Posts Tagged ‘#RockHall2021’

This is a short post after a two-month absence from the blog. Not to keep making excuses, but I’m watching a child full time while attempting to buy a house in the most lopsided seller’s market in a generation. I’ve been keeping close tabs on all the #RockHall2021 developments, however, between excellent podcast work from the Watchers and the Who Cares folk, Nick’s ongoing Rock Hall Reconsidered Project, and all the other manifold newsbites.

I’ll cut to the chase: here’s who I think, after a few months of watching reactions to this fascinating and precedent-shattering ballot, will get in.

Tina Turner: She is the biggest name with the biggest legacy on the ballot. While double-inductees sometimes face questions of “does so-and-so need to be in there twice?” with Tina it’s justified. Her 80s comeback was a triumph of human persistence and artistic rebirth. Yet, her near-certainty creates a problem: Turner is pretty much retired and I will be gobsmacked if she comes to Cleveland in a pandemic to take part. She may be involved, but it’s fair to say a performance–at least by the grand dame herself–is probably out of the question.

Carole King: I’m a little concerned that, among those who released their ballot choices, King isn’t always one of the five check-marks. Yet these disclosures have largely come from critics–and critics known for their edginess or too-cool-for-school attitude. I’m confident that the musicians who comprise this ballot will make a beeline for King–who is also maybe my biggest personal snub at this point. And King will show up.

Jay-Z: Honestly, this is less of a sure thing than I thought it was two months ago. L.L. Cool J is a serious contender on any ballot he appears on, and may draw votes away from Jay-Z, especially if voters can countenance one rap/hip-hop vote but not two. It’s also true that Jay-Z’s reaction to his nomination hasn’t been the most enthusiastic, and he’s giving off very Howard Stern “do I have to fly to Cleveland for this?” energy. Even still, he’s arguably the most successful rapper of all time, and if you are a millennial, 4 or 5 of his songs are an indelible part of your generational experience.

The Go-Gos: With a first-rate documentary making a case for their significance, the timing is right for The Go-Gos. New wave acts have done well in the Rock Hall lately, and there’s no denying their historicity. Eddie Trunk notwithstanding, if you want to vote for artists who wrote their own stuff and played their own instruments, The Go-Gos clear that hurdle.

Foo Fighters: A group whose nomination exists largely to raise Mary’s blood pressure, The Foo Fighters are still more likely than not to get inducted, I think. If Green Day can get in on their first try seven years ago, Foo Fighters should be able to do so as well. And like Green Day (and unlike Radiohead), the Foo Fighters show up to stuff. Complain all you like on their merits–I may or may not argue with you–but they fit the profile of first-year-eligible inductees.

That’s five. But with only three of them likely to be there, I doubt very much Greg Harris will stop there.

If there’s six, sign me up for Devo. They’re probably my least favorite artist on the ballot, and given all the other ersatz artists operating at the same time, I’m not quite getting the urgency. But in spite of my feelings, they were bold, had a unique visual aesthetic, and can thread the needle between “countercultural innovator” and “Classic rock”. Plus, their own Ohio roots gives HBO the potential for some terrific “going home” moments.

If there’s seven, I’m going to buck orthodoxy and suggest that New York Dolls have a real chance. Of the ballots released so far, NYD are showing up on a striking number, and their profile isn’t all that different from their contemporaries Roxy Music and T. Rex. In fact, New York Dolls have the added benefit of being, obviously, New Yorkers and having plenty of allies on the voting committee. They are also the queerest artist here, given their gender-bending aesthetic, which may also be an unexpected fount of support.

So those are my picks. Again, it’s Jay-Z, Carole King, Tina Turner, The Go-Gos, and the Foo Fighters, adding Devo if six and New York Dolls if seven. I don’t think LL Cool J can make it with another rapper on the ballot if he hasn’t managed it as the only rapper. Kate Bush has my vote, but may be too niche and English. Todd Rundgren has fallen flat on less competitive ballots than this one. If Judas Priest–a better and more significant band–couldn’t swing it, Iron Maiden shouldn’t logically fare much better. Fela Kuti is important, but a question mark to many voters. Dionne Warwick is lovely, but may be a bit too cocktail-hour, even for her contemporaries. Mary J. Blige has my vote on the fan ballot, and is our long awaited female hip-hop nominee, but doesn’t have a prayer unfortunately. With so many brassy female artists on this list, Chaka Khan will probably get drowned out, and Rage Against the Machine just doesn’t seem to have the momentum this year.

We will see if I’m right, though; I’m not 100% sure of my choices– if I had to pick one artist I’d be wrong about, it’d be Rundgren, I think. Well, the fan vote closes in a few days, and hopefully we’ll have our inductees a week or two after. Rock Hall, if you are listening, I reiterate my ancestral plea: Carole Kaye for Musical Excellence. Big Mama Thornton for Influence.

Read Full Post »

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:


  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


  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 »

Uuuugh. Anxiety, boredom, tedium, mixed with gratitude, love, and joy. That’s been my elixir over the last three weeks since my presumably final semester teaching in Singapore ended. After two weeks of self-isolation I was able to reunite with my wife and my 8-month-old son, neither of whom I’d seen since late January. I’m so delighted to be with them, even though I’m still on the clock and doing “professor stuff” remotely for what is now a bunch of online classes. I won’t lie– it is terrifying to have an infant with a respiratory illness who is on oxygen during a time like this. And it is enraging to see hucksters peddle hydroxychloroquin and contribute to hoarding when your kiddo has an actual documented medical need for it.

I need an outlet when I can get one. So even though we are far, far away from a serious conversation about the Rock Hall’s class of 2021, just for my own sanity, just for the simple joys of indulging in a hobby, I need to write about what may happen. I understand that the process of predicting nominees has come from a bit of good-natured criticism from voices like @InductDennis from the Rock Hall Watchers podcast. And that’s fair– time is probably better spent debating who actually should be in the Rock Hall on their merits rather than getting inside the Nominating Committee’s heads. Yet the part of our lizard brains that loves to play the prophet–even when we’re wildly, comically wrong–is hard to squash. It’s similar to guessing the Oscar nominees, or mock drafts, and the kind of wishful thinking and vicarious living that makes us feel as if our opinions matter.

16 nominees, like last year.

Jay-Z: If Tupac is often considered the best rapper of all time, and Biggie has a reputation as the most influential rapper of all time, Jay-Z might very well hold claim to the most successful rapper of all time. With a wide cultural footprint, decades of hits, albums that are in the conversation of “most iconic for their time,” …collectively, if you accept that hip-hop and rap have a place in the Rock Hall, Jay-Z’s place in its pantheon is all but a given.

Foo Fighters: Are they the last truly important rock and roll band? Maybe. what’s less debatable is that they played the “Rock Hall game” with aplomb. Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins inducted Queen back in 2001. Grohl did the honors for Rush in 2013, and of course, serves on the Nominating Committee.

Dave Mathews Band: For years, we wondered: who will be the first act to top the statistical cipher that is the fan vote, yet fail to get inducted? The Dave Mathews Band turned out to be our answer last year, and their fans were seriously pissed. Whether the Rock Hall could have done a better job explaining how the fan vote is counted is up for debate. Given the massive fan base this band has– which, given their customary age and social class, makes them a coveted demographic for the museum– it would be very bad form indeed if they weren’t given a second chance to prove themselves. I still think it’s within the realm of possibility that they win the fan vote a second year in a row and still don’t get in.

The Go-Gos: I don’t think Pat Benatar will be on the ballot. It’s not so much that she didn’t make it in (as #2 on the fan vote!), so much as her somewhat unresponsive and unenthusiastic mien during the whole affair that might make the Foundation question whether she’d even show up for the ceremony. Benatar was a populist pick and she was by no means a critical favorite– just to cite one example, Evelyn McDonnell’s voluminous compendium of Women Who Rock does not include Benatar among the 100+ women celebrated. Better luck might be found with the Go-Gos. They have historicity as the first band to score a number one hit with only women playing on it. And they surely have a sense of the moment as well- a jukebox musical built around their songs had debuted on Broadway, a documentary on their career had been produced, and a reunion tour was planned before COVID-19 shut that down until further notice.

Chaka Khan/Rufus: This is becoming the new free space at the center of the Bingo card. Good for the Rock Hall for continuing to support R&B artists– even though the backlog of 70s guitar groups that have gotten inducted in recent years makes the band’s induction as unlikely as ever. I’d love to see, say, Chicago– who collaborated with her and share Windy City origins– make a full court press for Rufus. Rock and roll began life as music you could dance to–Chaka Khan perhaps kept that spirit alive in the 70s and 80s more than anybody outside the Hall right now.

Kraftwerk: This is another option that is becoming a near-perennial. Every once in a while, Kraftwerk drops out (usually when there is a cerebral or prog act it might draw votes away from), but we have multiple Nom Com members complaining about Kraftwerk’s omission, and as the committee diversifies and gets younger, they are more likely to be devotees of artists who owe Kraftwerk a debt.

The Meters: Three bands with metal credentials were nominated last year: Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, and Judas Priest. None of them got in. And R&B was thoroughly shafted on last year’s ballot, with only Chaka Khan/Rufus and, if your definition of R&B is generous, Whitney representing this key genre. It’s possible that Ellis Marsalis’s death will remind folks about how key the New Orleans sound was to the development of popular music, and The Meters were New Orleans during the golden age of classic rock.

Cher: One of my complaints about the last several Rock Hall classes is its relative lack of camp and fabulousness. Cher– with a long career that has spanned her duets with Sonny in the mid-60s to covering ABBA songs last year, and an unending litany of Farewell Tours in between, is therefore a likely and attractive prospect. Her presence alone almost guarantees that the next class won’t be a sausage-fest. Her records have, like Chaka Khan’s, been dance-floor staples, and Cher has been a dramatic fashion icon and hero of LGBT culture over the years. I wrestled with choosing her or Dolly Parton as the “you-can’t-screw-this-up female inductee” before landing on Cher for more solid rock and roll credentials.

Rage Against the Machine: One more group on the cusp of a reunion tour before COVID-19 shut it down. With corporate greed never more apparent than during a global pandemic, the machine has elicited more rage than ever. It’s not a great look if the Hall nominates two acts with members on the Nominating Committee, but avoiding conflicts of interest has never been their strong suit.

Sonic Youth: With T. Rex and Roxy Music getting in after years of snubbery, Sonic Youth has catapulted to the higher echelons of important acts that have never been nominated. Given their influence on alternative and grunge, it’s only a matter of time before this iconic band is given the nod.

New York Dolls: They were nominated once a long time ago– way back in 2001. And it’s a little surprising that they haven’t been nominated since. They played with gender in innovative ways, helped create punk and glam, and had a raft of influence on everyone from the Ramones to the Smiths. Maybe it’s time to give MC5 a rest and let another weird, impactful, radical act without much chart success have a chance to prove their mettle.

John Prine: While I was sad to see this iconic songwriter pass away, I was heartened by the public outpouring of affection on his behalf. His nomination two years ago seemed like it was a nice tip of the hat to someone who didn’t have a chance to get voted in. (Prine even publicly encouraged his fans to vote for The Zombies instead!) Well, John Prine isn’t around to discourage his own induction and what was a long-shot nomination on 2018’s ballot will find him in a favored position on 2020’s.

The B-52s: We need a queerer Rock Hall. The B-52s have been considered before, and given that the Hall loves danceable music and is reasonably open to new wave styles, The B-52s seem to have the requisites for a nomination. They have also, in the last couple years, got favorable treatment in both Rolling Stone and the New York TimesGo read Nick Bambach’s piece on them if you aren’t convinced of their credentials. I just can’t wait to see Yoko Ono and RuPaul catfight over who gets the honor of inducting them.

Duran Duran: This will be the big 80s/Gen X act for the 2021 slate. With their more influential contemporary, Depeche Mode, getting in, the doors are open for Duran Duran. They consistently do well in the museum’s kiosks, and with an MTV guy now in charge of the place, I can’t imagine that one of the video channel’s darlings from their early years of broadcasting will be left out in the cold. They might very well give DMB a run for their money in the fan vote, and expect them to get many a “guilty pleasure” checkmark from the expansive Voting Committee.

Peter Frampton: This is the closest to a pure classic rock pick in this batch. Frampton has been diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease that necessitated a final tour, and the window in which Frampton can participate in his own induction might be dwindling. Another clue that Frampton might be on the docket is that he is collaborating on his autobiography with Alan Light, who has had a great deal of luck shepherding acts onto the ballot in recent years, not the least of which was Nina Simone. Frampton is well regarded in the music industry, and his teen idol good looks from the Comes Alive era belie his considerable skills as a guitarist and songwriter.

Fela Kuti: Joe and Kristen spent an entire podcast during the fall ringing up various former and current Nominating Committee members to see their reactions to the Class of 2020 ballot. Amy Linden was one of those voices and dropped a fascinating tidbit during their phone call: she had advocated for African music legend Fela Kuti during the hoagie-driven Nom Com meeting. Kuti would be a remarkable choice– a mythic and larger-than-life figure in the field of world music, many a rock and roller looks up to his oeuvre.

What do you think of this, Rock Hall people? My guess is that if this were the ballot, we’d be looking at Jay-Z, Cher, Peter Frampton, John Prine, Duran Duran, and Foo Fighters.





Read Full Post »