Not too long ago I wrote about the case for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for The Go-Gos, which I mentioned was a bit slight but which had a compelling argument when you look at their songs and how they are treasured today. Soon after posting that case, someone mentioned that Belinda Carlisle may have a more compelling case than the Go-Gos did, and I happen to agree. When you look at both the sheer ambition of her musical career as well as her popular success both in the United States and abroad, Belinda Carlisle has a better case than the Go-Gos. It should be noted that there is only one female act (Stevie Nicks) that has been inducted multiple times in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and so it is not surprising at all that Belinda Carlisle, an artist that is frequently dismissed as being a smoothed out pop princess famous for her material immediately after going solo, has not even been inducted once and not twice, but when you look at the career of this artist, you realize that there is far more than meets the eye. Whether or not this is something that is appealing to the nominating committee or the body of voters for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is an open question, but to music fans the career of Belinda Carlisle is certainly compelling and certainly far more complex than is often recognized.
The Influence Of Belinda Carlisle
As a solo artist, Belinda Carlisle has had three phases in her career so far. First, she had a period of massive popularity in the United States and abroad after leaving the Go-Go’s that lasted through the second half of the 1980’s to about 1990 or so. At that point, during the 1990’s she released albums and singles that remained popular in the UK and Australia, among other places, but ceased to be popular in the United States, and had her first career retrospectives come out. And since 2000 she has released only two studio albums, but both of which have been both impressively experimental if not particularly popular anywhere. One of the areas where Belinda Carlisle has been particularly influential as an artist is in her high-concept music videos, a couple of which were directed by Diane Keaton. Similarly, she demonstrated that there was and remains room on the pop charts for someone who is a skillful interpreter of the songs of others, while also demonstrating during the mid-90’s in particular that she could write her own songs if necessary. Still, she is largely someone who worked in the first and most commercially successful part of career with a consistent set of songwriters who did a good job at creating suitable material that she was able to perform skillfully, and the popularity of those songs to the present-day, along with the growing respect for her body of work as a whole, bodes well for her eventual recognition as a surprisingly diverse and compelling pop star.
Why Belinda Carlisle Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
There are multiple reasons why Belinda Carlisle belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For one, there is the record of her popularity as an artist. She had her first three albums go at last gold in the United States, and an additional four albums of hers, two compilations and two studio albums, have gone at least gold in the UK, demonstrating a lasting career that has attracted a wide degree of support. Similarly, she has had four top ten hits and six top 40’s on the pop charts in the United States, and even more success abroad, such as having seven top tens and nineteen top 40 hits in the UK. Similarly, she had four top ten hits and eight top 40 hits in Australia, demonstrating considerable appeal in a wide variety of territories . Beyond her record of popularity as a singles and album artist, she has recently received multiple multi-disk retrospectives, demonstrating the worth of her back catalog as a whole, most of which include her entire second and third albums as well as other material. On top of this, a substantial amount of the worth of Belinda Carlisle as an artist for the RRHOF is her surprising late-career turn in singing first French chansons and then an album of Sikh chants. It is unsurprising that these albums did not capture the popular imagination, but they certainly demonstrate that Carlisle is a compelling and interesting artist, who is worthy of vastly more respect than she often receives.
Why Belinda Carlisle Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
It is quite possible that many people who vote for the RRHOF think of her career as simply involving songs like “Mad About You,” “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” “I Get Weak,” “Circle In The Sand,” and “Leave A Light On,” and leave it at that. Admittedly, those are a compelling body of songs on their own, but they barely scratch the surface of Carlisle’s gifts as a singer, occasional songwriter (especially during the 1990’s), and as an interpreter of a diverse range of material that includes popular music in three very different languages and traditions. Viewing Belinda Carlisle as a shallow and smooth pop princess lacking in depth demonstrates a lack of knowledge.
Verdict: When and if the RRHOF ever gets around to nominating and inducting 80’s acts, Belinda Carlisle has an intriguing case that deserves to be taken seriously.