Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Predicting the Final Five.

Did I say Thanksgiving?  Guess I meant Halloween..Now we come to the main event, trying to predict who the five inductees will be out of the fifteen nominees on the ballot.  No easy feat.  Looking at them all and trying to figure out one way or the other, trying to predict how Hall Of Fame voters will vote, trying to keep personal feelings out of it, it’s all a tough mix.  In a previous entry, I mentally slow-roasted the merits of each candidate with the seasoning of personal taste, and got what I figured would be my actual ballot if I were a voting member: Guns N’ Roses, the Cure, the Spinners, the Beastie Boys, and Donna Summer.  But how realistic would this vote be against what’s likely to happen?  Well, as tough as it is, I’ll now try to sort them out   Again, this is just my opinion regarding the likelihood that they’ll be in the Class of 2012.  The top five ranked acts are my actual prediction.  The next three or four are the ones I seriously considered but had to cut the selection down; they’re the ones that I figure are most likely to upset my prediction.  The rest are the ones I don’t figure as too strong as contenders for this ballot.  Onto the predictions.

1. Guns N’ Roses

Hard-rock band featuring famed guitarist Slash, and celebrated frontman Axl Rose.  Newly eligible, thus first-time nominee.

Why they might make it: Hugely successful band whose songs are still known today, and even received new life due to inclusions in the “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” video games series.  One of the most artistically respected bands of the ‘80s hard rock scene.  They’re also a very recognizable image in the rock world.

Why they might not: The ‘80s hard rock scene is not very artistically respected overall, negatively referred to as “hair metal.”  Also, Axl Rose’s persona of late has been much like that of Public Enemy hype-man Flavor Flav: the more exposure he gets alone, without the rest of the group, the more embarrassing he looks, which in turn reflects marginally poorly on the rest of the group.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The once-nominated-but-missed bands KISS and Bon Jovi might get another nomination once these guys are in.  They also may make it more possible for acts like Pantera and Slayer to get some recognition as well.

Their biggest threats:  This ballot is full of self-divisions.  In this case, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the most obvious, but so are the likes of the Cure, Heart, and even Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.

In the end: For every embarrassment Axl brings about, Slash counters, letting his axe do the talking, reminding us why we loved their music.  Also, if the artistic respect for their brand of rock is laid out on a spectrum, Guns N’ Roses are closer to Van Halen than KISS.  Van Halen’s in.  I think Guns N’ Roses are an obvious choice.  And Axl’s the obvious candidate to leak the news of their selection before the official announcement.  Induction chances:  98%

2. The Cure

New-wave band that really helped ignite and fuel the independent label and underground music scenes.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: They’re artistically revered, with songs like “Lovesong” and “Friday, I’m In Love,” and they had just enough commercial success to gain a nod of approval from the mainstream crowd.  They’re considered hugely influential, and pretty innovative, too.

Why they might not:  There’s a hesitance to recognize bands with revolving-door lineups.  Plus, new-wave music is pretty sparse with recognition, only having Blondie in so far to help represent the style.  There may also be resentment that Sonic Youth or the Smiths aren’t representing this scene this year, though I think that’s less the opinion of those who vote and represents only those who really want to see the Smiths and Sonic Youth inducted.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The Smiths and Sonic Youth.  Plus, a number of influential indie scene rock acts.  Plus, possibly for more new-wave acts as well.

Their biggest threats: Both Guns N’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are obvious threats, but so also is War, a band with a reputation of coolness that the Cure also has.

In the end: It seems very akin to 2007: a hair-band and an ‘80s alternative-scene band are the obvious choices.  Instead of Van Halen and R.E.M. though, it’s now Guns N’ Roses and the Cure.  And I think both will make it this time, too.  Induction chances:  95%.

3. The Spinners

Superstar Philly-soul vocal group from Detroit, Michigan.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: The Hall loves to recognize soul groups, and since the induction of the O’Jays, people have been wondering when the Spinners would get their turn.  They had a string of incredible soul classics in the ‘70s.  Also, having been discovered by Harvey Fuqua, of the Hall Of Fame group the Moonglows, there’s a hint of right people in the right places.

Why they might not: Even the O’Jays missed out their first nomination.  Also, with so many sub-genres on the ballot vying for some recognition, they could end up getting begrudgingly cut from some voters’ ballots.

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 as well.

Their biggest threats: The combined appearances of Donna Summer and Rufus With Chaka Khan stand in their way, representing ‘70s R&B, and soul also has Laura Nyro on the ballot as well.

In the end:  The O’Jays may have missed in 2000, but that was against inductees Earth, Wind, And Fire, and the Moonglows.  The Spinners aren’t quite against those odds, and since the O’Jays, Joe Tex is the only non-blue-eyed soul nominee that hasn’t been inducted with due promptness, and I think it’ll stay that way.  Induction chances:  75%.

4. Freddie King

Blues musician from the early ‘60s.  First-time nominee, though the earliest recording artist on the ballot.

Why he might make it: Much like soul, the Hall loves the blues, recognizing it as one of the most, if not the single most, fundamental piece in the formation of rock ‘n’ roll music.  King was a true blues musician, and since they haven’t inducted a blues musician since Buddy Guy in 2005, we’re about due for another blues induction.  Also, he’s about the only candidate against whom there doesn’t appear to be any ballot division. 

Why he might not: Rather bluntly, he’s dead.  Those voters who are thinking about the ceremonies know that tribute performances aren’t as magical as seeing the genuine article perform themselves.  Also, very few R&B or pop chart hits, and only one hit album on the Top 200.  Not as much name recognition as the other nominees.

Whom he’d pave the way for: His induction could mean a nod for Albert King, or possibly a second look at the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  It may even spark the momentum for Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.

His biggest threats: On the surface none.  His own obscurity, perhaps, but there’s also the fact that he’s a guitar god, which can mean Guns N’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Cure; and also R&B, which could mean the Spinners, Rufus With Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Eric B. And Rakim, the Beastie Boys, and even War are threats.  Strangely, they’re all threats, but none of them are.

In the end: In horse racing terminology, something keeps telling me he’s the longshot you bet on when the money is divided between the favorites, and with as many divisions going on with this ballot, it makes his path clearer.  Induction chances:  66.7%.

5. Laura Nyro

A blue-eyed-soul singer/songwriter who has had her compositions recorded by many artists.  Third-time nominee, I seeded her #7 in 2010, and dead last (#15) in 2011.

Why she might make it: She’s been widely covered by many artists, and is well respected as a songwriter.  Also, good blue-eyed soul artists usually get in eventually.  There’s another interesting factor to note:  lately the Hall Of Fame has a trend of inducting industry secrets and criminally overlooked artists of the past.  Nyro fits both of those.  And last year’s inductees include a few contemporaries and admirers of her who might vote for her.  

Why she might not: She had very few, very minor hits.  Almost none of the artists who had the hit versions of her songs are in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame either.  Lastly, she’s better known as a songwriter, so there’s the claim that she’d be a better fit for the Non-Performer category.

Whom she’d pave the way for: There are only a few serious blue-eyed soul candidates left such as Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, and Daryl Hall And John Oates, so they could follow after her.  She might also open the door for artists that made hits out of her songs, like Three Dog Night, the Fifth Dimension, or Blood, Sweat, And Tears.  And maybe even another ignored singer/songwriter like Buffy Saint-Marie.

Her biggest threats: The Spinners are another kind of soul, and the other women-driven acts on the ballot—Donna Summer, Heart, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, and Rufus with Chaka Khan—all may eat away at her chances.  And don’t rule out fellow artsy singer/songwriter Donovan either.

In the end: She might be one of those names that there’ll always be at least five other names more popular than, and as such, will always have a struggle getting in; nonetheless, they’ll want at least one female act inducted, and Laura is the female act with the least sharp divisions against her on the ballot, and I think that gives her the edge.  Induction chances:  51%

6. Donna Summer

One of the key figures of disco during the 70’s and early 80’s.  Fourth-time nominee.  I seeded her dead last (#9) in 2008, and #6 in both 2010 and 2011. 

Why she might get in: She’s royalty… the “Queen Of Disco.”  She’s got the longest list of hit singles than any of the artists on the ballot.  Very influential female singer, influencing the already-inducted Madonna, as well as other starlets of dance music.  There’s also an affirmative action side to consider, as there’s usually an effort to induct at least one racial minority, and one woman.  She fits both bills nicely and conveniently.

Why she might not: Don’t kid yourself, there’s a bias against disco, with the Bee Gees, ABBA, and Earth, Wind, And Fire representing the style—and even then some would claim ABBA and Earth, Wind, And Fire aren’t really all that disco either.  She’s missed out on tighter ballots before, too, ones that had fewer nominees.

Whom she’d pave the way for: The biggest and most obvious choice is Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston running a relatively close second

Her biggest threats: Rufus with Chaka Khan is the clearest and most present danger.  The Spinners’ style of soul and run of success in the ‘70s also stands to impede her chances.

In the end: She stands a real chance, but may fall short.  If there were more than five inductees a year, she’d have been in two years ago, I believe.  Things being what they are though, she’s a threat and while I don’t think she’ll make it, she’s my pick again for the upset special this year, but 1997 was the first and only year when any fourth-time nominee has been inducted (Buffalo Springfield, the Jackson Five, and the Rascals), and I think it’ll stay that way.  Induction chances:  49%

7. The Beastie Boys

Trio of white rappers that combined hip-hop with punk rock.  Third-time nominee, seeded #2 in 2008 and #4 in 2011.

Why they might make it: They introduced hip-hop to the suburban audience, which paved the way for the triumph of rap as the dominant style of music on the Billboard Hot 100.  Also, by blending punk rock with hip-hop, it’s pretty much impossible to say they aren’t rock and roll, even if you believe rap is not a part of rock and roll (it is).  On that note, the Nominating Committee keeps pushing for more rap artists.  They got one inducted in 2007, another in 2009, so we might be due for one this year.

Why they might not:  The other times they were nominated, there was a second hip-hop act on the ballot, and they cancelled each other out, both failing to get in.  There’s a second rap act on this year’s ballot too.  Additionally, after not making the cut first time out, one member was heard to say, “We really don’t care if we get in or not.”  While that isn’t the most scathing dismissal of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (see Daryl Hall And John Oates, Toto, Steve Miller), it may just sway voters to cast their ballot for an act that would actually appreciate the honor just a bit more.

Whom they’d pave the way for: They could be the group that gets in so that other rap groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A., and the Sugarhill Gang can get in.

Their biggest threats: Eric B. And Rakim constitute the other rap act on this list, and they’re the favorite of somewhat vocal Nominating Committee member Toure.  Other hard rockers like Guns N’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are threats, too.

In the end: They seem like good picks every time they’re nominated, but having lost out twice on them, I’m not throwing good predictions after bad ones.  If they make it, it’ll be the third and last time they threw a monkey wrench into my predictions, but I’m not holding out hope this time.  Induction chances: 45%

8. Heart

Rock band from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: They’ve got significant name recognition and a string of hit records that still get played on classic rock and retro-music stations.  They also fall very neatly into the “classic rock” category that public outcry claims gets significantly snubbed.

Why they might not:  Their later material consists strongly of power ballads, which doesn’t strongly favor them.  It’s hard to say: the value of power ballads is relatively untested waters, but all current indicators point toward liability status.  Also, the stadium-rocker kind of candidate has mixed success getting inducted.

Whom they’d pave the way for:  Pat Benatar is someone who might get consideration in the wake of their induction, but you could also go for stadium-rock acts with lighter later works like Foreigner, Styx, and Journey.

Their biggest threats: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are the biggest threat, but Guns N’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are also candidates to hurt their chances.

In the end: John Q. Public is going to go into overtime, raging against their missing out.  It took Black Sabbath eight tries, and Lynyrd Skynyrd seven.  Heart will need at least two.  Induction chances: 40%

9. The Small Faces / Faces

Joint nomination of the mod-rock and blues-rock band/s from England.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: The Small Faces have the solid respect of the British voters.  Members of the Clash and Led Zeppelin have lauded their status.  Faces are the version known best in the Yankee part of the equation, with solid blues-rock material.  Also, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are two of only three people on the entire ballot who’d get in a second time if selected, and having a multiple inductee is usually a safe bet.  Plus, the Hall loves Rod.

Why they might not: Ever since the news of the joint nomination, the part of the blogosphere that pays attention to this kind of thing has erupted and is still clattering and chattering about whether or not this was good call.  Most notably, band members themselves, such as Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones, don’t seem to be in favor of this, saying that the Small Faces and Faces were two separate bands with two very different styles and kinds of appeal, and thus should be recognized differently.  Even NomCom members don’t necessarily see this as an act of identifying unity.  In an email, one member said they view the Small Faces and Faces as “two bands with a somehow continuous history.”  And this is just about the most glowing recommendation of the joint nomination out there.  (For the record, though, this NomCom member does support the joint nomination.)   All that aside, between all incarnations, they don’t have the number of hits (U.S. and U.K. combined) that other acts like the Spinners, Donna Summer, or even the Cure have in the various Billboard charts, and only a couple of those are still remembered and regarded as seminal.

Whom they’d pave the wave for: Getting the Small Faces some level of recognition, even in joint form with the Stewart-era band, might open the door for more acts that were MUCH bigger in the United Kingdom than in the United States, such as Cliff Richard And The Shadows, Status Quo, the Jam, and even Steve Marriott’s other major band, Humble Pie.  Getting Faces inducted might open the gate for more raucous blues-rock bands, and again, I’m hoping and pining for Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.

Their biggest threats: Donovan, another British Invasion rocker, is the clear ballot-division against these guys, but honestly, the controversy regarding the joint nomination is also a major threat.  And let’s add the Cure, another British band that made more waves in England than America, but still had an impressive American showing as well.

In the end: The controversy regarding the joint nomination will either make or break their induction chances.  Really, I should have them ranked higher, but I feel that it will break their chances this year, and improve them in later years, if they do nominate them separately.  Induction chances:  35%

10. Donovan

British folk troubadour whose music included psychedelic tones.  Second-time nominee, seeded #1 last year.

Why he might make it: He’s a clever singer/songwriter with an impressive string of commercially successful hits, some of which are still known today.  Embracing both the lighter and darker sides of folk, he’s considered a pretty artsy artist overall.

Why he might not: Despite first charting in 1965, he’s considered something of a latecomer to the folk-rock game and the British Invasion scene.  As well as not really considered all that influential or innovative, he’s always been seen as middling: there, but seldom really rising to the top of the heap.  Also, from the very beginning, he has frequently been compared to Bob Dylan, which is always going to be a losing battle unless your name is Smokey Robinson.  Despite his efforts to break away from that, he keeps getting rated side-by-side with Dylan. 

Whom he’d pave the way for: He represents both the British Invasion and folk rock.  So he could open the door for other 60’s British acts not in yet, like the Moody Blues, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann, and Procol Harum; as well as other folk stars, like Joan Baez, Judy Collins, the Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul, And Mary.

His biggest threats:  The Small Faces / Faces jointly are the fellow ‘60s and ‘70s British Invasion act on the ballot.  Laura Nyro is another singer/songwriter with increasing traction each year.

In the end: After picking him as the surest bet on the ballot last year (though my rough draft only had him at #3, which is still Top Five), I’m gun-shy to call him surefire.  Especially with all the other big names of some long awaited acts present.  Induction chances:  33.3%

11. The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Funk-rock band still recording and touring today.  Second-time nominee, seeded #2 in 2010.

Why they might make it:  The only act on here that might be more influential to rock'n'roll music than the Cure. Maybe. Major force in the 90s, big in both the mainstream and underground circles. Also, with Flea giving the speech for Metallica in 2009, they’re in good graces with some of the powers-that-be.  Also, having a current album and tour going confirms their legendary status.

Why they might not:  Too soon? They didn't break through the mainstream scene until the '90s, so that may play in.  They missed out in 2010, amidst a flood of other popular names, so it’s hard to tell.

Whom they paved the way for:  Maybe the future inductions of bands like Blur.  They could even point to slow, deliberate delivery types of artists.  Ray LaMontagne when he’s eligible?  Who knows?

Their biggest threats: Guns N’ Roses are the biggest name on the ballot, and are their stiffest competition, with the Cure not too far behind.

In the end: I’m not sure why they didn’t get in in 2010, but whatever it was, I’m sure there’s more of it on this year’s ballot.  Not going for them.  Induction chances:  30%

12. War

Latin-funk band from the ‘70s.  Second-time nominee, seeded #7 in 2009.

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 I believe become eligible next year.  Classic rock acts with that indescribable, yet identifiable intangible quality of coolness might benefit as well, and I’m thinking mainly Steppenwolf.

Their biggest threats: Rufus with Chaka Khan and the Spinners are probably their biggest threats.  The Cure also, since they also have that “cool” quality about them..

In the end:  I want to see them make it, but it may not happen. Like Donovan, they look to be lost in the shuffle.  Induction chances:  25%

13. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts

Harder-rock-but-not-quite-metal band from the ‘80s.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  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.

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: The most obvious one is Heart, but don’t overlook Guns N’ Roses’ role either.

In the end:  People who were upset over Percy Sledge’s induction in 2005 will really go nuts if this band makes it.  I don’t think that’ll happen though.  Induction chances:  20%

14. Eric B. And Rakim

Hip-hop duo consisting of one turntable deejay and one rapper.  Newly eligible, and thus first-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  They’re widely recognized as a highly influential rap outfit, with at least two, up to four albums that are required listening for hip-hop aficionados.

Why they might not:  Rap is still not having an easy time getting represented in the Hall Of Fame.  Additionally, Eric B. And Rakim never really crossed over beyond the R&B scene, and even then, they were never really superstars at any given point.  Their biggest hit, in fact, was as parenthetically credited co-artists on Jody Watley’s hit “Friends.”

Whom they’d pave the way for:  Rakim’s vocal stylings are the more influential part of the duo, and so, they’d pave the way for future inductions of rap superstars like Jay-Z and Sean Combs (whatever title they induct him under).

Their biggest threats:  The Beastie Boys are the obvious threat, as fellow rappers, but voters might not want to vote for more than one newly eligible artist, either, which makes Guns N’ Roses a threat too.

In the end:  We have yet to see a rap act get in when there are two on the ballot.  And much as was the case with Afrika Bambaataa, if an artist doesn’t transcend their genre, they’ll have a tough time getting in.  Induction chances:  15%

15. Rufus with Chaka Khan

Joint nomination of the ‘70s-‘80s funk group and the solo disco career of its lead singer.

Why they might make it:  Chaka Khan is a major name disco figure and Rufus as a group had a decent number of funky hits with some crossover success.

Why they might not:  Once again, we have a joint nomination, but this one isn’t quite as bad for the simple fact that a good number of their hits were billed as “Rufus And Chaka Khan.”  Plus there’s just too much competition against them: Donna Summer was a bigger disco diva, and War was a bigger funk band.  Also, once again, disco just isn’t too popular with the voting bloc.

Whom they’d pave the way for:  R&B-funk acts like the GAP Band are waiting in the wings, maybe also the Average White Band.  If the joint nomination thing catches on, it may even lead to a nomination for “Shalamar with Jody Watley.”

Their biggest threats:  As noted above, Donna Summer and War are the major threats, and maybe also the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In the end:  Those who think voting for Rufus will help get Chaka Khan inducted solo at a later date probably don’t realize that this is a joint induction, and this will include her solo efforts too.  One big joint induction.  I don’t think it’ll matter though.  I think they’re too far below the radar to reappear on anyone’s screens this year.  Induction chances:  10%

So there you have it.  My predictions.  In full disclosure, my track record since I started predicting, which was for the Class of 2007 is as follows..  2007: 5/5; 2008: 4/5; 2009: 3/5; 2010: 2/5; 2011: 2/5.  And hey, those that I’ve seeded last have gotten in before.  We’ll see how I do.  Here’s hoping I do pretty well.