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Now, I wanna be your dancing queen: Is the Rock Hall embarking on a new era?

December 15, 2009 | 10:59 am

 
AbbaNow, all bets are off. With ABBA about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the old boundaries around rock -- both as a blues-based, American music and as art of a higher order than slick commercial pop -- would seem to have dissolved. Yet the Rock Hall's nominating committee and voters have done something very canny by choosing ABBA for the class of 2010, as well as by finally welcoming in the Stooges, one of the bands most often held up by dyed-in-the-wool rockers as embodying what's best about the art form.

Lovers of rock's noise and mayhem can rejoice that the band that unleashed Iggy Pop on the world is finally getting its due after several years of being snubbed. (It’s sad that guitarist Ron Asheton died before seeing it happen, but the same is true of Joey Ramone and the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison. Punks die too young.) Others, who’ve long wished that the cults of purism and authenticity that long determined what many thought was “important” pop music would dissolve, will join in a celebratory chorus of “Dancing Queen.”

But here’s the truth: Iggy might just join that chorus too. Nothing if not a showman, and attached to the glam-rock movement by his strong association with David Bowie, the brilliant Mr. Osterberg understands that pop exists to wreck hierarchies. These days, he’s just as much a crooner as he is a night crawler, and he apparently sees no need to distinguish between the two sides of his P.T. Barnum personality.

The binary split represented by ABBA and the Stooges is further complicated by the induction of other unlikely third parties: Genesis, repping for the long-scorned subgenre of progressive rock, and Jimmy Cliff, whose ska-pop spin on reggae brought Jamaica to Hollywood. Even the induction of the Hollies messes with the formula a bit, since that band was the poppiest of the British Invasion. This all bodes well for the Rock Hall, an institution that grows more interesting with every violation of its own rules.

-- Ann Powers

File photo of ABBA from 1978

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