Ladies and gentlemen, your 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees are: The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and the Zombies.

That’s a solid list of performers and, yes, we’re sad that Akron/Kent’s own Devo didn’t make the cut, despite its theory of DEVOlution dovetailing with the current societal zeitgeist. But surely the guys will be ready to go for 2020.

All of the inductees (eligible 25 years after their first commercial release) have had lengthy, successful and influential careers. The Cure brought the post-punk and goth style to arenas and pop charts, featuring frontman and goth pinup boy Robert Smith’s voice, which sounded unique even when singing something as blatantly sentimental as the 1989 hit “Lovesong.” The band had seven albums and was already beloved by the time “Disintegration,” a collection of mostly gloomy songs drenched in effects, peaked at No. 12 on the the Billboard 200. Its influence can be heard in bands such as Smashing Pumpkins and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

This year’s fan vote winner, Def Leppard, will be pooh-poohed by those who don’t get the appeal of big-ass arena rock and would prefer that the highfalutin concept of “artistic merit” would override “ridiculously popular.” But for several years in the late 1980s and early '90s, the Sheffield, U.K., band was one of the biggest in the world. Spawned from the new wave of British heavy metal, Def Leppard went from a solid AC/DC-inspired, twin-guitar rock band on its first two records, earning the hit “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” to full-on stars with “Pyromania," buoyed by several popular videos ("Photograph," "Rock of Ages") on the still young MTV.

With famed producer and control freak Mutt Lange, the band came up with the meticulously constructed “Hysteria,” an album on which every note, drum hit and vocal was carefully placed and multilayered, erasing any “dirt and grit,” hard rock with a nice, mainstream, radio-ready sheen. The album was designed to be the arena-rock version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” where nearly every track could become a hit single.

The plan worked amazingly well and “Hysteria” singles such as “Pour Some Sugar on Me” topped the charts. For better or worse (depending on your musical proclivities), the sound was innovative, crystallizing the heavy reverb, big drums and anthemic choruses of a lot of crappy '80s arena rock to follow.

Janet Jackson joins her brothers in the hall and is another selection that will confound some still clinging to the old definition of “rock.” No one in his right mind will place Jackson among R&B or pop’s greatest singers, but Ms. Jackson made the most of her modest vocal abilities and wrapped them in the lush, signature '80s R&B-crossover production of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who co-wrote most of her big hits.

Her socially conscious 1989 album “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” not only topped the charts, but the styles and moves in its videos became blueprints for many current artists, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. (This means nearly all of the Jackson children are now Hall of Famers. Hold on, Rebbie, your time may come. “Centipede” is still a dope single.)

I’ve already seen some critics and fans online repudiating Stevie Nicks’ induction. But as far as I can tell, most of those folks weren’t in school in the early '80s, when Nicks became a solo star, “Edge of Seventeen” was always on the radio and MTV, and many blossoming young women rocked a fashionable shawl or scarf and twirled when they danced.

Nicks, the first woman to be inducted twice, was also the duet queen for a while, having hits with Tom Petty and Don Henley, and her songs inside and outside of Fleetwood Mac are oft covered, including the Dixie Chicks' top 10 version of “Landslide.” For a few years of "American Idol," it seemed every female singer looking to be taken seriously did the song. Nicks’ influence can be heard across genres and generations, name-checked by Courtney Love, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce (who sampled guitarist Waddy Wachtel’s riff from "Edge of Seventeen" for Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious”), Lorde, Florence Welch and Taylor Swift, who famously and nervously torpedoed her big duet with Nicks at the 2010 Grammys.

Relax, people, Stevie earned her spot.

Meanwhile, Radiohead may be a polite version of the Sex Pistols come ceremony time: A group of Brits who simply don’t care one crumpet about this American Thing. Guitarist Ed O’Brien told Rolling Stone in 2017 that Brits aren’t much for congratulating themselves, that the whole process reeks of “showbiz,” and he’s not into showbiz.

Nevertheless, Radiohead is the youngest band on the list. The surprise rock stars didn’t seem at all comfortable with it when their 1997 album “OK Computer” became an alternative rock hit. Of course, the band’s reticence became part of its appeal to fans, even when it went electronic on the follow-up “Kid A.” It’ll be interesting to see if the members show up to collect their statues and thank their lawyers.

For many American fans, Roxy Music is not that well known beyond “Love Is the Drug” and the smooth ballad “Avalon.” But the band was quite popular in its native Britain and many musicians cite the group's mix of capital “A” art, visuals and, in early incarnations, unpredictable and sophisticated takes on “Avant Rock” as inspiration. Roxy Music informed early punks, New Romantics and New Wavers, and Duran Duran, U2, the Talking Heads, David Bowie and famed producer Nile Rodgers (whose band Chic can’t buy its way into the rock hall) were fans.

The oldest guys on the list who also appear to be the most happy, the Zombies (eligible since 1989) were a British Invasion band that wasn’t just cute guys with accents and awesome haircuts. The band had peppy hits such as “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season.” The latter song came from “Odyssey and Oracle,” a psychedelic mix of layered harmonies and hazy music that has become enough of a cult favorite that several  surviving members toured America playing the album in its entirety for its 50th anniversary.

The MC5, progenitors of punk and metal, continue to be left off the inductees list, which is a shame as the group's razor-sharp, kinetic, soulful rock is nearly the antithesis of Def Leppard’s meticulous canned sound. Besides, the MC5 tribute band that could be put together for the big show would be impressive. Likewise, German pioneers Kraftwerk, who have influenced every strain of electronic and dance music as well as hip-hop and pop, was once again relegated to the “maybe next year” pile. John Prine is a quintessential singer/songwriter, but his subtle and lovely use of language, laid-back, musical style and general lack of “sexiness” likely put him on the back burner, too.

The 34th induction ceremony will take place March 29 at Barclays Center in New York.

 

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.