Saturday, December 8, 2012

My picks for 2013


After drawing this out for much too long, I now present my prediction for the Class of 2013.  I’ve given them all seed placements, but the only real advantage of doing so is that if, like last year, they do induct more than five, the sixth is automatically my sixth pick, so that I’m covered there.  And of course, I’ve been horribly wrong before, having in the past seen those I’ve seeded dead last end up being inducted.  It’s a tough call for the most part, and while I have been 100% in the past, I’ve also been 40% before.  Speaking of percentages, most of them are pretty much pulled out of thin air, and not some mathematical calculation.  So, time to put up or shut up.

 

1. Public Enemy

Landmark hip-hop group, known for politically charged lyrics.  Newly eligible, thus first-time nominee.

Why they might make it: Highly influential in the hip-hop community, and highly respected outside of it.  The political and social themes in a heavy amount of their songs make them the standout darlings.

Why they might not: This is the ninth consecutive ballot to have at least one hip-hop act on it, and so far, they’ve only been successful just over a third of the time.  It’s also worth noting the embarrassment that has been hype man Flavor Flav’s public profile over the past decade, and coupled with the scandal of Professor Griff’s anti-Semitic remarks of the past, there’s some bad energy working against them.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Hip-hop and rap are pretty much a given to be on any ballot in the future, so take your pick of any such star.  Most likely, you’ll see the future nomination of solo Chuck D, and maybe even cause some waves for the recognition of earlier acts like the Sugarhill Gang, or a renewed effort for Afrika Bambaataa, hopefully including the Soul Sonic Force this time.

Who’s their biggest threat: It’s obvious, fellow rap outfit and newly eligible N.W.A. are the cut and dry competition for this crew.

In the end: We’ll be hoping for recognition, if not now then down the line, for their Bomb Squad.  When Bruce Springsteen lists your work among those that makes the earth shake and spit fire, the sky to split apart and for God to pour out—all while inducting U2 into the Hall—you’re in, first ballot.  Induction chances: 95%

 

2. Donna Summer

One of the key figures of disco during the 70’s and early 80’s.  Fifth-time nominee.  Seeded dead last (#9) in 2008, and #6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012. 

Why she might make it: 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 the diva who also died this past year, Whitney Houston.  She’s a lock for nomination once Donna is in.  Janet Jackson is also a strong possibility, and Mariah Carey will be eligible within the next few years, too.

Who are her biggest threats: Chic is really the only direct competition against her this year, though Kraftwerk is also quite renowned for their influence upon the dance music of today.

In the end: She’s been deserving for years, and now that she’s passed away, they’re gonna induct her, saying we lost a superstar too soon, while bemoaning that they didn’t get her in sooner.  I’d say that sentiment will be the theme of her presenter’s induction speech too.  Induction chances: 80%

 

3. Randy Newman

Artistic singer/songwriter with a distinctive vocal delivery.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.

Why he might make it: The Hall loves the super artistic singer/songwriters, and he fits the bill.  His gift for irony and wordplay as well as conscience that pours through the pores of his music make him a treasure among the higher echelons of the Rock Hall.

Why he might not:  The last time he was nominated, he lost out to two first time eligibles, a superstar act from the ‘70s, a major blues figure, and an act from the ‘60s basically known for only one song.  Good thing there’s nothing like that on this year’s bal—oh snap.  Being serious now, to use a fishing analogy, Newman’s nets are strong, but they don’t cast very wide or far.  Newman’s appeal generally tends to be either hipster or Disney, niche either way you look at it.  I said it then, I’ll say it again: his biggest assets are also his biggest liabilities. 

Whom he’d pave the way for: Being a former one-and-done nominee and singer/songwriter, Cat Stevens seems to be the next in line, though they might try and induct Carole King as a Performer again one of these years.  There’s a chance for others like Jim Croce, Don McLean, Carly Simon, or even Buffy Saint-Marie, Phil Ochs, and Tim Hardin, to name a few.

Who are his biggest threats:  With no other nominees particularly esteemed as singer/songwriters, though many of them did write their own stuff, his biggest threats are ultimately his fellow former one-and-done nominees.  In this case, Kraftwerk, the Meters, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band

In the end: Initially, I’d written him off as having no chance once again, but then I remembered 2009.  The first year the ceremonies were in Cleveland, and they inducted hometown hero Bobby Womack.  With the 2013 ceremonies set to happen in Los Angeles, it just seems a little too much of a call to come on home for the local lad.  In addition to the love of singer/songwriters of course.  Induction chances: 60%

 

4. Rush

Progressive and hard-rock trio.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: Hugely innovative, influential band with an impressive string of extremely well-selling albums and a fan following that borders on cultist, ranking among the likes of the Grateful Dead.

Why they might not: Because the casual fan’s opinion is not given the same weight and credence as the industry insider’s, and the industry insiders that have a vote in the proceedings are largely not fans of prog, and certainly not fans of Rush. Unless there’s a significant chunk of the voting bloc that are among the huge stock of fans, they’re relying on voting folks to put aside their personal tastes and vote for them (my sample ballot shows me failing to do this for Rush’s sake).

Whom they’d pave the way for: The Hall Of Fame does not discriminate or favor nationalities of origin (just nations they impact it seems), so anyone who says Rush opens the door for more Canadian acts is either an idiot or a Canadian exhibiting signs of stereotype.  The acts they would really pave the way for would include the likes of Uriah Heep, UFO, and X, as well as possibly prog bands like Emerson, Lake, And Palmer, or King Crimson.

Who are their biggest threats: The clear competitor is Deep Purple.  Other possible divisions would occur against the likes of Heart, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, and even Kraftwerk,

In the end: When the band finally made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine a few years ago, it was a shock to much of the music world, since editor-in-chief Jann S. Wenner was suspected to be playing a role in keeping them out of the Hall.  Before the cover, they hadn’t even been seriously previously considered.  With them having finally been on the cover, some view it as Wenner giving his blessing for their induction, and Wenner’s word does carry weight with the voting bloc.  They’ve since been considered and are now a nominee, and I say the momentum’s enough to get them in.  Induction chances: 55%

 

5. N.W.A.

Pioneer gangsta rap group.  Newly eligible, thus first-time nominee.

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.

Who’s their biggest threat: Public Enemy, being more artistically revered, more literate, and more favored on this ballot than any other act are the serious contenders to keep N.W.A. out.

In the end:  All those things that people hate about rap is ultimately not all that far removed from the bad boy antics and personae of rock ‘n’ rollers.  Chances are those things all ultimately serve to get the musicians laid, preying on the bad boy image that ladies presumably prefer.  And if there’s any year where two rap acts can both get in on their shared first year of eligibility, this is the year.  Induction chances:  51%

 

6. The Marvelettes

R&B girl group that gave the Motown empire its first number one hit single on the Hot 100.  First-time nominee.

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 one year was without a strong presence of the ‘60s (and even that did have an artist that recorded albums in 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.

Who are their biggest threats: Donna Summer is actually the biggest threat, seeing as she represents both female presence, and non-rap R&B, and is practically a shoo-in.  Don’t forget about the other acts that were around in the ‘60s, like Procol Harum, the Meters, Albert King, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and even Deep Purple.

In the end: If we could be certain that they’d induct six again, instead of only five, I’d still be leery, but a little more confident in their chances.  And if they do, I think they’re a solid pick for the honored half-dozen.  Assuming they return to five though, I think they’ll miss out, but they’re strong enough to be the upset special this year.  Induction chances: 49%

 

7. Albert King

Highly influential blues singer/guitarist.  First-time nominee.

Why he might make it: Blues players generally fare well on the ballot: Buddy Guy, B.B. Kiug, John Lee Hooker, etc.  Plus he’s a highly respected man among the echelons of blues musicians, as well as highly influential.  Additionally, after seeing last year’s blues pick, Freddie King, get inducted as an Early Influence, there may be a concentrated effort to cast enough votes for him so that they don’t have to back door induct him as an Early Influence.

Why he might not: On the other hand, there’ll be those who figure that if they’re just going to induct him even if he doesn’t get enough votes, why bother voting for him, since his induction is assured.  Additionally, some voters would prefer to keep the focus on living musicians to make a good televised program out of the induction ceremonies.

Whom he’d pave the way for: Albert King is the first known Previously Considered blues musician to be nominated in awhile, so his induction would possibly start the cascade to clear that queue, meaning keep an eye out for Junior Parker (hey FRL, you had the right idea, just the wrong guy this time!), Junior Wells, and Slim Harpo.

Who’s his biggest threat: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is the other major blues act on the ballot, but other sixties acts like the Meters and Marvelettes might block his path.

In the end: It would be an awfully bad choice if they did induct him as an Early Influence, but it’s a wild card possibility that sadly has the chance of fruition.  Induction chances: 50%; induction chances in the Performer category: 45%

 

8. Deep Purple

Highly influential hard rock band.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it: This is a band that has been heavily demanded to get inducted, right up there with KISS and Rush, and nowhere more heavily than on Eddie Trunk’s “That Metal Show”, but even without Trunk, they’re a band that has been loudly touted as among the biggest omissions because of their huge range of influence.

Why they might not: The reason they’ve been omitted for so long is simply because the powers-that-be don’t hold them in very high esteem, and those people have sway with the voting bloc.  Whether it’s because they just don’t care for their style, or think of them as a one-trick pony for “Smoke On The Water”, getting them recognized this much has been a major struggle.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Other hard and classic rock acts like Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, and Ted Nugent could all benefit from Deep Purple finally getting in.

Who are their biggest threats: Rush is the clearest present danger, but don’t entirely rule out Heart or Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.

In the end: Alice Cooper getting in on their first nomination may be a key sign that I’m not paying enough attention to, but I feel that this will be an act like Aerosmith, Queen, or AC/DC—absolutely deserves to get in on their first nomination but somehow ended up needing two or three—or will be like Black Sabbath or Lynyrd Skynyrd needing nominations in the high single digits before finally getting approval.  Either way, this won’t be their year.  Induction chances: 40%

 

9. Kraftwerk

European progressive act that pioneered electronica.  Second time nominee, previously unseeded.

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.

Who are their biggest threats: Rush and Deep Purple are jockeying for the attention in experimental music, and Donna Summer is the clear choice among artists that influenced the world of dance music, and Chic is also in the mix too.  Other former one-and-done nominees, such as Randy Newman, the Meters, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band may also detract.

In the end: It’s been ten years since they were last nominated, and they’ll need another turn or two before finally getting in.  Induction chances: 35%

 

10. Heart

Rock band from the late ‘70s and ‘80s led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.  Second-time nominee, seeded #8 in 2012.

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 heavily 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 Deep Purple and Rush are also candidates to hurt their chances.

In the end: Heart may pull a Donovan on me (who was seeded #10 last time and got in), and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they did, but then again, I was shocked when Donovan missed his first time in 2011; I wasn’t shocked when Heart missed last year, and I won’t be if they miss again.  Induction chances: 33.3%

 

11. Procol Harum

British invasion group that first appeared in America in the late ‘60s, considered a progenitor of prog-rock.

Why they might make it: Prog rock has slowly been making progress in getting recognition, and as one of the originating bands to regularly combine classical and baroque themes into rock and roll, Procol Harum would be a great act to use to build momentum for it.  Another reason is because the Hall loves the British invasion of the ‘60s.  The past five classes have had four such acts inducted.  Lastly, Robin Trower is a venerated name in some guitarist circles.

Why they might not: Of all the acts on this ballot that might qualify, they are the most rightly accused of being a one-trick pony.  While they did have other revered songs like “A Salty Dog” and “Conquistador”, so much of their credibility still comes back to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”.  Also, for proto-prog British acts, the outcry has been far greater for the Moody Blues.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The Moody Blues are the biggest act waiting in the wings, as are both other British invasion acts such as Manfred Mann, the Zombies, the Spencer Davis Group, and even possibly Herman’s Hermits; and also prog rock acts like Yes and Jethro Tull.

Who are their biggest threats: Rush and Kraftwerk both threaten their prog prestige this year, while the Marvelettes are the biggest competition from the ‘60s, as well as others like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Meters.

In the end: If the Hall thinks inducting Procol Harum will placate the prog crowd, they’re crazy, especially if they think it’d make them forget about the Moody Blues.  Either way, the pattern for British acts recently has been one act needing multiple nominations, then one gets in on their first, then multiple, then first… this time should mean this group misses out.  Induction chances: 30%

 

12. Chic

R&B/disco group fronted by a crackerjack production team.  This is their seventh appearance on the ballot, not seeded their first two times, seeded dead last (#9) in 2007, #7 in 2008, #5 in 2010, and #10 in 2011.

Why they might make it: 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.  Lastly, we know of Nile Rodgers’ struggle with cancer; they may try to get him inducted before it becomes another posthumous induction that will be rued for not having happened sooner.

Why they might not: We Rock Hall Monitors have a term we call “Chic Syndrome,” which is used to describe a musically proficient act that many are turned off from by the cerebrally detoured lyrics, which you see in Chic songs, though they are hardly the worst offenders.  It’s simply called “Chic Syndrome” because aside from the near alliteration, Chic’s the group that’s been repeatedly nominated and denied.  “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)” wouldn’t make any list of “Best Lyrics”, even if that list went to one million.  And as we see with Donna Summer, disco isn’t popular with the voting bloc.

Whom they’d pave the way for: Other disco groups waiting in the wings include the GAP Band, KC And The Sunshine Band, and maybe even the Ohio Players.  It could even lead to inducting more soul-funk groups like the Bar-Kays, the Average White Band, and Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street (Rhythm) Band.

Who are their biggest threats: This isn’t the first time that Donna Summer and Chic have appeared on the ballot together and both fell short of the mark.  Donna’s the biggest threat, practically being a shoo-in.  Kraftwerk factors in as well, for reasons explained above.

In the end: If Donna were still alive, I’d say it’d be lucky seven for them.  As such, Chic will be the sole, current leader of acts with the most nominations, but still not in.  Induction chances: 25%

 

13. The Meters

Funk band that did much session work, rooted firmly in New Orleans.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.

Why they might make it: The Hall loves the sound of New Orleans.  In 2011, they inducted Dr. John, and in 2012, they inducted Cosimo Matassa, an engineer who helped record and shape the New Orleans sound.  Additionally, the Neville Brothers have been starting to get some consideration as well, and two of those brothers were one-time members of the Meters.  This group might be able to ride those waves into the Hall this year.

Why they might not:  They’re one of the more obscure names on this ballot, never really breaking through the glass ceiling, commercially speaking.  No real signature tune that they’re instantly linked to by John Q. Public.  Also, this is the act on this ballot that has the greatest time elapsed between nominations.  They just seem a little out of the blue.

Whom they’d pave the way for: The sound of New Orleans could be carried on in the future with the Neville Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and even Virginian Gary U.S. Bonds, whose sound drew big from the New Orleans style.  Beyond New Orleans, the Bar-Kays would be another great instrumental group that also did session work.

Who are they’re biggest threats: They’re one of four former one-and-done acts on this ballot, and they’ll all be vying for attention, so consider Randy Newman, Kraftwerk, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band the closest threats, as well as the ‘60s R&B act the Marvelettes.

In the end: When you bring back a nominee that has gone more than five years since their last nomination, getting them in this time doesn’t usually happen.  ABBA managed to do it after a seven year absence, getting inducted in 2010, and with four such acts on this ballot, one of them is bound to break through, but I’m betting that will be Randy Newman, not the Meters.  Induction chances: 20%

 

14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Blues-rock band from the mid-‘60s.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.

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:  I’m operating on the assumption that they want to get as many important blues and blues-rock names inducted before they go after the big draws of Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble, and possibly even George Thorogood And The Destroyers.  The best bet for next in line in this vein would be Johnny Winter.

Who are their biggest threats: Albert King is the bigger blues name this time around, and as I’ve said three other times already, Randy Newman, the Meters, and Kraftwerk are threats for reasons I’ve stated enough times already.

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: 15%

 

15. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts

Harder-rock-but-not-quite-metal band from the ‘80s.  Second-time nominee, seeded #13 last year.

Why they might make it:  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.

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 the roles of Deep Purple and Rush either.

In the end:  Being good time rock and roll will always make them popular on your party playlists, but it won’t get them into the Hall.  Not this time, at least.  Induction chances:  10%

 

So after much procrastination, I finally have my picks put up.  Some picks may be unpopular, but I’m going to stand by them.  And I’ll probably fall hilariously facedown with these picks, since I haven’t averaged better than 2/5 since 2009.  Time to wait and see.

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