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Times music staff’s picks for Rock Hall’s 2016 induction

Rock Hall critic’s picks

Clockwise from top left: Janet Jackson, N.W.A, Morrissey, and Cheap Trick.

(Clockwise from top left: Alexander Tamargo / Getty Images; File photo / Los Angeles Times; Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Danny Clinch)

Nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2016 induction ceremony are out, and here are the top three picks from each member of The Times’ pop music staff, plus a few words on one of those choices from the writers.

To recap, as reported earlier, this year’s slate of 15 nominees consists of The Cars, Cheap Trick, Chic, Chicago, Deep Purple, Janet Jackson, The J.B.’s, Chaka Khan, Los Lobos, Steve Miller, Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A, The Smiths, The Spinners and Yes.

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FOR THE RECORD

A previous version of this post said N.W.A was the only unanimous choice for induction among the Times music writers. The group appears on seven of eight of the writers’ ballots.

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Compton gangsta rap group N.W.A received th most votes, appearing on seven of eight ballots, with Chic and the Smiths each collecting three votes, and a three-way tie among Cheap Trick, Jackson and Los Lobos, who garnered two votes apiece.

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The acts that ultimately are selected for induction by the hall’s 700-some voting members—typically five or six of the nominees--will be announced in December. Fans can lodge their votes from Oct. 8 through Dec. 9 at the Rock Hall’s official web site here.


Lorraine Ali

1) The Cars

2) The Smiths

3) N.W.A

Why The Cars?

Back in 1978, when everyone else was shredding on guitar or nodding out to 10-minute drum solos, The Cars delivered a minimalist debut driven by “futuristic” synthesized sounds and robotic yet forlorn vocals. It was a hit thanks to pop hooks hidden under all that mechanized weirdness. So ahead of its time, so quintessentially ‘80s.

The Cars, playing the Roxy in West Hollywood in 1978. (Tony Barnard / Los Angeles Times)


Chris Barton

1) N.W.A

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2) Cheap Trick

3) Chic

Why Cheap Trick?

Seemingly never all that comfortable with its Midwestern roots, the Rock Hall needs to throw a long-overdue nod to Rockford, Ill.'s Cheap Trick, which practically invented the catchy, guitar-heavy sound of power pop with “Surrender” and “I Want You to Want Me.”

A 2007 file photo of Cheap Trick. (Photo credit/Danny Clinch)


August Brown

1) N.W.A

2) Chic

3) The Smiths

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Why N.W.A?

N.W.A’s legacy would have been secure without the flurry of recent media attention from the biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” But with the film’s success and the potency of the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, this nomination carries a rare undercurrent of urgency.

Los Angeles Times staff photo of N.W.A. in 1989. (File photo / Los Angeles Times)


Gerrick Kennedy

1) Janet Jackson

2) N.W.A

3) Chaka Khan

Why Janet Jackson?

Janet Jackson doesn’t get full credit for her reach and the blueprint she created for modern pop stardom. I think about Beyonce, Rihanna, Ciara, FKA Twigs--such a vast reach and indelible impact.

Janet Jackson in concert in Florida in September, 2015. (Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)


Randy Lewis

1) N.W.A

2) Los Lobos

3) Nine Inch Nails

Why Los Lobos?

The recorded legacy of East L.A.'s Los Lobos has never been less than impressive, and often has been utterly inspired in its seemingly never-ending exploration of inviting music that crosses multiple geographical and emotional borders. Songwriters David Hidalgo, Louie Perez and Cesar Rosas excel at getting to the heart of those things that matter most to working folk: family, immigration issues, the nature of love and the joy of living.

Los Lobos playing in East Los Angeles in September, 2015. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)


Todd Martens

1) Cheap Trick

2) Chic

3) Los Lobos


Randall Roberts

1) Janet Jackson

2) N.W.A

3) The Smiths

Why The Smiths?

If undying devotion to an artist’s entire ideal dictates Rock Hall inclusion, no act is more deserving than the Smiths. Their fans mean it – and they’re right. More important: the Smiths helped define the sound of independent rock in the 1980s. Most important: imagine the speech that singer Morrissey might deliver on induction night!

Morrissey performing at Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2013. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


Mikael Wood

1) Chic

2) N.W.A

3) Chaka Khan

Why Chic?

No act has done more to emphasize pop’s rhythmic potential than Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards’ state-of-the-art groove machine.

Nile Rodgers, center, and Chic at the Way Out West festival in Sweden in August, 2015. (Adam Ihse TT / EPA)


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