This year the loudest howls of protest come from fans (and critics) outraged over the inclusion of a “pop” group like ABBA instead of a “real rock band” like KISS or Rush.

Before we go any further, let me make one thing clear: I’m not trying to denigrate KISS in any way. I’m simply trying to point out that in my opinion, the entire concept of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as it exists now is flawed. Got that? Okay, here goes.

While there’s no denying that KISS has had an important impact on modern music, I would argue that it’s in terms of the concert as a show or full-blown spectacle and innovations in marketing and not necessarily a musical contribution. (C’mon if they were so serious about being a “rock” band and the ideals of the genre, would they have done a DISCO song? “I Was Made for Loving You” is flat out disco. It’s only a couple of chord changes and a Donna Summer vocal away from being “Hot Stuff” or “Bad Girls.”)

So if you look at the issue in terms of sheer musical contribution to the modern music industry – and after a review of the acts that have made it in, that appears to be the one of the main criteria for inclusion – Abba blows KISS away.

What do I mean by that? Simple. Walk into a room full of people anywhere in the world and start singing any of Abba’s dozens of hits and people can (and will) sing along with you. With the exception of The Beatles and Michael Jackson, there’s probably not another act that can claim that kind of recognition.

In fact, I’ll bet if you went through the catalogs of a few of the post-Abba groups considered real “rock bands” by some of the loudest complainers and listened objectively, you’d hear the distinct influence of Björn and Benny on both song structure and vocal harmonies. (Don’t believe me? Go dig out your Guns N’ Roses or Smashing Pumpkins collection right now.)

Of course some people would point out what’s really going on here is a popularity contest. And to an extent that’s true. In many ways, the HoF has become an extension of the Grammy Awards, where it often seems voting members focus on sales figures over anything else when picking winners.

But here’s what I believe the real problem is: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a misnamed. I think the basis of most people’s complaints about who is or isn’t included can be traced to the name of the damned thing. By calling it the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” the people who created it severely limited themselves and then failed to stick to that limit.

That’s why in ’87 people complained about Aretha Franklin getting in and in ’92 some people bitched about Johnny Cash. Inducting Sly and The Family Stone (’93), Parliament-Funkadelic (’97) and Earth, Wind & Fire (2000) also stirred up considerable debate. But the griping didn’t really reach a level approaching all-out revolt until 2008, when Madonna and Leonard Cohen – both arguably not rock ‘n’ roll performers – were inducted.

Over the past couple of days, the debate has been friendly but fierce among a group of music writers and industry people who are part of my circle of Facebook friends. And some of them have raised some questions worth addressing.

An acquaintance from the Midwest made the case that inclusion into the HoF should be based on artistry and not on popularity. That’s all well and good, but how do you determine that?

There’s no question that Bob Dylan is a songwriting genius, but does his singing or guitar playing qualify as “artistry”? And what about The Ramones? Not one thing about them is terribly artistic musically, but they’re HoF members (and they should be). Besides, making “artistry” the main criteria smacks of elitism and that’s the last thing something calling itself the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” should be guilty of.

(Speaking of artistry, how come Electric Light Orchestra has never gotten in? Jeff Lynne is a production and arranging genius. He’s like the Mozart of 20th century pop/rock, who’s worked sonic miracles not only for himself but for The Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison and many others. It’s time to forgive him for Xanadu.)

As it stands now, there are acts who’ve been inducted into this exclusive club for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect, but I’m not sure they really belong in a “Rock and Roll” Hall of Fame. Take for example Dusty Springfield.

Springfield, who most people only remember for her hairstyle, frosted lipstick and “Son of a Preacher Man,” played a major part in music history that few people outside the industry are really aware of: She almost single-handedly helped Motown artists overcome racial prejudices in the U.K. and Europe.

In the early ’60s, white artists like Pat Boone covered songs by African American acts because commercial radio stations wouldn’t play them. To make matters worse the original acts often weren’t allowed on television because of racial prejudices.

Springfield, who at the time was one of the biggest names in the U.K., not only covered hits by Motown groups, she created and hosted a television show, “The Sounds of Motown,” in 1965 and insisted that producers fly artists like Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and The Temptations to Britain and let them appear on the air. The exposure helped U.K. and European audiences begin to overcome negative racial perceptions they had developed with regard to the civil rights movement.

There’s no question this is a significant contribution, but is it worthy of inclusion in something called the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”? Not really, even if you add in the fact that the singer was one of the first female artists responsible for the production of her own records. (Her work was uncredited at the time.) And is Dusty Springfield even a “rock” artist? Absolutely not. She’s the embodiment of a “pop” star.

So where does that leave us? Basically in the middle of a really messy situation with three choices.

First, fans (and critics) can loosen up about what they consider “rock.” As one person here in the office pointed out, they really should because “rock ‘n’ roll itself came about as a blend of Gospel, Country and Blues. Trying to argue against the inclusion of any genre is difficult to do when you get historical about it.”

Second, Jann Wenner and the rest of the board of the HoF can either more clearly outline their thought process and criteria for including a band in the nominations or change the name of the institution.

Or third, because the chance of either of the first two things happening is about as likely as the sun coming up in the south tomorrow morning, we can all just shut up and enjoy the music.