On Tuesday morning (well, Tuesday night for me, since I’m in Singapore) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled its list of nominees for the Class of 2017. Although Troy Smith of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had telegraphed that the slate was very good and quite diverse, music fans across the world were taken by surprise to find that 19 nominees were put forth. This is more than any year since the Rock Hall’s foundational years, when the 1960s A-listers weren’t all in yet.
In case you haven’t heard, the nominees this year included: Bad Brains, Chic, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, The Zombies, Janet Jackson, Yes, The Cars, Chaka Khan, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Steppenwolf, MC5, J. Geils Band, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, and Jane’s Addiction.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll run down the nominees one by one, offering my thoughts on who is worthy and who is not; who will get in and who probably won’t. But for now, let me just sketch out some of my first impressions on this fascinating list.
- As others have already noted, there’s a little something for everybody here. Lots of different sub-genres from folk to punk to R&B made it, alongside some classic rock favorites.
- I did notice one particular trend. With the exception of perennial Chic, every other artist who was on the last two ballots didn’t make it on to this one. In this case, that left Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, and The Spinners in the lurch.
- Congratulations, #InductJanet. You’ve run a great, classy, persuasive campaign that is still bearing fruit. I was skeptical that Jackson would be nominated, given her pregnancy and the possibility she might still be recovering when it’s time to perform. I’m delighted that the Rock Hall did the right thing and nominated her regardless.
- The Rock Hall showed uncommon discipline this year; none of the names leaked or got out early, and they have replaced their robot-infested poll from last year with a new system requiring sign-in and limiting votes to one per day. It’s still possible, I suppose to get around it, and many aren’t happy that the vote totals are now secret, but I’m less bothered by it. It’s a step in the right direction.
- In terms of our predictions, this made fools out of a great many of us. Despite 19 selections, I only got six right (Pearl Jam, Tupac, The Cars, Kraftwerk, Chic, and The Zombies). All of these were fairly obvious except for The Zombies, who I think I was the only Monitor to pick.
- Also, a lot of artists we thought would make the ballot didn’t. Aside from NIN, The Smiths, and The Spinners, other frequently predicted artists who didn’t make the cut included: The Cure, The Monkees, Moody Blues, and Judas Priest.
- Tom Lane correctly got nine (!!) predictions, while the rest of us tended to bottom out at six (Charles Crossley was another exception; he got eight correct.) Tom was especially prescient in naming Joan Baez.
- This list is slightly (but only slightly) less America-centric than other years. There’s four British acts (ELO, Yes, The Zombies, and Depeche Mode), one Canadian act (Steppenwolf…Guess Who must be pissed right now), and out Teutonic overlords in Kraftwerk.
- How does this connect to my Top 100 Rock Hall Prospects list? Remember- one of my rules was that each act must have been passed over at least once, so Pearl Jam and Tupac didn’t qualify at the time I wrote it. Other than that, three acts are from my top 10 (Kraftwerk, Janet, and Yes), and five others were in the top 30 (Journey, The Cars, Joan Baez, The Zombies, and Chic). Others placing on the list were Depeche Mode (#35), ELO (#46), Jane’s Addiction (#50), MC5 (#72), and Chaka Khan (#80). That leaves Bad Brains, Steppenwolf, J. Geils Band, and Joe Tex on the “bubbling under” chart. (Although if I had to do my list over, I’d include Bad Brains and maybe kick out Los Lobos purely out of spite, since they didn’t play “La Bamba” when I saw them this summer.)
- Questlove’s fingerprints aren’t really on the ballot this year. There’s a couple acts he’s probably supportive of- notably Janet and Chaka Khan- but no act he’s on-the-record crazy about, like War, The Spinners, De La Soul, or A Tribe Called Quest. Did he miss the meeting this year?
- It’s interesting that the Hall so prominently displayed the categories of inductees on their announcement page. It makes me wonder if we might have an Early Influence, Non-Performer, and Musical Excellence award. For the record, I’m going to call Sister Rosetta Tharpe for Influence, Brian Eno or Rick Rubin for Non-Performer, and The Revolution (as in Prince and…) for Musical Excellence.
So that’s where things stand presently. I’ll have a lot more to say soon, with formal rankings of the artists and deeper riffs in terms of what all this says about the Rock Hall and where it is going. For now, go vote for your favorites at Rockhall.com and stay tuned!