The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced this year's inductees, which means it's time for another round of our favorite annual ritual: being deeply embarrassed about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Don't get me wrong: this isn't about the musicians being inducted. I love the Beastie Boys! I love Laura Nyro! I love Guns 'n Roses! I... am aware of the Red Hot Chili Peppers! It's just that, look: rock 'n roll is cool. That's, like, the whole point of popular music—being cool, feeling cool, seeing cool people do cool things. And there is literally nothing that is more antithetical to "cool" than the idea of a "Hall of Fame."
A Hall of Fame is about establishing a canon, about telling people what's important and what's not important, about honoring your predecessors. Halls of Fame work with sports because sports aren't cool. Sports are all about loving your dad and, like, figuring out percentages. Sports are all about giving a shit. Popular music in the 20th century is about the exact opposite thing. It's about ignoring your dad and skipping math class and generally not giving a shit in as performative a way as possible.
The problem is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hasn't adequately understood the deeply antithetical nature of coolness and museums. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame still thinks it's cool. This is why it's so embarrassing. You can tell it still believes in its own coolness because it inducts rappers: rap is not rock and roll, and a good, uncool, establishment museum would stick to its charter. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wants to be cool. It tries to be cool. It knows that rap is cool, and so it pretends that Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys makes rock music. Not that it's even any good at rap music: Rakim, almost unquestionably the greatest rapper of all time, didn't make it in this year. (Self-respecting rappers would refuse to let their still-actually-cool music be subsumed into this deeply embarrassing adventure, but rappers are, if anything, worse than rock fans with the undying reverence for the past.)
Look: I don't care if a bunch of boomers and their latter-day sycophants want to establish a glass pyramid in Cleveland to house John Lennon's shoes. I'm not even mad! You guys made money; if you want to continue to suck the figurative collective dick of the most successful bands of all time, in the form of a multi-million dollar monument, well, you do you. I'm just embarrassed for you.
[Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Billy Joel speaking before inducting John Mellencamp into the Hall of Fame via AP]