The latest class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was announced, which means America’s racists have resumed ranting about how any music made by black people isn’t really rock and roll and shouldn’t be included.
Fortunately, the group is good! And there’s enough inductees to fill out a column! So here are the best songs (according to me) by the six new members for 2020.
The Notorious B. I. G. — “Ten Crack Commandments”
You thought I was going to go with “Hypnotize,” didn’t you? Or “Mo Money Mo Problems” to be different? But no, I went totally off the board!
I’m a Tupac guy from way back of course (West side!) but you’ve gotta respect Biggie’s flow. This song also addresses one of my two major complaints by not being about how rich he is, which is also to its benefit. And it inspired a song from “Hamilton.” If that’s not a cultural impact I don’t know what is.
For the record, my other major complaint is that he left the world with the David Spade to his Chris Farley: Sean “Puff ‘P `Puffy` Diddy’ Daddy” Combs. We didn’t deserve that.
Nine Inch Nails — “Closer”
Content Warning: You shouldn’t have clicked the above video if there were kids in the room! So if you did and your toddler is loudly singing along like an obscene parrot, sorry about that.
I should probably put the warnings first, huh?
Anyway, Nine Inch Nails have been around long enough to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in case you had any delusions of youth left.
Whitney Houston — “I Will Always Love You”
Yes, I went off-board for Biggie, but there’s really only one Whitney song that I could choose to represent her. If I went with something else you’d know I was just trying to look smart and original.
Seriously, this song is impossible to sing. How can a person do that? Like, has anyone studied whether that’s a thing human vocal cords can do? Because I’m not sure it is, but it was before AutoTune and all that.
What I’m saying is it’s about time they start putting her in Halls of Fame.
The Doobie Brothers — “Black Water”
Picking my favorite Doobie Brothers song is surprisingly tricky. The popular choice would probably be “Listen to the Music” or “Takin’ it to the Streets,” and there was the temptation to pick “China Grove” and marvel at how a band that includes yacht rock icon Michael McDonald could have such a distinctly proto-metal tone in its central guitar riff.
Instead I put the Michael McDonald thing in as a tangent and picked “Black Water” because… well, because I really like the song. It’s so good! The layered vocals get me every time.
T. Rex — “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”
The least-known of the bands this year, but certainly not undeserving, is T. Rex. The group didn’t have massive fame and a long string of hits in its short existence, but it’s the sort of band that inspired many other musicians.
Long story short, T. Rex pretty much invented the glam rock aesthetic that dominated the ’80s. Regardless of what you think of hair metal, it’s no small feat to invent a genre, especially one as out-there as that.
That said, as my pick I went with the song you’re most likely to know. This was the group’s biggest hit if not its best song, but it’s certainly catchy and I still love it.
Depeche Mode — “Enjoy the Silence”
Last but certainly not least are new wave legends Depeche Mode.
My first instinct was “Personal Jesus,” off the album of the same name as my pick. But then I realized part of the reason I like the song so much is that both Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash covered it so well, and that’s not fair. So I went with my other favorite, another big radio hit.
Incidentally, is there a better measure of a songwriter than having two people as diverse as Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash covering your song and having the cover also become successful? They both knocked it out of the park. That’s a good song.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.