Not all '80s artists are even yet eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but there are more than a few that have been active up to three decades without being recognized. Only a handful of these - depending on one's perspective, of course - belong in the category of definitively overlooked. Here's a look at five artists particularly representative of '80s music that should already be enshrined, in my humble opinion.
1. The Cars
At the risk of making drastic overuse of sports metaphor here, '80s new wave band the Cars stands out to me as the Bobby Orr, Sandy Koufax or Earl Campbell of rock music. That is, each of those legendary entities may not have been around for a terribly long time, but damn, were they great while they lasted. I don't think it's hyperbole to label the Boston quintet that ruled the '80s as one of the finest pop/rock ensembles of all time. Aside from Ric Ocasek as capable frontman and tremendously gifted songwriter, this was a band blessed with sterling supporting players, including singer/bassist Benjamin Orr and guitarist Elliot Easton. As far as high-quality output goes, it's just not possible to get much better than the Cars.
2. Hall & Oates
Having been eligible for Rock Hall induction since 1997, eclectic duo Daryl Hall & John Oates have waited more than long enough for recognition as one of pop music's foremost class acts. Occasionally mistaken for light-hearted soft rockers or wannabe blue-eyed soul crooners, the pair has produced some of the greatest pop tunes of the rock era, with refreshingly little regard for the kind of narrow categorization that has allowed critics repeatedly to dismiss them. Even without consideration of the Rock Hall's recently non-rock selections, Hall & Oates deserve to be enshrined and forever celebrated as one of the great musical treasures of the '70s and '80s.
3. Judas Priest
Despite the recent inductions of Black Sabbath and Metallica, the genre of heavy metal remains woefully underrepresented on the ledger of Rock Hall inductees. However, along with fellow New Wave of British Heavy Metal giants Iron Maiden, Judas Priest remains the most quintessential example of this sometimes critically derided style. Molten rock at its most simplistic and yet simultaneously sophisticated, this band's sheer all-around power from vocals to lead and rhythm guitars still knows few peers. Even better, the songwriting displays melodic pop sensibility without losing one ounce of its ability to pulverize the ears of audiences. I mean that in the best possible way, of course.
4. Bon Jovi
Who would have imagined in the fall of 1986, when Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet swept the nation with a ferocity that helped usher in the age of hair metal in earnest, that the band of the same name would still be a major commercial force in the music industry 25 years later? The secret to Bon Jovi's longevity may rest in its ability to transcend the initially restrictive label of a pop metal act with which it was saddled, which in retrospect should have been obvious to us all as an inaccuracy. After all, Bon Jovi has always been a rootsy mainstream rock band more in the vein of Bruce Springsteen than Def Leppard. Never a critical favorite exactly, the band nonetheless has few brethren when it comes to consistency and quality of output.
5. Duran Duran
Another homegrown artist of the '80s that has demonstrated intense relevance and pop culture staying power, Duran Duran probably seemed like a sure thing for a prefabricated, trendy flame-out to many observers during its heyday. However, as one of MTV's first and brightest superstars, the Fab Five (so dubbed by a smitten media and public undoubtedly taken with the group's style and matinee good looks) has ranged far beyond its early days of new wave and dance-pop glory. Perhaps surprisingly, Duran Duran has managed to remain a significant album and singles artist during all three decades of its existence. But the foremost reason the band is overdue for the Rock Hall is that there is really no good reason to be surprised by its success.