Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘@RockHall’

On Wednesday, 10 February, with only about 48 hours’ notice, the Rock Hall announced the nominees for its 2021 class. I happened to be at my parents’ place, dropping off my son before an eye appointment when the appointed hour arrived. When I read the nominees, I experienced the gratifying sensation of not wanting to throw my cell phone out the window in anger and exasperation. That’s because this is…if not exactly the ~strongest~ set of nominees I’ve seen in my years following the Hall (I’d say the Class of 2016 ballot has that honor), then it is certainly the most ~encouraging~ and evinces a Rock Hall headed in the right direction. Under the new leadership of John Sykes, a sea change seems to have occurred. We have a ballot that did justice to the 90s, reached back to the mid-60s, and had gender and racial parity after years of relative white-washing since the era of fan ballots and HBO broadcasts began. As many of you know by now, our 16 nominees were:

  • Kate Bush
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Iron Maiden
  • Foo Fighters
  • L.L. Cool J
  • Devo
  • New York Dolls
  • Carole King
  • Mary J. Blige
  • Chaka Khan
  • Jay-Z
  • Todd Rundgren
  • Tina Turner
  • Fela Kuti
  • The Go-Gos
  • Rage Against the Machine

That’s…a pretty fascinating ballot, ripe with good choices. I’d be happy with almost any permutation of inductees. Of course, Sykes alone is not entirely responsible for this. The Rock Hall has a rather terrific team of publicity folk, librarians, and archivists who played a quiet role behind the scenes. And I’d like to think that pressure from journalists like Evelyn McDonnell and bloggers like the Hall Watchers team were part of a larger grassroots effort.

As is my custom here on the Countdown, I’ll do a rundown of the nominees, ranking their 1) Worthiness; 2) How much I like Them (or Preference, for simplicity’s sake); 3) Their Likelihood of getting in, in my estimation; and 4) How good their induction is for the Rock Hall’s Bottom Line, from a publicity, financial, or respectability angle. I’ll also give a suggestion for a possible musician to give their induction speech.

Devo (Worthiness: 16; Preference: 14; Likelihood: 9; Bottom Line: 12). You know this is a good ballot when Devo might be the act I have the biggest problem with. And even then, it’s simply on speculative grounds like “would they have been as big if they hadn’t worn silly hats?”, and not particularly liking bands with manifestos. Devo makes its second appearance on a Rock Hall ballot, and this time, they would be inducted in their home base in northeastern Ohio. This could make them a sentimental favorite during the induction ceremony, and that goes double when you consider that we almost lost Mark Mothersbaugh to COVID last year. Suggested Inductor: Weird Al Yankovic.

Dionne Warwick (Worthiness: 13; Preference: 6; Likelihood: 7; Bottom Line: 9). Well, this was a pleasant surprise! Dionne Warwick was always at the periphery of inductable artists- she was in my original list of 100 prospects that I wrote four years ago, where I wondered whether her “cocktail-hour music” hurt her chances, despite a great voice, workmanlike professionalism, and some legendary songs from the Bacharach-David team. And for all we talk about Tina Turner’s comeback (and we should), it’s worth pointing out that Warwick never really faded out of the limelight in the first place and was a consistent chart presence from the 60s through deep into the 80s. It couldn’t hurt that she’s had a revival of sorts in the past year, between appearances on The Masked Singer and a playful persona she has cultivated on Twitter. Given the number of ex-Zombies, and ex-Vandellas and the such who get ballots, don’t count Warwick out. Suggested Inductor: Chance the Rapper.

New York Dolls (Worthiness: 14; Preference: 16; Likelihood: 15; Bottom Line: 14). A handful of Rock Hall watchers, myself included, predicted New York Dolls–usually in lieu of those Fan Vote bottom-feeders, MC5. Right now, the Dolls’ androgyny, playfulness, and proto-punk attitude is in. But unlike their near-contemporaries, T. Rex and Roxy Music, they didn’t produce a particularly large or particularly memorable body of work despite a profound impact on their peers. Don’t expect an induction here, but in case I’m wrong, I suggest Axl Rose.

Foo Fighters (Worthiness: 10, Preference: 8, Likelihood: 5, Bottom Line: 7). It was pretty foreseeable that Foo Fighters would make the ballot, not only on account of being one of the foremost rock and roll bands of the last 25 years, but also by virtue of Dave Grohl’s chumminess with the Hall and general likability. In some ways, they are to rock and roll what Boyz II Men were to R&B, the last great act in a dying genre. The Rock Hall Watchers team are a bit more critical of them than I would be- I’d argue that we are still seeing their influence play out, and I tend to prefer longevity and consistency over artists who were an extremely influential flash in the pan (see New York Dolls.) At any rate, like it or not, I’d say it’s about a fifty-fifty split whether they get in this year. Suggested Inductor: Dave Grohl’s Zoom-era sparring partner, Nadia Bushnell.

Jay-Z (Worthiness: 3, Preference: 11, Likelihood: 3, Bottom Line: 3). I owe Jay-Z a great deal because I can use him as a reference point in my history lectures. When talking about the Erie Canal, I can say that DeWitt Clinton has 99 problems, but a ditch ain’t one. When the topic turns to the Mughal Empire, I can say Emperor Akbar has 99 problems, but the Brits ain’t one. Truly, Jay-Z is the gift that keeps on giving. The 2021 Class has always had the subtext of “it’s Jay-Z’s year” about it, and I don’t think there’s any reason to challenge this piece of conventional wisdom. But I caution against giving Jay-Z a free ride. Journalist Bill Wyman eviscerated the corporatism of Jay-Z in his own take on the 2021 nominees, writing: “…he is the epitome of corporate hip-hop. His remarkable, lasting success and slick positions — from his art to his acts to his marriage — has made him a perennial superstar. But there is something bleak and empty about him”. He is perhaps the most successful rapper of all-time, although he is not, by any fair estimation, the best. I also wonder how many people will look at the ballot and say “wait…how can I vote for Jay-Z when L.L. Cool J isn’t in yet?” It was different with 2pac and Biggie, who achieved an almost spiritual significance in death. Suggested Inductor: Eminem, to herald #RockHall2022.

The Go-Gos (Worthiness: 8, Preference: 7, Likelihood: 8, Bottom Line: 6). Their nomination is entirely deserved, but it seems part of something larger and more metatextual. The Go-Gos documentary that was released last year to positive reviews spends an almost untoward amount of time considering why they aren’t in the Rock Hall, almost playing chicken with Jann Wenner. And still, it’s a fair question: as many readers know, they were the first band to achieve a #1 with only women playing on the record, and their significance extends far beyond mere trivia. Lately, we celebrate excellence that thrived despite structural unfairness in their way (consider Hidden Figures as an example), and this makes the Go-Gos accomplishments all the more remarkable. They could very well get inducted on their first try, but I’m not encouraged by what happened to some of their female contemporaries like Eurythmics, Kate Bush, and Pat Benatar. If they do get in, expect an enthusiastic reunion, and, as Gina Schock wished for, a terrific speech from P!nk.

Rage Against the Machine (Worthiness: 9, Preference: 15, Likelihood: 13, Bottom Line: 5). I see two obstacles to Rage’s chances this year. Number One is the Foo Fighters. Although they are in very different sub-genres, they are both perhaps the two most iconic rock bands of the late 90s and could potentially hamper each other’s chances. It’s also unlikely that they will both get in during the same year because it would look ~really~ bad if two bands with members on the Nominating Committee slide through. Number Two is less intuitive– it’s political stability. Do you like the feeling of not waking up in a state of panic and abject horror, checking your phone to see what insane thing the president has done or said? I sure like it. My point is that the steady-as-she-goes liberalism of Joe Biden blunts a lot of the fire and righteous anger that drives RATM and makes them perpetually relevant. There’s no doubt, though, that the Rock Hall would love to micromanage a rare, but very plausible, Rage reunion. Suggested Inductor: Chuck D.

Chaka Khan (Worthiness: 11, Preference: 4, Likelihood: 16, Bottom Line: 13). Fun fact: the number of Masked Singer participants on this year’s ballot is only slightly smaller than the number of women on last year’s ballot. This time showing up sans Rufus, Khan has very, very little chance on a ballot this competitive. Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick are both more famous, more influential, had more hits, while also enjoying a second chapter in their careers unfold in the 1980s. Allegedly, the Hall has a secret rule where you automatically get in if you earn seven nominations or have seven nominations in a row (sources disagree). If that’s true, and Khan’s work with or without Rufus is considered of a piece, she could get in through this loophole next year. Suggested Inductor: Erykah Badu.

Todd Rundgren (Worthiness: 12, Preference: 3, Likelihood: 4, Bottom Line: 15). Rundgren is close to my heart because he headlined the last concert I attended before the pandemic shut everything down. Despite this, I’m not as sold on his Rock Hall credentials as some of the other hobbyists are. He barely missed out on making my first list of 100 prospects, and it doesn’t help that his best work is divided between himself and two different bands, and intermingled with his other work as a producer. Having said all that, Rundgren may well get in on his third consecutive nomination. He’s the closest thing we have to a “70s classic rock in the narrowest possible sense of the genre” nominee, which certainly didn’t hurt the Doobie Brothers last year. But how does the Hall handle a problem child like Todd for the HBO broadcast? He has made it clear he holds the Hall in contempt and is extremely unlikely to show up for the festivities. He’s also alienated or pissed off a lot of people who might have given interesting induction speeches, like Meat Loaf or the XTC guys. He’s tight with Ringo, but he just inducted T. Rex last year. So, maybe Joey Molland of Badfinger as my suggested inductor?

L.L. Cool J (Worthiness: 2, Preference: 12, Likelihood: 12, Bottom Line: 8). I was surprised that the Rock Hall nominated a second rapper this year, given Jay-Z’s presence on the ballot. It would have made sense if they threw out a sacrificial lamb to honor with a nomination (think De La Soul or something similar), but LL Cool J is a legitimate contender any time he appears on a ballot. Indeed, he’s easily made it into the very highest eschelons of my own mental tabulation of the most egregious snubs from the Rock Hall. As I said earlier, the fact that LL Cool J isn’t in yet may give some voters pause before they automatically check off the box next to Jay-Z’s name. But how many Rock Hall voters are willing to vote for two rap acts? Not too many, I would guess. If I’m wrong, though, expect class and sophistication from L.L. Cool J, as well as an enthusiastic speech from…Ludacris?

Tina Turner (Worthiness: 7, Preference: 9, Likelihood: 2, Bottom Line: 4). Lots of positive press and buzz surrounded Tina Turner this year, so a lot of us predicted her to show up, and we were vindicated. It is almost certain that she will get inducted– I’d be beyond shocked if she didn’t, but given how Rock Hall voters have sometimes done black women dirty (such as Janet needing three tries), nothing is for certain. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that 80-year-old Turner will fly from Switzerland in an improving but tentative global health environment to accept her award in person, but you can take it to the bank that she will record a very gracious acceptance speech and some standout tribute performances will be in the works. As for someone to give the speech, is Beyoncé not going to be in the house?

Iron Maiden (Worthiness: 5, Preference: 13, Likelihood: 6, Bottom Line: 1). Three acts with metal credentials were nominated last year. None of them got in. This year, one completely different metal act was nominated instead. Iron Maiden are perennial favorites at the Rock Hall’s voting kiosks, and if you look at white, male bands that aren’t in yet, sure- they take their place among the most prominent. Even so, I feel that their significance and fan base is limited to the metal community, and more people own Iron Maiden t-shirts than own Iron Maiden albums. Moreover, metal bands often take a few tries to get into the Hall, and Judas Priest–in my own opinion a superior ensemble–hasn’t made it yet. However, Iron Maiden has the hard rock lane all to itself this year, and winning over their massive corps of devoted fans has to be making Greg Harris see dollar signs in his sleep. I think they have a much stronger chance than my peers currently imagine. Suggested Inductor: Scott Ian of Anthrax.

Mary J. Blige (Worthiness: 6, Preference: 5, Likelihood: 11, Bottom Line: 10). I’m not humble enough to aver the fact that I was one of the only Rock Hall people who predicted her for the ballot. She was definitely a Hail-Mary pick–literally in this case–, and I’m still surprised I was right. Despite the unexpected appearance, Blige is eminently worthy. She was one of VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, but consider this as well… Can you tell the story of 80s pop without Tina Turner? Possibly. Could you tell the story of 90s R&B without Blige? Not a chance. It won’t matter, but she’s an extremely deserving candidate. My Suggested Inductor is perhaps her most unlikely collaborator but one of her most consistent boosters: Elton John. While the Rocket Man is in the building, this would be a great opportunity to induct Bernie Taupin as a non-performer, but that’s a post for another day.

Fela Kuti (Worthiness: 15, Preference: 10, Likelihood: 14, Bottom Line: 11). Speaking of surprises…Fela Kuti? He was #100 on my original list of 100 Rock Hall prospects, and among these sixteen nominees, he’s only second from the bottom in terms of worthiness. I’m not going to vote for him, and I doubt he’ll get in, but I love the idea of nominating Kuti. It’s one of those picks like Los Lobos or John Prine, where you aren’t gonna vote for ’em, but you really respect that the committee thought highly enough about that artist to give him this kind of public acknowledgment. I could, though, be counting him out too early. Thanks to a grassroots campaign coming from Kuti’s native Africa, he’s been leading the Fan Vote. It’s uncertain if he’ll stay there, but this is a crafty choice if the intention was to put the Rock Hall on the radar of the developing world. Suggested Inductor: Bootsy Collins.

Kate Bush (Worthiness: 4, Preference: 2, Likelihood: 10, Bottom Line: 16). She’s back after a three year absence. When it comes to women who should be in the Rock Hall, Bush has to be near the top of the list. There has been no one like her: a wünderkind from England who drew ideas from progressive rock and classic literature to make dreamy soundscapes, who churned out great album after great album for a dozen solid years. The Kick Inside is easily on my list of the best albums of all time, and as indie music allows creative misfits let their freak flags fly, Bush has only become more impactful. Her notorious reclusivity means she won’t be in Cleveland, but maybe Lorde and Bjork can perform her tracks after Big Boi’s speech.

Carole King (Worthiness: 1, Preference: 1, Likelihood: 1, Bottom Line: 2). When I started following the Rock Hall, I was a stalwart advocate for: Chicago. Nina Simone. The Zombies. Joan Baez. Bill Withers. Dire Straits. Janet Jackson. Carole King. Well, now they are all in- as performers, except Carole King. Her influence as a singer-songwriter is far-reaching and expansive, virtually everybody in that genre owes something to her work. Given how revered Tapestry is on its 50th anniversary, given her impactful legacy, and given how fondly the 60s old-timers remember him, Carole King is as sure as a sure thing can be. I can’t wait to see her get into the Hall on her own merits. Suggested Inductor: Sara Bareilles.

Follow your own arrow, but on the Rock Hall’s site, I’m voting for Carole King, L.L. Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, and Todd Rundgren.

For ease of reference, my rankings were:

Worthiness:

  1. Carole King
  2. L.L. Cool J
  3. Jay-Z
  4. Kate Bush
  5. Iron Maiden
  6. Mary J. Blige
  7. Tina Turner
  8. The Go-Gos
  9. Rage Against the Machine
  10. Foo Fighters
  11. Chaka Khan
  12. Todd Rundgren
  13. Dionne Warwick 
  14. New York Dolls
  15. Fela Kuti
  16. Devo

Ranking favorites:

  1. Carole King
  2. Kate Bush 
  3. Todd Rundgren 
  4. Chaka Khan 
  5. Mary J. Blige
  6. Dionne Warwick 
  7. The Go-Go’s
  8. Foo Fighters
  9. Tina Turner
  10. Fela Kuti
  11. Jay-Z
  12. L L Cool J
  13. Iron Maiden 
  14. Devo
  15. Rage Against the Machine 
  16. New York Dolls

Likelihood: 

  1. Carole King
  2. Tina Turner
  3. Jay-Z
  4. Todd Rundgren
  5. Foo Fighters
  6. Iron Maiden
  7. Dionne Warwick
  8. The Go-Gos
  9. Devo
  10. Kate Bush
  11. Mary J. Blige
  12. L.L. Cool J
  13. Rage Against the Machine
  14. Fela Kuti
  15. New York Dolls
  16. Chaka Khan

Bottom line:

  1. Iron Maiden
  2. Carole King
  3. Jay-Z
  4. Tina Turner
  5. Rage Against the Machine
  6. Go-Go’s
  7. Foo Fighters
  8. LL Cool J
  9. Dionne Warwick
  10. Mary J Blige
  11. Fela Kuti
  12. Devo
  13. Chaka Khan
  14. New York Dolls
  15. Todd Rundgren
  16. Kate Bush

Read Full Post »