the timelessness of its music and its influence on subsequent generations of performers. Morrissey and Marr have long vowed to never again perform together, and the singer is notoriously anti-establishment and would probably hate being associated with something like the Hall; but, given his recent revelation that he is battling cancer, this may be the time to recognize the band and hope against hope for a one-off reunion. Hey, if Courtney Love and Dave Grohl can hug it out at the Hall's induction ceremony, so can these guys.
Stevie Ray Vaughan. Nearly every Hall of Fame class includes at least one member who is inducted posthumously, and while Lou Reed is an honorable consideration this year, most of his influential work came as a member of The Velvet Underground (already in the Hall). Vaughan, then, is the perfect choice to fulfill that unspoken quota. That is hardly to say, however, that the bluesman is unworthy on his own musical merits. Like The Smiths' Marr, Vaughan played with an immediately identifiable style that everyone from beginning guitar students to professional musicians continues to emulate today. Plus, a fun piece of trivia - Vaughan played guitar on David Bowie's hit song "Let's Dance"...which was produced by Chic's Rodgers.
N.W.A. Following in the footsteps of legends like Grandmaster Flash, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, the five-member rap group from the gang-plagued streets of South Central Los Angeles would be the Hall's first West Coast hip-hop act. Unlike their predecessors in the Hall, though, N.W.A upped the ante of social consciousness by giving the genre its first real sense of danger. More importantly, the group forged an unshakable identity for West Coast rap, one that simultaneously and unapologetically combined elements of swagger and rebellion with casual misogyny and racial unease. And, since the original lineup's split more than 20 years ago, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have transcended music, going on to hugely successful careers in Hollywood and business, respectively. OK, so not all of its members had huge careers once the band broke up, but if there's room for Flavor Flav in the Hall, there's room for MC Ren.
Green Day. At the turn of the millennium, the idea of Green Day as a viable Hall of Fame nominee, much less a first-ballot selection, would have been laughable. Sure, the band did well on the charts, helped bring punk to the masses, and released a legitimate, jam-packed greatest-hits collection, but so what? Then "American Idiot" happened, and seemingly overnight, the Northern California trio went from being branded a one-trick, three-chord pony to the authors of rock's next chapter. Easily one of the most ambitious records of the modern musical era, it is also among its best. Following a massive stadium tour - a rarity among non-classic rock acts - Green Day took its album to Broadway, and in the decade since has continued breaking new ground, following up with another epic ("21st Century Breakdown"), releasing a full record under an alter ego (Foxboro Hot Tubs), and putting out a three-part album whose promotion was both heightened and stunted by a rehab stay for singer Billie Joe Armstrong. Green Day's transformation from punk kids with an album called "Dookie" to Grammy and Tony Award winning artists has been impressive, as is its seemingly unending supply of undeniably catchy songs, but its influence on 21st century music - both in what other bands sound like, and what they know they can sound like - has been the final piece in earning this group a spot in the Hall.
Agree? Disagree? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame wants to hear from you! Fans' votes are calculated into the selection process, so go to the Hall's website and vote for the artists you'd like to see inducted as part of the Class of 2015.