Thursday, December 4, 2014

Official Predictions For 2015


After much procrastinating, it is now time to post predictions, seed the nominees, and prepare to be drastically wrong.  Without further ado, my predictions for the Class Of 2015.

1. Green Day
Pop-punk band largely popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Newly eligible.
Why they might make it: They were one of the three major names that helped alternative break through the glass ceiling, all while also enjoying a run of commercial success.  Additionally, they are well-connected with the powers-that-be at the Foundation, and pretty much everyone agrees they are going to get in.
Why they might not: Despite the general consensus that they’re going to get in, there isn’t nearly the same consensus that they’re among the most deserving acts on the ballot.  If this feeling is widespread to enough members of the voting bloc, they might not make it.  Also, detractors of their music feel they can sum up Green Day’s entire ethos with the opening line from “Basket Case”: “Do you have the time to listen to me whine?”  For naysayers, Green Day is the music of spoiled, privileged millenials who don’t know what real hardships are.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Pearl Jam is on deck next year, and they’re just as assured of getting in as Green Day seems to be at first glance. 
Biggest threats: Nine Inch Nails is a huge threat to their chances, as is guitar driven blues outfit Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, with the Smiths in the mix as well.
In the end: Trust the connections.  Green Day has been there for the Hall a time or two, now the Hall’s going to be there for them.  Induction chances: 80%

2. Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
Blues-rock outfit from the 80’s.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble has been one of the biggest names touted as criminal omissions from the Hall ever since they became eligible for the Class Of 2008.  Music lovers have been chomping at the bit to see these guys nominated.  At present, they rule the roost on the fan ballot, and as fellow monitor Donnie and others (including myself) have noted, ever since the implementation of the fan ballot, whoever tops the fan ballot has gotten inducted.  Not necessarily causation, but it really is eyebrow-raising correlation at present.
Why they might not: Initially, it was just Vaughan nominated, and Double Trouble was added later.  There might still be some confusion on this matter, and that could hurt.  Also, a hefty part of their catalog consisted of covers.
Whom they’d pave the way for: There are still a few blues-rock pioneers and blues greats still waiting in the wings.  Anyone ranging from Johnny Winter to Junior Wells could pass through the gate that Vaughan and company could open up.
Biggest threats: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band are the most direct competition, but modern guitar acts like Green Day and Nine Inch Nails might also be a factor.
In the end: As Chuck D reminded us, the blues gave birth to rock and roll, but rock and roll, and especially acts like Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble is why the world gave a damn about the blues again.  This should prove impossible to ignore.  Induction chances: 75%

3. N.W.A.
Pioneer gangsta rap group.  Third time nominee, seeded #5 for 2013 and #9 for 2014.
Why they might make it:  They’re pioneers. Straight Outta Compton is a landmark rap album, and their subsequent albums, though few, were also hugely successful.  They were pioneers of gangsta rap, which almost completely obsolesced the older style hip-hop of the original hip-hop pioneers, as gangsta became synonymous with rap for a good portion of the ‘90s.  Also, as the launching point for the solo careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and even MC Ren, and Yella, they could be considered rap’s first supergroup, or at the very least, the rap equivalent of the Yardbirds.
Why they might not:  Quick, ask someone who hates rap (or at least did in the ‘90s) why they hate(d) rap.  That laundry list that is their answer?  Most of that traces clearly back to N.W.A.  Even if they didn’t pioneer some of those aspects themselves, they did combine it all into a blend that is the main exhibit for hatred of rap: self-gratifying, gratuitous and prolific profanity; incredibly subversive lyrics that went beyond mere wake-up calls of socially conscious folk and rock, eschewing civil disobedience, opting instead for and glorifying bloody violence; self-aggrandizement that made “cockiness” look like “self-confidence”; plus the usual stock answers of how rap isn’t even music since what they’re doing doesn’t constitute singing.  And you don’t even have to be a stereotypical stuffy, White, conservative Christian to find that combination disturbing, or at the very least, inartistic.
Whom they’d pave the way for: The big ones are 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., the martyrs and symbols of rap-gang warfare, but also rappers like Ice-T and Snoop Doggy Dogg, plus the solo careers of most of the members of N.W.A. themselves.
Biggest threats: There’s no other rap group on the ballot this time, so no direct threats, but the funk of War might take away from them.
In the end:  N.W.A. has been flying under the radar of most of the discussion this year.  Part of that has been due to omissions from the ballot, some of that has been arguing about ballot divisions.  But a lot of that has been people figuring without another rap act on the ballot, their chances are pretty good.  I’m inclined to agree.  Induction chances: 70%

4. Bill Withers
Soul singer/songwriter.  First-time nominee.
Why he might make it: The Hall loves singer/songwriters, and Withers fits the bill.  He’s clearly the pick of Nominating Committee member ?uestlove, and new members tend to get names in during their first couple years.  Lastly, Withers’ songs “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” are two songs that have the stood the test of time the best out of possibly the collective catalog of the entire ballot (save, possibly, for the heavily sampled “Good Times” by Chic).
Why he might not: As mentioned in the initial reaction to the ballot, Withers isn't the kind of performer one immediately thinks of when the term "singer/songwriter" is bandied about.  Coupled with the fact that the Rock Hall has been rocky in its history of inducting soul music over the past decade, this adds an additional hurdle for Withers to clear.  To top it all off, Withers himself hasn't appeared to be all that excited about the prospect being inducted, and the Rock Hall generally prefers to induct those who want to be inducted.
Whom he’d pave the way for: Four-time flop Joe Tex may get another reconsideration if Withers can get in.  It may also help other soul greats like Billy Preston, Barry White, or Johnnie Taylor finally get recognized as well.
Biggest threats: War is every bit as funky as Withers and more beloved by the classic rock crowd.  Chic is the R&B pet project for the NomCom, and for soul, the Spinners are another, more commercially successful contender.
In the end: Admittedly, I was not on board with the bandwagon that thought Withers would get nominated.  Bill Withers hasn’t always gotten my vote on the fan ballot, but he may be able to quietly sneak through.  Induction chances: 60%

5. Lou Reed
Singer/songwriter, former lead singer of the Velvet Underground.  Third nomination, previously unseeded.
Why he might make it: Lou Reed is a figure that is widely respected as an artist and innovator.  His songs have been covered in a variety of venues, he’s been called the “godfather of punk,” the reverence for the Velvet Underground could be a factor, and the fact he died this past year could all serve to finally push him through.
Why he might not: How many solo Lou Reed songs can you name, not including his work with the Velvet Underground or live solo performances of same?  His legacy rather outshines his actual solo discography, and that’s a problem for an institution about unquestionable musical excellence.
Whom he’d pave the way for: This one’s almost a complete zilch, as Lou Reed was such a singular performer, that there’re few who could be called his ilk, and of those who’ve not yet been inducted, Warren Zevon may be the most likely candidate.
Biggest threats: Sting is his biggest threat, as he would also be a double inductee, and there might not be two of those.  For singer/songwriters, Bill Withers is the biggest obstacle.
In the end: The death fairy can indeed be kind to those whom the Hall loves.  In this case, I think the love will be there for Lou’s posthumous solo inclusion.  Induction chances: 55%

6. Sting
80’s solo artist, former leader of the Police.  First time nominee.
Why he might make it: Some of the power players at the Foundation are almost more interested in landing the big names to draw visitors to the museum in Cleveland than they are about the music, and Sting’s the biggest single name on this ballot.  His commercial success track record is pretty solid to boot.
Why he might not: There’s a pretty wide consensus among those who follow the Hall that Sting is nowhere near the most deserving…. In fact, he ranks dead last with a few people, including me.  Additionally, he may have had a lot of hits, but his biggest success has been in the Adult Contemporary charts, which is borderline anathema to the Hall.
Whom he’d pave the way for: A former band member with strong name recognition to be inducted for a solo career that many don’t feel is worthy?  As much as I feel he’s worthy, Ringo Starr seems to be the obvious punchline for that one. 
Biggest threats: Lou Reed is a strong threat for the doubly-inducted honor this year.  Green Day is the other candidate that lists very strongly for both hit singles and albums.
In the end: I originally wrote him off, and I really still want to, but in my previous blog about trends, Sting rated highly in the three currently prominent trends of being latter day, commercially successful, and serious name recognition.  That makes it very likely that he can overcome his weaknesses of being a solo soft rocker.  Well, maybe not so much “very likely” as “equally likely.”  Induction chances: 50%

7. Chic
R&B/disco group fronted by a crackerjack production team.  This is their ninth appearance on the ballot, not seeded their first two times, seeded dead last (#9) in 2007, #7 in 2008, #5 in 2010, #10 in 2011, #12 in 2013, and #2 in 2014.
Why they might make it: After last year’s disappointment, Nile Rodgers has been working hard to press the flesh and work the social media to get his case for his group more widely known.  Musically, their records were sampled far and wide back in the early days of hip-hop, so the influence factor is definitely in their favor.  From a musical standpoint, their bass and guitar lines are considered very tough to imitate or duplicate. The men in the group were all production geniuses.  Also, Nile Rodgers was on the Nominating Committee back when the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was first founded, so politically, this an attempt to repay the favor to him. .
Why they might not: As Chandler Bing might say, could the stars have aligned any harder for Chic than they did last year?  Last year was the most golden opportunity, the highest tide for Chic’s hopes for induction.  Daft Punk cleaned up at the Grammys thanks to Nile Rodgers handiwork on “Get Lucky.”  Additionally, there’s still the Chic Syndrome: solid instrumentation soured by laughable lyrics. Lastly, as has been the case in the past, disco isn’t popular with the voting bloc, or so it seems.
Whom they’d pave the way for: The love for Nile Rodgers won’t readily translate to love for disco.  The biggest likelihood is that the next two artists in the queue for those with most nominations but not in will probably be revisited, which means Joe Tex, and maybe even Chuck Willis.
Biggest threats: Chic has unexpectedly high competition on the ballot this year.  The Spinners as an R&B group have more popularity, as do fellow funksters War and Bill Withers.
In the end: The NomCom wants Nile in, and will get them in at some point.   Their direct competition is the stiffest that it’s been in awhile.  But with so many nominations, it’s a matter of time, making them this year’s upset special.  Induction chances: 49%

8. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
Harder-rock-but-not-quite-metal band from the ‘80s.  Third-time nominee, seeded #13 in 2012 and dead last (#15) in 2013.
Why they might make it:  The biggest reason is probably Jett’s leading the tribute to Nirvana at this past year’s ceremonies (“Hervana”, as Krist Novoselic called it), singing lead on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Plus, they’re good time, fun rock and roll, and who doesn’t appreciate that?  And when an artist has an anthemic rock and roll song, the artist has a tendency to get recognized, and if they have a few hits aside of that, so much the better. 
Why they might not:  They made very little waves besides their one major hit, “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”, and what they did have was largely covers (including said major hit).  The Hall Of Fame usually prefers to honor originality.  Also, if you didn’t see Hervana live, but saw it on YouTube or HBO, Jett’s performance looked and sounded awful, even worse than her tribute to the Dave Clark Five in 2008.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  As well as the obvious Pat Benatar, they might also clear the path for more classic rock acts with just a few, but well-remembered songs.  Maybe Thin Lizzy or Blue Oyster Cult?  And it’s way too soon, but Jett may quite be the precedent for a future induction of P!nk.  Or even Jett’s previous band, the Runaways.
Their biggest threats: Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, and Nine Inch Nails are all powerful rock acts that could split the ballot against Jett & Co.
In the end:  When, like last year, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame fails to induct a Black artist, accusations of institutional racism fly.  This year, we’re gonna hear all about the misogyny.  Induction chances: 45%

9. Nine Inch Nails
One-man, industrial rock group.  Newly eligible.
Why he/they might make it: Nine Inch Nails is the act that really helped bring industrial music to a wider audience, which means a lot with the Hall.  In fact, the act made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Immortals, which practically guarantees eventual induction. 
Why he/they might not:  Industrial may have been brought to the mainstream, but it has never been fully embraced, not to the degree that grunge, rap, and alternative have been.  Its intentional cacophony makes it a difficult style to want to honor and enshrine.  This may be a problem.
Whom he/they would pave the way for: I’m not very knowledgeable of my industrial, so I have no clue.  If the members of Filter aren’t included with Trent Reznor, maybe the doors would be opened for them.
Biggest threats: Fellow newly eligible Green Day is their biggest roadblock, while Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are also threats against Nine Inch Nails.
In the end: People are watching curiously to see if they pull off the upset and keep Green Day out, but I’m just not seeing it.  They’ll have to wait until 2017, because the Hall will be too busy inducting Pearl Jam for 2016.  Induction chances: 40%

10. The Spinners
Superstar Philly-soul vocal group from Detroit, Michigan.  Second-time nominee, seeded #3 in 2012.
Why they might make it: The Hall has been strongly populist in the past couple years, and the Spinners are the biggest singles act on this ballot.
Why they might not: Soul music, soul groups especially, have been very sporadic in their induction in the past decade.  It’s a disturbing trend that will hopefully be reversed soon, but for now, it’s bad news.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Classic soul is getting thinner and thinner, so maybe they’ll go for the few-hit, but highly-respected soul outfit Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes, or just lead singer Teddy Pendergrass.  Lou Rawls is another possibility.  Or they may go back to New Orleans and go for the Neville Brothers..  Though still a couple years away, a Spinners induction could point to the possibility of Boyz II Men getting in eventually, as well.  And let’s add Billy Preston.
Biggest threats: Bill Withers is favored for soul, Chic is a wild card among ‘70s groups, War is another ‘70s group that may hamper things, and for classic vocal groups, the Marvlettes may also detract from the Spinners.
In the end:  I refused to get my hopes up on their nomination, but they made it onto the ballot.  This time, however, my refusal to hope is pretty well founded, I think.  Induction chances: 35%

11. The Marvlettes
R&B girl group that gave the Motown empire its first number one hit single on the Hot 100.  Second-time nominee, seeded #6 in 2013.
Why they might make it: Anything Motown has a serious shot.  The Hall loves Motown, and really helping make Motown a household name is strong credibility.  Plus, in the history of the Hall, only two years were without a strong presence of the ‘60s.  The Marvelettes would be the best candidate for this slot.
Why they might not: The Hall loves Motown, but they sure can take their sweet time showing it: Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Four Tops all needed two nominations to get in, the Supremes and Martha And The Vandellas both needed three, the Jackson Five came up four times before getting in, Gladys Knight And The Pips took five, the Miracles needed a special subcommittee to convene and break precedent to get them in, not to mention twice nominated but still not inducted Mary Wells!  Only the Temptations and Stevie Wonder got in on their first nominations, both in 1989.  (Also the Isley Brothers and solo Michael Jackson, but both of whom are much better known for their post-Motown work)  Plus girl groups also generally need a few nominations to get in, 2005 inductees the Ronettes the lone exception.  Lastly, despite having a solid string of hits in the Top 40, they tend to be summed up with their major hit, “Please Mr. Postman”.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Getting the Marvelettes in might get the NomCom looking at Motown again, where we have Junior Walker And The All-Stars and Mary Wells as the last two major ‘60s acts for the family, plus a peek into the ‘70s shows the Commodores, solo Lionel Richie, and possibly even solo Diana Ross.  They also might lead the way for other girl groups like the Chantels, Crystals, Shangri-Las, even the Chiffons to get some consideration.
Biggest threats: The Spinners are the biggest direct threat, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band are a fellow ‘60s act that stand in the way.
In the end: I’d love a class with Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, the Spinners, and the Marvelettes in it, but it’s too lofty a goal to ever happen.  We’ll be lucky if we get one of those three, and the Marvlettes are the least likely of the three.  Induction chances: 33.3%

12. War
Latin-funk band from the ‘70s.  Third-time nominee, seeded #7 in 2009 and #12 in 2012.
Why they might make it: Cool funk. Memorable classics like "Low Rider," "The Cisco Kid," and "Why Can't We Be Friends" are all pleasers that make them likely candidates.  Also, Eric Burdon would be a multiple inductee, and the Hall loves to have multiple inductees.
Why they might not: Santana's already in. Can another Latin group make it? Also, innovation and influence are considered somewhat questionable. Plus, in comparison to other artists, and the politics of the Hall, they may just get lost in the shuffle.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  The only Latin act that might garner some attention following the induction of War would be Gloria Estefan/the Miami Sound Machine, who are now eligible as well.  Classic rock acts with that indescribable, yet identifiable intangible quality of coolness might benefit as well, and I’m thinking mainly Steppenwolf.
Biggest threats: Chic and Bill Withers are the most direct threats, and the Spinners are a possible problem for War as well.
In the end: War is a band that a lot of people would love to see get in, but it seems like for now, there’ll always be five or six names that people will feel are more deserving or just prefer more, with War getting lost in the shuffle.  Seems like it’ll be the case again this year.  We’ll see them on the ballot in three years again.  Induction chances: 30%

13. Kraftwerk
European progressive act that pioneered electronica. Third time nominee, unseeded their first time, seeded #9 in 2013.
Why they might make it: A truly innovative group, they are partially responsible for a lot of electronica music today.  Especially in the European club scene.
Why they might not: While the Hall Of Fame doesn’t discriminate against acts from countries other than the US and UK, they do strongly favor acts that were very popular in the U.S.A., which Kraftwerk was not.  If a voting member isn’t too familiar with their stuff, and sees five other names they like, they won’t bother researching Kraftwerk further.
Whom they’d pave the way for: There’re a couple avenues to go here.  Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, and many more famous electronica acts are still a few years off.  The Art Of Noise are a left-field possibility, though possibly too much of a novelty act to get in.  But Kraftwerk’s induction may help more acts who were huge, just not in the States, get some recognition, such as Cliff Richard And The Shadows, Status Quo, Johnny Hallyday, or Fela.  Both paths are a bit of a stretch, but if the road really dead-ended with Kraftwerk, they probably wouldn’t be worth inducting anyway.
Biggest threats: As far as experimental goes, Lou Reed is a bigger draw.  For dance music, it’s Chic. 
In the end: Kraftwerk will probably need seven or eight nominations before getting their proper recognition, much like the Stooges or Black Sabbath.  This is only number three for them.  Induction chances: 25%

14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Blues-rock band from the mid-‘60s.  Fourth-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #14 each of the past two years.
Why they might make it: They’re a formative blues-rock act.  Their sound is considered to be a pioneer sound.  A few of its past members have some amount of fame to their own names.  Also, they were name dropped by none other than Jann S. Wenner as an act he’d like to see get in.  If you don’t think that means something, you don’t know the Hall. 
Why they might not: They’re arguably the most obscure name on this ballot, having no hit singles and no album making the top quarter of the Billboard 200.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  Like Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, this group could pave the way for blues acts to get in, like Junior Wells, Slim Harpo, or even Albert Collins, if you want to go left field.
Biggest threats: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble are the obvious threat, and the Marvelettes are a more likely choice from the ‘60s.
In the end: As much clout as Jann S. Wenner has, I think he’ll have to continue to call this group an act he still wants to see in, because it ain’t happening this time.  Induction chances: 20%

15. The Smiths
‘80s alternative rock group.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: The Smiths (and lead singer Morissey) are a highly recognized and influential name in alternative music, ‘80s music, and ‘80s alternative music.  Additionally, as a soloist, Morrissey has a certain cache in a rather niche market of Southwestern U.S. Latino teens. 
Why they might not: ‘80s alternative just can’t catch a break.  The Cure couldn’t get in, the Replacements couldn’t get in; despite Kim Gordon taking part in Hervana, Sonic Youth couldn’t get on the ballot this time around. 
Whom they’d pave the way for: Maybe Sonic Youth will show up next year, maybe it’ll be the Pixies, or maybe they’ll retry the Cure or the Replacements.  Plus, Morrissey as a soloist has a shot in the future.
Biggest threats: Green Day is the more likely alternative rock act, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are another ‘80s rock act that could draw away votes, as well.
In the end: Until proven wrong, I’m just going to keep assuming ‘80s alternative has little to no chance of getting in.  I don’t know what would have to change to turn that around, but I’m not holding my breath this time either.  Induction chances: 10%

A bit later this year, but there you have it—my official predictions for this year.  It took a bit of time to solidify them, but I think this is a solid guess.  Not my ideal class, of course, but what I feel is most likely.  Hopefully we’ll know in less than a month.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What to look for in the 2015 nominees


When this past year’s inductees were announced, I did an analysis about it overall, explaining why it was so hard to make good picks.  There were so many trends in voting and it was impossible to satisfy all of them without a class of at least nine Performer inductees, which of course did not happen.  We face the same conundrum again this year.  A lot of factors one would expect to coalesce a certain way can’t all coalesce together.  In short, it’s time to explain why it’s difficult for some of us to solidify our final predictions for this year.

The first big trend is that of the newly eligible shoo-in.  This year that definitely seems to be Green Day… at first glance.  The truth is, what made Guns N’ Roses, Public Enemy, and Nirvana shoo-ins were that they all finished strongly as highly deserving artists, especially compared with the rest of their respective ballots.  That surprisingly has not been the case this year with Green Day.  Everyone seems to agree that Green Day is most likely going to get in this year, yet most people don’t even rank Green Day among the top five deserving artists, though some do.  Most folks place Green Day somewhere in the middle, or exactly in the middle as I did.  Meanwhile, the also-newly-eligible underdog that most feel has no chance of getting in this time has captured the fan vote and is generally considered more deserving.  Could Nine Inch Nails pull off the upset?  Or could the unthinkable happen and both make it?  Unlikely, but that’s one trend we’re dealing with.

Another one is that of recent death.  This favors Lou Reed, as does the Hall’s general enjoyment of having multiple-time inductees, which in addition to Lou Reed also favors Sting, and maybe even War, depending on where they’ll fall on the Eric Burdon issue.  The blues influence supports both the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.  The guitar god trend supports Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble even more, but also to a lesser extent Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, the Smiths, and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.  We also see that since Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five got inducted, the Hall doesn’t let a dry spell happen of three years without a rap inductee.  That bodes well for N.W.A., as does the fact they’re the only rap act on the ballot.  And let’s not forget the love of singer/songwriters, which is good news for Bill Withers, or Lou Reed or Sting to a lesser extent.  As the Digital Dream Door site noted, the Hall also almost never goes a year without a ‘60s act, which most strongly favors the Marvelettes, but also the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and partially the Spinners (though they were more prominent in the ‘70s).

So those are some trends that favor induction, but what about those that don’t?  For starters, it has become increasingly difficult for any form of R&B that isn’t guitar-driven to get in the Hall lately.  This is a problem for Bill Withers, the Marvelettes, the Spinners, N.W.A., and most of all, Chic.  Also bad news for Chic is the struggle for any kind of dance or disco music to get recognition, which also negatively affects Kraftwerk.  80’s alternative has been snubbed in the past with the Cure and the Replacements getting shut out.  The Smiths’ chances don’t look as good when you consider that. 

Probably the most important trends to look at, though, are three that we’re seeing in the most recent years: the move to modern music, the populist push, and the need for names.  The move to modern music most notably acknowledges the move away from the ‘50s and ‘60s in recent years.  The ‘70s, however, are still pretty en vogue with the Hall, though more so for 70’s acts that stayed strong in the ‘80s.  The biggest benefactors of this trend would be Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A., the Smiths, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, and Sting.

The populist push, most closely tied to commercial success and chart presence, was perhaps most prominent last year with Daryl Hall And John Oates, KISS, and Linda Ronstadt all making the grade, those three names being the top three names in commercial success for both singles and albums, though the orders differed.  The year before that saw singles juggernaut Donna Summer, albums ultraheavyweight Rush, and perfect mix between the two Heart all get in.  If this trend continues, the smart money will be on the Spinners for singles, War for albums, and possibly both Sting and Green Day as acts who ride high in both columns.

Lastly, the need for names.  This one’s closely tied to the populist push, but doesn’t necessitate sales.  The Hall wants their museum packed with tourists and their broadcasts to get big ratings, so big names are needed.  Sting is the clear frontrunner on this one, Green Day, Lou Reed, and maybe also the Smiths trailing not too far behind.  Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble will also have some clout in this category as well.

Those three trends seem to have been the biggest driving forces in the Rock Hall’s selection processes the past few years.  If they continue to dominate, the strongest possibilities will be Sting, Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, the Spinners, War, and possibly the Smiths as a sixth.  Is that an official prediction on my part?  It could be, but not yet.  Heck, even I don’t know yet.  As I said in the first paragraph, this entry is partially an explanation as to why I haven’t made up my freggin’ mind and cast an official prediction yet.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why we vote how we vote.

After having devised the pecking orders for the 2015 nominees, it stands to reason that we could accurately peg how one (in this case I) would vote if given a ballot, or in their (my) contribution to the fan ballot on the Rock Hall website.

On paper, it seems fairly simple: some hybrid of the merits and tastes.  And for the most part, it does indeed work that way.  Looking at my lists of both merits and personal taste, I see that both the Smiths and Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble make the top five in both categories.  Naturally, both of those go on my ballot.  The Marvelettes just missed the Top 5 on one and just made the Top 5 on the other, so they’d probably get my vote as well.  Despite being in the bottom half of merit, they ran second in taste, so the Spinners have an average that’s tied with the Marvelettes, and would get the vote from me as well.  The fifth highest average of merit and preference is N.W.A, who despite being in the bottom five for personal enjoyment, are a solid second in terms of deserving induction.  So, reasonably, I should be casting my ballot for Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, the Smiths, the Marvelettes, the Spinners, and N.W.A.

Pretty simple, right?  And if that were the class that was inducted, I’d be pretty happy.  I’d also shit bricks because there’s no way this class is happening, but that’s for another entry.  Just like probably everyone else who reads this, I’ve submitted a fan ballot several times on the Rock Hall’s website, and every time, four of those five names have indeed been checked off.  However, instead of N.W.A. getting the fifth, I’ve been waffling mostly between Bill Withers and War.  Sometimes Bill Withers who finished sixth in averages, and sometimes War, who despite being tied for ninth in averages, was seventh in personal taste.  Sometimes I did vote for N.W.A., too, though.  In short, it seems that if I were a member of the voting bloc, it’s clear where four of my votes would go, while the fifth would take some time to figure out.  And I gotta say that’s pretty accurate.  For me.

But I’m giving equal weight to personal preferences as to merits.  Others have a different weight scale.  Like my fiancĂ© for example, who admittedly is only doing this because I hamper her about it.  Sorry honey.  Anyway, if she applied my logic and went with the averages of her taste and how she feels they stack up objectively, her ballot would be cast for Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, Bill Withers, Green Day, the Marvelettes, and Sting.  Sixth place, by the way, went to Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.  Yet, she’s not as attached to the artists on this ballot for personal enjoyment, Green Day being the only one she really loves, with the top five being filled out with Bill Withers, Sting, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, and Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble (sixth place: the Marvelettes).  However, she’s admitted that when it comes to actually casting a ballot, she’d stick strictly to her merits ranking.  Her top five by her definitions of merits sees it going Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, the Smiths, the Marvelettes, N.W.A., and Bill Withers, with Sting being the sixth optional (don’t ask me, it’s her merits).

Similarly, consider the opinion of PopeCharming/AlexVoltaire, whose Northumbrian blog was kind enough to plug mine a few times, and for which, thank you.  His top six for merits were Kraftwerk, N.W.A., Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, Nine Inch Nails, and Bill Withers.  His personal preferences saw the top six ranked as Bill Withers, the Spinners, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, Sting, War, and Green Day.  When you take both ranks of all fifteen nominees, his top five are Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, Bill Withers, Kraftwerk, Green Day, and the Spinners, with a near miss by War in sixth place.  At the end of that entry, where he said for whom he’d cast his vote, he did indeed choose the first four, but instead of the Spinners for number five, he selected N.W.A., stating that if he had a sixth and seventh choice, then he’d cast for the Spinners and War (N.W.A. tied for seventh on his averages, tied with Chic).

Another perspective comes from Tom Lane, who didn’t rank them by merits or taste per se, but simply put the nominees in a pecking order by likelihood to vote for them.  However, reading his rationale behind each pecking point, it’s fairly clear that he was swayed much more by personal taste than by whom he felt deserved the honors more.    His top five were the Spinners, Chic, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, the Smiths, and War.

These are all important because as much as they might try to deny it, members of the voting bloc are also humans and likewise afflicted by the need to reconcile personal tastes with how seminal an artist really is.  And with some of them, artists especially, personal relationships with the nominees are a factor too.  It’s generally accepted by those of us on the outside that the only reason Chic has ever been nominated is because of the ties between Nile Rodgers and current NomCom members.  Cronyism seems to be a big factor.  Cronyism is also what is usually referred to when nay-sayers claim that “it’s all political,” but what about literal politics?  Political activism that resonates with the political beliefs of voters probably played a factor in the decision to vote in people like Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne so quickly, while differing politics may have been a factor in what kept an act like Alice Cooper off the ballot for so long, and continues to keep others like Ted Nugent or Pat Boone eternally out of the Hall.  Even if not on the politically opposite end of the spectrum, being a neutral can be enough to rub them the wrong way, i.e. whoever’s not with us is against us.  It could even be a factor in determining why Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine is a NomCom member and not Alice Cooper, nee Vincent Furnier, or Lars Ulrich.  In all fairness, we laypeople aren’t entirely immune from the influence of politics either, but we are less inclined to consider it seriously as a factor when deciding who deserves enshrinement and who doesn’t, possibly because we don’t get to anyway.

But for now we still have the fan ballot, and as infinitesimal as our individual, repeatedly cast vote is to the total ballot and the entire vote overall, it’s still something that we owe it to ourselves to be conscientious of why we choose those that we do.  It’ll also give our future gripes with the Hall more credence among each other, but that’s just a fringe benefit.  With the growth of the impact of grassroots campaigns to get artists inducted, knowing ourselves first will help us more effectively reach out to them.

In closing, I’m going to include the full list of my fiancĂ©’s lists, both merits and personal taste, since I put her through this every year, it’s not fair to her to not publish her lists.  Enjoy.

Her Merit Rank

  1. Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
  2. The Smiths
  3. The Marvelettes
  4. N.W.A.
  5. Bill Withers
  6. Sting
  7. Green Day
  8. Chic
  9. Nine Inch Nails
  10. Lou Reed
  11. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
  12. The Spinners
  13. War
  14. Kraftwerk
  15. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Her Personal Taste Rank

  1. Green Day
  2. Bill Withers
  3. Sting
  4. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
  5. Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
  6. The Marvelettes
  7. The Spinners
  8. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  9. Nine Inch Nails
  10. Lou Reed
  11. War
  12. Chic
  13. N.W.A.
  14. Kraftwerk
  15. The Smiths

 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

To iPod or not to iPod: the 2015 nominees

In the last entry, the fifteen nominees for this year’s class were ranked by hopefully objective merits.  All attempts were made to remove personal bias from the entry, even to the point of removing as many personal pronouns as possible.  Now, however, the other side of the coin is revealed: personal tastes.  As stated in the past, considering personal tastes is not entirely unfair.  For starters, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame states “unquestionable musical excellence” as pretty much the only criterion outside of the twenty-five year rule.  However, there has never really been any clear cut guidelines on what constitutes “unquestionable musical excellence,” yet the discussion of music between people on an everyday level sees the word “excellent” thrown about almost solely in the context of personal taste (unless someone is begrudgingly acknowledging the musical proficiency of an act he or she doesn’t personally care for).  So, it is not unreasonable to infer that when the people behind the Hall employ the phrase “unquestionable musical excellence,” that those people are likewise influenced by their personal tastes.  So including a pecking order of preference is perfectly appropriate to a discussion that forces one to choose five out of fifteen.  Additionally, as I’ve said in years past, I’m honest enough with myself to know that I wouldn’t vote solely on objective merit.  What I like is going to come into play, but it doesn’t rule all either.  There are acts I love that I wouldn’t vote for simply because I don’t feel they’re worthy (some on this ballot).  So for the sake of honesty, it’s time for me to disclose how much I personally like or dislike this year’s nominees.

1. Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble: I won’t lie: I didn’t dare to hope that they would be nominated, and I was so ecstatic when I found out that Stevie was, and even more so when they tacked on the rest of the band.  Nip that problem in the bud.  Well done.  I love their exhilarating brand of blues-rock.  Fantastic, life-affirming, raw.  To recap, I called them the most deserving candidate too.
Average of the two ranks: 1

2. The Spinners: Another act I just didn’t dare hope would be nominated.  I love Philly soul, and I’m so happy they’re back.  I really hope they make it, not just because I love them, but because the Hall needs some soul acts again, and soon.  But they only ranked ninth in merits.
Average of the two ranks: 5.5

3. The Smiths: Those who know me are probably very surprised to see the Smiths ranked this high.  To a degree it is surprising, but I can’t deny it.  Between Johnny Marr’s magical guitar playing and Morrissey’s almost hypnotic vocals, the Smiths are just wonderful music all around.  They ranked fourth in the merits.
Average of the two ranks: 3.5

4. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts: As I said two years ago, the reason they have a chance of getting in any given year is because of their fun-time rock and roll, with party jams like “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” that most people can and do enjoy.  Unfortunately for them, most people understand and many even agree with the rank of fourteenth in merits.
Average of the two ranks: 9
5. The Marvelettes: As I also said two years ago when the Marvelettes were last nominated, I’m not a huge fan.  But their stuff has grown on me a bit more recently, and I do enjoy the fun of early Motown.  Sixth for merit, as a reminder.
Average of the two ranks: 5.5

6. Lou Reed: Much like Morrissey of the Smiths, there’s a calming quality to the man’s voice that is unsettling in songs like “Walk On The Wild Side,” but hopeful in “Perfect Day,” and some mix of the two in songs like “Satellite Of Love.”  Recapping, he placed twelfth for merits.
Average of the two ranks: 9

7. War: Cool songs like “Low Rider,” the fun of “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” the funk of “The World Is A Ghetto,” “The Cisco Kid,” and much else of their catalog all serve to place them squarely near the middle of the candidates, but they ranked eleventh in merits.
Average of the two ranks: 9

8. Bill Withers: Makes sense for funk to be on the heels of funk, right?  Alright then.  He’s best known for his smoother songs like “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and actually if those were more typical of his style, he’d rank higher.  “Grandma’s Hands,” “Use Me,” “Make Love To Your Mind,” “Heartbreak Road,” etc. are also fine songs, I just like the atypical stuff better.  Very close to his merit rank, which was seventh.
Average of the two ranks: 7.5

9. Green Day: Not a huge fan of modern alternative, but they are rather fun.  “Minority” is probably my favorite song, though I also enjoy “Warning” and “Basket Case,” and yes, as a teen of the mid-to-late ‘90’s, my high school’s class song that year was indeed “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).”  Like Bill Withers just above, they fall one lower in taste than their merit rank, this time eighth.
Average of the two ranks: 8.5

10. Chic: ”Good Times” and “I Want Your Love” were the only two songs I actually kind of liked the first times I heard them.  “Le Freak” had to grow on me, though it hasn’t fully.  I still don’t like “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah).”  Unlike the two artists above, they landed exactly the same spot as they did on merits.
Average of the two ranks: 10

11. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: As much as I love Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, you’d think I’d love the Paul Butterfield Blues Band almost as much, but strangely not so, though I like “East-West” and their version of “Walkin’ Blues” (though I like Hot Tuna’s better).  Dwindling dangerously near the bottom this year both times, they were thirteenth in merit.
Average of the two ranks: 12

12. N.W.A.: They have a few songs I love, a few I think are okay, and several that are kind of monotonous in their profanity and themes.  And with the limited catalog they have, not much room for that.  Fortunately, they’re second in merits.
Average of the two ranks: 7

13. Nine Inch Nails: I have some bad memories of my college radio days, and Nine Inch Nails kind of reminds me of them.  Still, attempting to distance myself from the memories, it wasn’t too bad.  Unsurprisingly, I like the later, more commercial stuff better.  Also unsurprisingly, not an act one should research when encumbered with a splitting headache.  They ranked fifth in merits.
Average of the two ranks: 9

14. Kraftwerk: Three of the top five deserving acts rank in the bottom five for taste.  I should either be applauded for being able to at least recognize the worth of acts I don’t care for, or chastised that I can’t align the two universes better.  Still, I like much of the music that followed in their wake.  And I do like a few songs, such as “Neonlichten,” an English-language cover of which is done by U2, as well as the later remix of “Autobahn.”  Third in merits.
Average of the two ranks: 8.5

15. Sting: I fell asleep the first time I tried to immerse myself in his solo efforts more.  His music bores me.  I’m not a big fan of the Police either, which alienates me from my eldest brother.  I did worry that my personal taste was influencing the merits rank too much, but the circulating opinions on Future Rock Legends makes me feel comfortable that ranking him dead last that time as well was indeed the right call.
Average of the two ranks: 15


So there’s an honest confession about which artists would make my iPod and which ones wouldn’t.  Coming soon, a look at how these ranks would influence my vote (and how others feel about the nominees as well).  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Do they deserve it? Looking at 2015's nominees' merits.

Earlier this month, the nominees were announced for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s Class Of 2015.  The initial waves of shock, approval, and disgruntlement have all subsided, and the focus of the discussion has fractured into foci.  There’s debate on who are most deserving of induction, who are likely to be inducted, and whom it’d be awesome to see inducted even if they’re not the most deserving.  Subsequent entries will focus on the latter two subjects.  Currently, the subject of merit is on the table.  In this entry, the nominees will be ranked by merit.  This annual attempt to be objective when ranking the nominees utilizes four key parameters: innovation, influence, impact, and intangibles.  Innovation is fairly self-explanatory: what new sonic trails did this nominee help pioneer?  Likewise, influence is mostly self-explanatory: do other artists cite them as an influence?  Impact is slightly murkier: chart presence and sales are a big part of this category, but “impact” might be more synonymous with “name recognition” than merely “hits.”  Intangibles, by the word’s very definition, is the hardest category to define: any extraneous factors that make a difference?  These categories often do, as they perhaps should, bleed into each other.  Sometimes innovation is just so huge that it becomes a form of influence.  Impact, through sheer chart presence, can cause ripples of influence and even some intangible pieces, like unique fanbases (e.g. Deadheads,  Juggalos).  Sometimes influence causes a resurgence of an artist’s name recognition, thus increasing their impact.  With all that explicated, time now to attempt to objectively rank this year’s nominees by merits.

1. STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN AND DOUBLE TROUBLE
Influence: Easily one of the most influential bands (particularly the main man) of the past thirty years.  Revived the popularity of the blues as well as influencing many harder rock guitarists.
Impact: As far as Billboard goes, several albums in the Top 200, including compilations charting as recent as 2000.  On the Album Rock Charts, about a dozen and a half charted tracks, though the only pop crossover was Stevie with his brother (“Tick Tock”).  Name recognition factor?  Practically a household name, plus a key act in making Austin City Limits the prestigious venue it’s now known as. 
Innovation: A lot of cover versions, but with a unique mark.  New licks and all.
Intangibles: Possibly falling under innovation as well, but Stevie’s style of playing helped advance the evolution of guitar design too, new designs needing to be made for him in order to do the daredevil sonic work he wanted to do.

2. N.W.A.
Influence: Gangsta rap is what it is because of these guys.  In fact much of the stereotype of what being a rapper means, or at least what it supposedly meant when Tupac and Biggie got shot, is based on the image projected by N.W.A.
Innovation: Generally, lyrical innovation is not credible on the same plateau as rhythmic and instrumental innovation, but this is one of the few times when it’s deserved.  Ice-T may be the O.G., but Ice Cube and company really put it on the map.
Impact: Minimal on the singles charts.  For albums, three platinum (one doubly so) studio albums (one that hit #1 on the Billboard 200), and one gold greatest hits compilation.  But that’s also about all they had.  No cache of lesser known/celebrated material behind that.
Intangibles: With notable and big solo careers of some of their members, they might be called the first rap supergroup.

3. KRAFTWERK
Innovation: As a prog group, they pioneered what is now known as electronica.
Influence: Again, electronica artists that have come since all tip their hat to Kraftwerk, particularly those from the European scene.
Impact: How big they were in Europe has not been fully measured yet.  In North America, their heyday was strongest in the disco/dance music scene, as odd as that may seem, given what the rest of that scene during that time were putting out.
Intangibles: Only in the recent years has electronica music been getting taken seriously as an art form, at least in terms of coverage from the trade publications.

4. THE SMITHS
Influence: One of the giants of ‘80’s alternative, along with the Cure and the Pixies.  Influenced a lot of independent-label acts in their wake.
Impact: Recording very few albums, they charted few albums, and no single hits, but plenty of name recognition, for themselves and for lead singer Morrissey.
Innovation: Along with the Replacements and the Cure, they really helped define the sound of post-punk.
Intangibles: The name power of Morrissey alone brings a certain seriousness to the Smiths overall.

5. NINE INCH NAILS
Innovation: Industrial is a bit of the child between Kraftwerk-style electronica and heavy metal.  But it’s still pretty innovative to bring the two together, and Nine Inch Nails did exactly that.
Influence: As one of the earlier examples of industrial, Nine Inch Nails is a name widely cited in modern industrial, and it wouldn’t be surprising if electronica and metal acts cite this name as well.
Impact: Nine Inch Nails’ crossover success was originally limited, but has over time increased, enjoying the biggest hits in just the past decade or so.
Intangibles: The Rock Hall seems to really love and merit those bands who do it all: write, arrange, play, produce, promote, distribute, and so forth their own music.  Though employing the skills of other musicians on a frequent basis, Nine Inch Nails is the tour-de-force band boiled down even further: one man, Trent Reznor.  One man who can pretty much do it all.

6. THE MARVELETTES
Impact: “Please Mr. Postman” being the first #1 single for the Motown empire is just the icing on the cake.  In terms of the singles’ charts, the Marvelettes are one of the bigger acts on the ballot.  Albums chart-wise, practically dead last, but that’s because they were a singles group from a time when the singles were the standard. 
Influence: Being the first Motown group to grab the brass ring doesn’t come without influence.  They served as the template for Martha And The Vandellas and the Supremes to follow.  In fact, either “Where Did Our Love Go” or “Baby Love” was written with the Marvelettes in mind.
Innovation: None really, but the right vocalists can help cement a house band’s signature sound, and the Marvelettes can be considered responsible for helping the Funk Brothers finding their sound that helped fuel the label during the early ‘60s.
Intangibles: The only nominee whose prime predates the British invasion, they’re considered by many as one of the most overdue candidates.  In fact, they’d probably be near the top of most people’s lists for “most deserving acts that aren’t guitar bands.”  Also two eras definable by styles: the more upbeat era with songs like “Please Mr. Postman” and “Playboy”, and the smoother later work like “Don’t Mess With Bill” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game”, both eras respected.

7. BILL WITHERS
Impact: An impressive run of hits, both on the R&B charts, and pop charts.  Not as successful as an albums artist, but respectable nonetheless.
Influence: Singer/songwriters all pretty much tend to influence one another, and Bill Withers certainly had an effect on some of his contemporaries, and it’s no secret of his influence on Questlove himself, who most likely is responsible for getting Withers on the ballot.
Innovation: Not a whole lot here.
Intangibles: Idealists will describe rock and roll music as a musical genre that at its finest, breaks down borders, shatters barriers, bridges the widest chasms, and unifies people on a fundamental level that is indisputably and universally human.  If “Lean On Me” doesn’t fit the bill here, what song does?  In this regard, “Lean On Me” belongs in the same discussion as “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “All You Need Is Love.”  More than any nominee on this ballot, Bill Withers reached this ideal with at least one of his songs.

8. GREEN DAY
Influence: Green Day’s brand of pop-punk has been an inspiration for a legion of guitar rock acts that have come since, both mainstream and underground.
Impact: The biggest act in the Mainstream and Modern Rock chart scenes, and possibly the biggest selling album act on this ballot.  From a singles perspective, though relegated originally to the Airplay charts only, like Nine Inch Nails, their crossover to steady mainstream acceptance has been both inevitable, and sizeable.
Innovation: Not widely innovative, though breathing new life into the punk scene probably means something in its own right.
Intangibles: Along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Green Day is of the triumvirate that shattered the glass ceiling for the underground and sparked its overflow into the mainstream scene.  Being one of the big three names for that is pretty big.

9. THE SPINNERS
Impact: The biggest singles-selling act on this year’s ballot, for both the Hot 100 and the R&B charts, with an impressive string of infectious and memorable Philly soul classics. 
Influence: The genre of soul greatly shifted as the Spinners were at the top of their heyday, nonetheless, there is some influence upon the likes of Hall And Oates, as well as subsequent soul musicians
Innovation: Despite not really inventing Philly soul, their style was more rhythmically driven than that of their contemporaries (perhaps due to their usage of doo-wop style background vocals), making it something unique they brought to the table. 
Intangibles: They’re a solid representation of Philly soul, which there isn’t much of in the Hall right now.  They’re also a quasi-representation of Motown, having put in a brief stint at that legendary label. 

10. CHIC
Impact: The impact of “Good Times” upon hip-hop is huge.  Also, respectable runs of hits in the disco, R&B, and pop charts, plus a good run of charted albums.  Nile Rodgers’ producer credit of the Grammy winning Daft Punk jam “Get Lucky” is also a factor here.
Influence: Again, on the world of hip-hop, having a heavily sampled record does say a lot.  Plus, the influence on funk and dance music is sizeable.
Innovation: Not entirely devoid here, as the technique of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards have proven different and difficult to duplicate.
Intangibles: By now, Chic may just be wearing down resistance of the voters.  A ninth nomination?  The Nominating Committee must be seeing something that not everyone is.

11. WAR
Impact: As of 2006, they were the biggest commercially successful albums act on this ballot (though by now Green Day has almost certainly surpassed them, and maybe Nine Inch Nails too.)  Plus, “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends” are both songs that continue to transcend generations, as do to a lesser extent “Spill The Wine” and “The Cisco Kid.”  A respectable string of commercial success, they’re considered a “cool” band that’s always a good call.
Innovation: Early Latin-funk band.
Influence: Hard to gauge, danceable Latin rhythms often appeared in a lot of disco, as did funk, but they weren’t the only funk outfit around at the time, nor the only name in Latin-rock.
Intangibles: Rock ‘n’ roll is hailed for its accomplishments in crossing social borders.  War being an interracial outfit, this may be a point of relevance.  It makes for interesting debate at least.

12. LOU REED
Influence: As a songwriter, his influence is big.  As a recording artist, his “Walk On The Wild Side” has been sampled, and a few of his songs have been covered. 
Impact: Definitely more name recognition than singles success, though his albums have had a middling to successful amount of albums chart success.  Again, some of his songs have been covered and sampled, too, including U2’s version of “Satellite Of Love” and the gaming commercial that used “Perfect Day.”
Innovation: Hard to peg this one, but if his famous feedback album proves anything, it’s that he was not afraid to push the envelope and try new sounds.
Intangibles: Being nicknamed the “Godfather Of Punk” doesn’t hurt his credibility.

13. THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND
Influence: Brought straight-out blues music to a new audience, and helped pave the way for future blues players, including the also-nominated Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.
Impact: A good handful or so of hit albums that are well-respected, no hit singles, but they have tracks that are still considered absolutely classic.
Innovation: Perhaps added a new dynamic to the blues-style, but beyond that, not too much.
Intangibles: The band behind Butterfield has a few recognizable names that perhaps add to their credibility.

14. JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS
Impact: With “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” being the huge smash it was (#1 song of the entire year 1982), and it still being anthemic, subsequent songs including “I Hate Myself For Loving You” help make Joan Jett arguably the woman you first think of as proof that women could rock just as hard as the boys.  In fact, with “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”, they have the single biggest hit of any act on this ballot.
Influence: Again, the anthemic nature of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was so impacting, it evolved somewhat into some influence in the female rockscape.
Innovation: Minimal, if any.
Intangibles: Those who saw her live performance with “Hervana” will laud her as an amazing live act, which is important towards an artist’s merit.  (And yes, there still appears to be some resemblance between Joan Jett and Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company.)

15. STING
Impact: He’s had several hit singles as a soloist, as well as hit albums, easily the biggest name with the adult contemporary crowd.  Probably the biggest name-recognition factor of any act on this ballot.
Influence: His style of singing is definitely present in acts that came after him, somewhat notably Gotye, who sounds quite a bit like Sting.
Innovation: Not too much.
Intangibles: His move toward the socially conscious always resonates with the rock crowd, particularly the aforementioned idealists who believe rock and roll is capable of great accomplishments.


This ranking of the nominees is attempted to be objective, without personal bias.  Of course, it can be argued that potentially putting Impact on equal footing with Innovation is horrible bias in and of itself.  Of course, the reverse could also be argued.  Other evaluations of nominees by merit are welcome in the comments section.  In upcoming entries, personal taste, other people’s opinions, considerations, and finally, Rock Hall Monitors’ official prediction for the Class Of 2015.

Monday, October 13, 2014

And they're off!

The names have been announced; the ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2015 is official.  It’s time to start dissecting, analyzing, hypothesizing, and griping, not necessarily in that order.  We’ll begin with reactions to who’s on the ballot and who’s not.

First off, I’m a little ashamed because I only nailed six of the fifteen nominees, and all six of them were very safe predictions.  If you didn’t pick Green Day, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Lou Reed, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, N.W.A., or Nine Inch Nails on your predicted ballot, you either weren’t paying attention or were taking some gutsy risks that they’d be omitted.  Of those six, Nine Inch Nails was probably the gutsiest call to make, being nowhere near as certain as Green Day or N.W.A.

Looking at the other repeat nominees, we see that the returning favorites dominate the ballot, unlike last year, which was a fifty-fifty split, whereas this year it’s sixty-forty in favor of the returning names.  In addition to the aforementioned who weren’t newly eligible, we see the return of pet NomCom cause Chic, whom most predicted, but I felt might be given a break this year.  Nope.  Kraftwerk returns once again, as many expected.  It’s hard to tell, especially since their nominations have not been in any consistent pattern that one can nail down.  Most who predicted their return are those who prefer both European to American and alternative to mainstream.  While it can be rightly stated that neither of those dichotomies describe me, my omission of them was really more based on a belief that their momentum had fizzled.  Both Chic and they were two of my mental backup predictions for my ballot, though I officially claimed no backups because it feels like a cop out to me.  No bet hedging in my book.  Speaking of artists that are sporadically nominated, War is back for their third nomination as well, another name several people guessed, but was by no means ubiquitous among predictions. Lastly, I have to admit my serendipity that both the Spinners and the Marvelettes return for their second nominations each, who respectively are the second and third names off my tongue when asked to comprise my dream class for the Hall, though now I worry about them canceling each other out. 

Which brings us to the other four first-time nominees.  The Spinners and the Marvelettes make numbers two and three on my list, but number one is firmly Stevie Ray Vaughan, though at present I’m a bit miffed that Double Trouble was not also named.  Indeed, a few fellow monitors are already likening the situation to nominating Jimi Hendrix without the Experience.  I have to agree.  Stevie may have been front and center, but do not neglect how synergistically the rest of the band worked behind him, both to create a coherent sound together in their own right, and to create the giant wave that allowed Vaughan’s guitar licks to ride high.  At this early stage of the game, Vaughan’s leading the fan ballot, which bodes well for him, but as people slowly get tuned in to what’s happening, it could change.  Still seeing him, the Spinners, and the Marvelettes on the ballot together is glee for me.  If these three get in this year, I don’t care who else gets the nod.  I didn’t pick any of these three because I just didn’t want to get my hopes up. 

I also expressed concern that the Spinners and Marvelettes could cancel each other out.  Well, now compound that feeling when you throw Bill Withers into the conversation, because his name’s on the ballot too.  Many correctly picked him, especially as some noted that Questlove himself was likely the driving force in getting him on the ballot.  It’s almost funny to me to hear Withers touted as this year’s singer/songwriter pick.  When you say “singer/songwriter,” I think “coffeehouse.”  Bill Withers by strict denotation is indeed a valid singer/songwriter, but he doesn’t fit neatly in the same box that oh-so-comfortably accommodates the likes of James Taylor, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Cat Stevens, and Tom Waits.  It’ll be a curious thing to watch and see how the voting bloc feels about Withers, and whether the label “singer/songwriter” comes into play at all.

Though some correctly predicted them, it’s still a bit of a shocker to see the Smiths on the ballot, mainly because everyone thought Sonic Youth was getting on this year instead.  Indeed, all indicators favored Sonic Youth, particularly Kim Gordon’s performance at the ceremonies this year as part of “Hervana,” and the conversation between NomCom members Tom Morello and Questlove about them both supporting Sonic Youth for this ballot.  What happened?  We’ll never know, though clearly not enough members agreed.  Still the Smiths are another one of those ‘80s alternative acts that many have been wanting to see get their due for some time, and perhaps Morrissey’s name alone being a big draw has much to do with why it’s them and not Sonic Youth this time.

Speaking of big name draws, we come now to Sting, whom nobody I know predicted and is a bit of a dome scratcher for me personally.  In some respects it shouldn’t be surprising: he’s been previously considered, the Police are widely venerated, and the Hall seems to love adding members to the multiple inductees club.  But we’ve already got Lou Reed on the ballot (and possibly Eric Burdon if he’s included with War), his solo career skews much more adult contemporary, and didn’t really break any new ground, instead sounding derivative of the Police, minus the reggae influences.  Still, for pure name recognition, Sting’s a no-brainer.

With many, the bigger story is who isn’t on the ballot.  Many are miffed that Deep Purple isn’t returning this year.  With Rush and KISS in, Deep Purple was the next logical step for many.  There were a lot of theories surrounding Yes not making it this past year.  Just goes to show you can’t put too much stock in fan theories, cruises and twenty votes included.  As mentioned already, all the indicators pointed toward Sonic Youth, and many feel plenty certain now that without LL Cool J or any other rap name on the ballot, N.W.A. will strut into the Hall.  No one’s really lamenting the absence of the Meters, though many had them pegged to return this year as well.  Many also had believed Link Wray would return, and there is some shock and disappointment about that.  The grassroots campaign to get Janet Jackson nomiated fell short of the goal, and despite the pleas of Daryl Hall, no Chubby Checker, though we did get Philly act the Spinners this year, so that’s a step.


Overall, I like this ballot; it’s got real potential to make a great class.  It’s also got potential to be disappointing.  We’ll have to see.  Let the games begin.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Taking A Stab At 2015's Ballot


September is now past the halfway mark, and for those of us who monitor the Rock Hall, that means it’s almost time for the Nominating Committee to congregate and deign to announce who is worthy enough to be on the ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s Class of 2015.

All snark aside, we really do enjoy this.  We enjoy guessing who’ll be on the ballot, reading other people’s predictions, critiquing their predictions, and cursing under our breath when we don’t even get half of the names right.  And we enjoy the list of nominees itself, I suppose.  Just about everyone else that is expected to comment has weighed in with his or her prediction.  I’ve been dragging my feet mainly because I’ve been busy trying to beef up my badge count on Sporcle, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention.  So now, I’m giving my thoughts, comparing the list to my mid-season report, and selecting sixteen names, just like last year’s ballot.

 Kicking off with the newly eligible acts, I’m going to go ahead and pick both Green Day and Nine Inch Nails.  The list was only going to include Green Day originally, but FutureRockLegends pointed out NIN’s placement on the list of Immortals.  That’s a kind of honor that isn’t going to be ignored.  Nine Inch Nails may not be able to battle against Green Day’s popularity, and attempts to diversify the class will make it a competition between the two, but look for them to be named on the ballot as well.

Next up, we’re going to stalk the grim reaper.  Lou Reed passed away before the 2014 ceremonies, but his friends at the Foundation aren’t going to forget him.  He’ll be back for another nomination this year.  Similarly, and in keeping with their continued push for bluesy acts, I think blues-rock legend Johnny Winter is going to get the nod, a name whom Dave Marsh may be supporting.  Much as it chagrins me, I think this also means that Stevie Ray Vaughan is going to get overlooked again.  I’d love it if I was wrong, but I don’t think I am.  (Winter, by the way, the first of five names that are on my prediction now that weren’t on the mid-season report.)

Moving on, time to load up on the usual favorites in the form of returning nominees.  Starting with rappers N.W.A. because we know Toure is all about the rap now, and Questlove (and I think Tom Morello, too) have voiced support.  Also coming back for a third consecutive year will likely be Deep Purple, the current pet project for the hard rock crowd.  Last year they took back burner to the marketing prowess and impossible-to-ignore presence of KISS, but KISS had been touted as a snub for probably just as long, and certainly much louder than Deep Purple.  With that hurdle out of the way, the push for Purple proceeds prominently.  Looking to join them will most likely be fellow classic rock radio denizens Yes.  I don’t particularly subscribe to Alex Voltaire’s theory about the prog cruise.  Frankly, I think Yes would have probably cancelled if they got called to the Class of 2014.  However, prog has been the subgenre to support recently, and I think there will likely be a repeat nomination for them. 

After being the first singer for this year’s “Hervana” tribute at the ceremony, it will indeed probably be another nomination for Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, who were mysteriously absent from last year’s ballot.  This lapse in consecutive nominations may be a problem for Jett, lost momentum and whatnot, but that was probably the point of her attempting (and failing, imo) to sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the ceremony.  Also performing at the ceremony, despite not being an inductee, was one of the members of the Meters, performing with Peter Gabriel.  This will probably be remembered again when the NomCom meets and this New Orleans group may get another nomination.  Another miss out from last year’s ballot would also be the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  It may be a dangerous setup to put both Winter and Butterfield on the ballot, but things even more bizarre have happened.

Looking now to potential first-time nominees, we have a veritable plethora of options.  And it’ll be difficult to nail it down to only six more names (since we’re already up to ten).  NomCom member Tom Morello has been vocal about pushing for Sonic Youth now that KISS is in, and Kim Gordon’s rather interesting leadership on “Aneurysm” as part of Hervana can only help bolster that case.  Another female presence to keep in mind will be Janet Jackson (second of five), whose fanbase’s grassroots campaign to get her nominated has captured the attention of NomCom member Questlove.  Speaking of Questlove, remember last year when he wore a shirt honoring Daryl Hall And John Oates?  Remember which duo got inducted this past year?  Maybe, then, we shouldn’t ignore the fairly recent Questlove shirt with the logo of the Average White Band (third of five).  It may mean nothing, but maybe Questlove is showing his hand after all, by wearing his heart between his sleeves.

Three names left, and we haven’t even touched upon NomCom member Little Steven yet.  We can’t ignore him, as his nominations usually get inducted eventually.  He was the man behind getting Link Wray on the ballot last year, and probably will succeed again, but let’s hope they include the (W)Ray-Men with him too, this time.  Now back in the mid-season report, I noted that I loved Daryl Hall’s impassioned plea for more Philadelphia artists, but felt it would fall on deaf ears.  That was before Little Steven’s wife tweeted about Daryl Hall being absolutely right about Chubby Checker being a big snub (fourth of five).  I’ve thought so for years, but hadn’t dared to hope or predict.  But a little pillow talk with the Miami Man might just yield fruitful this time, so we’ll see if he agrees with his wife. 

Lastly, we go out to left field again.  Only not too deep, imo, though others would argue that I’m on the warning track with this one.  I’m going to go ahead and blindly guess that this year will see the nomination of “Weird Al” Yankovic (fifth of five).  Please bear in mind that if nominated, I don’t think he’d get inducted, unless he managed to take first place in the fans’ ballot.  But this has been a huge year for him: having the first comedy album in fifty years to top the Billboard Album charts, performing at the Emmys of all places, both “Tacky” and “Word Crimes” fairly well-received, more and more TV appearances… his stock has never been higher than it is now.  He’d probably be a one-and-done nominee, but it would still be a hell of a way to cap off this year, so I’m going to guess that the NomCom will decide that this is one tide not to fight.

So, a bit of everything… some obvious, some tried-and-true likely, some minor stretches, and at least one major stretch.  Eleven names from the mid-season report that I still think are going to show up, five changes (out with Todd Rundgren, Kraftwerk, Ringo Starr, Chic, and the prediction of only fifteen names).  Now to wait and see, and hopefully it won’t be too much longer.