Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seeds and predictions for 2014

Let’s face it: we got spoiled last year.  Last year’s class was relatively easy to predict.  Most people had at least 3 of the 6.  I had 4.  Fellow Monitor Tom Lane nailed all six a good two months ahead of time.  This year, we’re not so spoiled.  Some major names were easy to sniff out and pick right away last year.  This year we’ve got one, maybe two.   Trying to pick the five or six we believe will be inducted has not been easy.  Oh, some people post predictions confidently, but everyone has had to think about it and turn some things over in their minds.  We know whom we want to see get inducted, but it’s hard to say who will be.  Trying to guess this year is a little tougher than last year, but this is what we do.  I for one will feel lucky if I get three correct.

1. Nirvana
Landmark grunge group.  First year eligible.
Why they might make it: They pretty much kicked off the entire grunge movement.  They may not have been the first, but they brought it to the forefront in a big way.  The alternative rock scene is more prominent than ever, thanks in large part to Nirvana.  With an iconic frontman and legendary burnout, this is the story in rock ‘n’ roll they love to tell.  This is one hugely anticipated nominee.
Why they might not:
Whom they’d pave the way for: Pearl Jam and Green Day are the obvious two.  Look for other possibilities that may not have even sounded like Nirvana to go through the door Nirvana’s opening, including the Foo Fighters, the Offspring, Jane’s Addiction, Stone Roses, Oasis…really the list goes on and on.
Biggest threats: It’s hard to see anyone as being a threat, but the guitar crowd loves Kiss and Deep Purple too, as well as Yes, the Replacements, and Peter Gabriel.  Of course, those five names along with Nirvana would be their ultimate induction wet dream.
In the end: Not to sound like a commercial for Total cereal, but you’d need the innovation of Link Wray and Deep Purple, the influence of KISS, the haunting beauty of the Zombies, and the underground cred of the Replacements to get all the Hall Of Fame merit you get from one, count it ONE, induction of Nirvana.  Induction chances: 100%

2. Chic
R&B/disco group fronted by a crackerjack production team.  This is their eighth 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, and #12 in 2013.
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.  Add to that the high profile year Nile Rodgers has been having, and the mystery and mythos of the supposedly “automatic eight” nominations.  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: 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 has been the case in the past, disco isn’t popular with the voting bloc.
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: Not a lot.  The Meters are probably the closest direct threat, though the late 70’s success of Daryl Hall And John Oates make them a threat too.
In the end: The NomCom wants Nile in, and will most likely induct Chic this year.  If they finished dead last in the vote, they’d still get in.  Induction chances: 80%

3. Peter Gabriel
Former leader of Genesis, experimental rock musician.  First-time nominee.
Why he might make it: He’s easily one of the most bohemian artists on this list of nominees, which the voting bloc absolutely loves.  While he’s not the stereotypical singer/songwriter, he would fill that position quite nicely.  He was also one of the pioneers in the music video medium, helping fuel the wildly expansive MTV empire early on. 
Why he might not:  When he was inducted with Genesis in 2010, he skipped the induction ceremony.  His reason was that he was rehearsing the orchestra for his upcoming tour, but couldn’t that have been put off for the occasion?  That kind of snub might not sit well.  Also, inconsistency of output is one of those things that could go either way.
Whom he’ll pave the way for:  Hard to say.  Perhaps he’d pave the way for other multiple inductees.  Some other Steve Winwood act or Steve himself for another nomination.  Solo Sting on the horizon?
Biggest threats: The experimentation aspect of Yes makes them a threat.  Cat Stevens is another singer/songwriter that could threaten his chances.  Lastly, Daryl Hall And John Oates are the big ‘80s name on this ballot, commercially speaking.
In the end: He’s been inducted once before, as a member of Genesis, and voters don’t usually wait too long to make a Clyde McPhatter clubber out of worthy returning faces.  Could get lost in the shuffle, but doubtful.  Induction chances: 60%

4. LL Cool J
One of hip-hop’s very first solo superstars.  This is his third nomination, seeded #8 both in 2010 and 2011
Why he might make it: Hip-hop was dominated in the early days by groups: the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., etc.  LL Cool J was one of the first solo superstars, especially in terms of crossing over to the pop charts and a wider audience.  Now, hip-hop is dominated by solo artists, because of rappers like him.  He also helped create the bridge that changed R&B into the more sultry style that it became in the ‘90s and still exists to this day.
Why he might not: He’s been the only hip-hop artist on a smaller ballot in the past, and he couldn’t get in then.  Also, his duet with Brad Paisley from earlier this year, “Accidental Racist” was eaten alive by critics, so the most recent flavor from him has been bitter to people’s ears.
Who he’d pave the way for: Other rap solo artists loom on the horizon: Ice-T is already eligible, and soon enough we’ll see Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and Snoop Dogg getting looks.
Biggest threat: N.W.A. is a dangerous threat to his chances, and some think I’m crazy seeding this guy ahead of them
In the end: Ultimately, there are two reasons I’m predicting him to make it this year: one, this is his third nomination, and no rap act has needed more than three nominations to get in; two, when the ceremonies were held in Cleveland and Los Angeles for the first times, native sons Bobby Womack and Randy Newman were inducted in the hometowns, and this is supposedly the last time the ceremonies will be in New York for the foreseeable future.  I can’t see them passing up the chance to have a native New Yorker as one of the inductees for the occasion.  Induction chances: 55%

5. Linda Ronstadt
Female musician who branched out across several styles of music.  First time nominee.
Why she might make it: She’s a powerfully versatile singer, covering a variety of styles, and while the Hall can sometimes drag their feet in nominating such acts, they do generally get inducted.  Additionally, she was key in the formation of Hall Of Fame band, the Eagles, and those friends of hers have not forgotten.  She’s also recently announced her struggles with Parkinson’s disease, which may get her some sympathy votes, and while the Linda Legion will be more than glad to inform you that she doesn’t need sympathy to get in (whether you ask them or not), it also doesn’t hurt.
Why she might not: While the Hall does embrace versatility, they are a little reluctant to recognize the more country side of rock, which over the course of her career, has tended to be where her strongest presence has been.  Additionally, her best-known work has largely comprised of cover versions of other quite well known songs.  The Ronstadt Rabid will again be very happy to inform you that she’s done original work, including songwriting, but these are simply not the songs she is best known for.  The Hall generally prefers originality, and that is not her bailiwick.  Lastly, and on the petty side, when asked about her exclusion from the Hall to date, she has said, “I don’t care.”  This is not the biggest knock against the Hall by a musician, even by acts on this ballot; however, voters tend to vote more often for those who express desire for induction.  Reverse psychology doesn’t fare too well here.
Whom she’d pave the way for: Other female rockers such as Pat Benatar, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, the Runaways, and maybe even the Go-Go’s could soon follow.  Additionally, maybe they’ll revisit country-rock stars like Conway Twitty or Gram Parsons, maybe even giving acts like Poco or the Flying Burrito Brothers a long-awaited nod.  Or maybe she could pave the way for other acts with established careers of covering others, like Johnny Rivers or Pat Boone.
Biggest threats: Aside from the ladies who sang for Chic, Linda’s the only female presence on the ballot, but those who’ve already decided Chic’s going to get in this year, come hell or high water, will claim that Chic is enough female presence for this class anyway.  Beyond that, Daryl Hall And John Oates is another hugely commercially successful act from the ‘70s on this ballot.  They could divide the ballot against her as well.
In the end: I normally had her seeded a few spots lower, but I figure I needed to officially predict an act that had much more commercial success than critical acclaim, and even though Linda’s not hated by critics, her commercial success far outshines that.  So I’ll put her on for official.  Induction chances: 51%

6. Yes
Long-lasting progressive rock band with numerous personnel changes.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: As a trend, prog-rock acts tend to get in on their first nomination, so that’s heavily in their favor.  Plus, they’re a very influential band, and the Hall has started to induct more populist choices, wherein Yes ranks highly.
Why they might not:  Critics still compose a significant chunk of the voting bloc, and critics have never been big on prog.  Plus, despite an impressive showing as an albums band, their singles recognition factor is fairly low.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Prog has a fairly long queue that rockists want to see inducted: King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake, And Palmer to name but three.
Biggest threats: Despite Yes’s innovation and artfulness, Nirvana is held as more innovative in terms of propelling musical movements (and more influential) and Peter Gabriel is arguably more bohemian.  Plus, KISS and Deep Purple could possibly steal votes away from those voters who aren’t voting strictly “classic rock + Nirvana”.
In the end: Prog-rock has so far had an easy time getting in once nominated, but that’s not going to last forever.  Yes could be the first one to need more than one vote.  And it’ll depend on whether they induct six again this year or only five.  Which makes their induction a coin toss.  If six, count them in.  If five, just miss.  Induction chances: 50%

7. Link Wray
Early rock ‘n’ roll guitarist.  First time nominee.
Why he might make it: Pioneered surf rock and hot rod rock.  Known as the inventor of the power chord, and he has scores of guitarists that have cited him as a tremendous influence.
Why he might not: Link Wray would rank right up there with Percy Sledge as a one-trick pony.  “Rumble” is the song that pretty much sums up his entire career.  He recorded a lot of records, and had a couple other lesser hits, but it all comes back to “Rumble”.  Voters might go for acts with a bit more substantive catalog of well-known songs.
Whom he’d pave the way for: As far as ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll early guitar heroes, Buddy Knox is still not in, so he could get a nod after Wray.  Otherwise, other rock guitar heroes, possibly Johnny Winter, would be on deck.
Biggest threats: Nirvana, KISS, and Deep Purple are all bigger name guitar acts who could stand in the way.  For the oldies crowd, the Zombies are a pretty big name draw as well.
In the end: Keep an eye out.  Wray could very possibly get the side door Early Influence treatment, especially if the powers-that-be don’t want to wait to get him in.  It’s something they’ve done before.  Induction chances: 50%.  Induction chances in the Performer category: 49%

8. The Zombies
‘60s British Invasion rock group that prominently featured keyboards.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it:  Not only does the Rock Hall love the British Invasion, but so does the general public.  This is an inductee they’d celebrate together.  Also, one of the more distinct of the British acts.  Their sound was very unique and hard to confuse for anyone else.  Lastly, Rod Argent’s trip to the museum and the subsequent love letter he wrote to the foundation afterward has his band in their good graces.  It’s the kind of flattery that could get them anywhere, even inducted.  Bizarrely, some even call the recent popularity of zombie movies, TV shows, literature, and even apocalyptic planning, as a reason, since all things zombie are kitschy right now.  I don’t buy into that reasoning, but some do.
Why they might not: They were pretty short lived, and have only a handful of songs that people remember, even though they love them dearly.  It might just not be enough.
Whom they’d pave the way for: With Procol Harum missing out this year, an induction for the Zombies might rejuvenate that charge.  It could also lead to future nominations for Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits, the Spencer Davis Group, and maybe a left field pick like the Troggs.
Biggest threats: Link Wray as an oldies pick, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band as a ‘60s rock act; Peter Gabriel, Deep Purple, and Yes as British rockers.  Nothing too direct, but with only five or six getting in out of sixteen, the threats don’t need to be direct.
In the end: I originally had them seeded number three, but they’ve been rising and falling rapidly.  Nirvana and Chic plus three or four of the six seeds that come after would be a prediction that I’d call realistic as the induction chance percentages hopefully show.  I’d almost predict a class of eight just so I didn’t have to pick, but that’s not happening, and so might not the Zombies getting in this year.  Induction chances: 48%

9. N.W.A.
Pioneer gangsta rap group.  Second time nominee, seeded #5 last year.
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: LL Cool J isn’t being taken seriously as competition for N.W.A., but he absolutely is.  Plus the heavily-sampled-by-rap acts of Chic and the Meters might make a mess of things too.
In the end:  If N.W.A. couldn’t get in alongside Public Enemy last year, then we’re a few years away from where two rap acts get in on the same year, and I’m still sticking with home field advantage going to LL Cool J this time.  Induction chances: 45%

10. Deep Purple
Highly influential hard rock band.  Second time nominee, seeded #8 last year.
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.
Biggest threats: Nirvana and KISS are the two big ones, and Yes could steal a few votes away from them as well.
In the end: Interesting stat about my record of predictions: keep an eye on the #10 seed.  Three of the four years I’ve done this where there’ve been more than nine nominees, the #10 seed has gotten in (Jimmy Cliff, Donovan, Heart).  The year it didn’t, the #11 seed got in (Darlene Love).  So maybe #10 should be called the Upset Special.  Still, at this point, it seems like Deep Purple 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%

11. Daryl Hall And John Oates
Pop duo from the ‘70s and ‘80s.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: They were a powerhouse of commercial success, and really, one of the first ten acts most would mention as being “quintessentially ‘80s.”  Considered the most successful duo of all time.  Though a bit late, they’ve had a mini-resurgence of popularity thanks to movies and TV shows.
Why they might not: “Most successful duo of all time” is one of those honors that is little more than a curio, only having meaning to those who like them and want to emphasize or even exaggerate their importance.  Critically not too well loved, they’re an act some people love to hate.  Lastly, Hall is another one of those who’ve badmouthed the foundation because he wasn’t inducted, calling the people in charge “a bunch of dinosaurs”, because there’s absolutely no way that could possibly work toward keeping him out.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Not too many close imitators, their door-opening could be for other pop-rock groups with slight overtones of soul in their music.  Maybe Huey Lewis And The News.
Biggest threats: Linda Ronstadt is another commercially successful powerhouse that could barrel right past them.  Chic is another act from the ‘70s and early ‘80s that could stop them cold, as is Peter Gabriel.
In the end: Blue-eyed soul almost never gets in on the first ballot (think the Four Seasons, the Rascals, Laura Nyro), Hall’s comments against the powers-that-be are no help, and an act that as many people say sound “dated” as there are who call them “timeless”.  Not enough unity to get them in.  Induction chances: 35%

12. KISS
Hard-rock guitar band.  Second nomination, seeded #1 in 2010.  Oops.
Why they might make it:  They are one of the most influential bands not in yet, quite possibly the most so on this ballot. Whether you love or hate them, they're a band that has a huge following, and is responsible for a LOT of young boys picking up the guitar.  They’re regarded as one of the most overdue inductions.  Overall, KISS is a solid guitar-band with serious name recognition.  Also, the most commercially successful albums act on this ballot.
Why they might not:  Opponents of KISS have a neat little saying that sums up their feelings: “brand, not band.”  And there’s some truth to that.  Even Gene Simmons has said in the past that KISS has been more dedicated to their marketing and merchandising than their music.  Also, they’re not a very innovative band, musically speaking. From a technical perspective, they do not rank among the most stand out.  Lastly, Simmons has also been one of those who in interviews has dissed the Hall, saying they’ve lost sight of rock ‘n’ roll, offering instead a very myopic definition of rock ‘n’ roll that makes him sound ignorant.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Bon Jovi could get a second nomination after KISS, or maybe Motley Crue or Def Leppard could finally garner one for themselves as well. 
Biggest threats: Deep Purple is the most direct competition, and Nirvana is a shoo-in as a popular, influential guitar band
In the end: It took Black Sabbath eight nominations to get in, and this is only KISS's second.  The journey of a thousand miles, as it were.  Induction chances: 30%

13. Cat Stevens
’70’s singer/songwriter.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.
Why he might make it: The Hall loves singer/songwriters, especially from the ‘70s, and Cat’s definitely one of them.
Why he might not: He’s not the best-known or most revered singer/songwriter, nor a real rocker.  Others point to his conversion to Islam, stating that voters might hold an anti-Islam bias, but I call baloney on that.  However, his conversion DID lead to a self-imposed departure from the music scene that lasted for a long time, and limits his overall output and chances.
Whom he’d pave the way for: Similar singer/songwriters could include Jim Croce, Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot, Carly Simon, or current fan favorites like Todd Rundgren, Warren Zevon, or maybe even a second induction for Carole King.
Biggest threats: Peter Gabriel isn’t really considered a singer/songwriter because he doesn’t fit the iconic style that most ’70 singer/songwriters are known for.  Nonetheless, he is a bona fide, denotative singer/songwriter that stands directly in Stevens’ way.
In the end:  As much as the Hall loves singer/songwriters, and right on the tail of Randy Newman would make him a strong choice, it just seems he’ll get lost in the shuffle more than anything.  Induction chances: 25%

14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Blues-rock band from the mid-‘60s.  Third-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #14 last year..
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.
Biggest threats: The Zombies and the Meters are more prominent ‘60s acts, and Link Wray is a pioneering name to compete with against this outfit.
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 Replacements
Independent/underground band from the ‘80s and early ‘90s.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: They’re a band of sizeable influence with some longevity.  Plus, Paul Westerberg’s solo career makes them a name to consider.  Additionally, the movement is growing to get more non-mainstream scene acts recognized and inducted.
Why they might not: The movement is growing, but it’s not getting much in the way of results.  The Cure failed to get in a couple years ago, the Stooges needed eight tries, and many others still haven’t even been nominated.  It’s a big climb uphill.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Other alternative scene bands could see nominations, like the Smiths, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, XTC, maybe even another nomination for the Cure.
Biggest threats: Nirvana also has alternative-scene credibility, maybe even more than the Replacements.  Deep Purple and Yes have some as well.
In the end: If the Cure couldn’t do it for the Class Of 2012, the Replacements probably won’t be able to for 2014.  Induction chances: 15%

16. The Meters
Funk band that did much session work, rooted firmly in New Orleans.  Third-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #13 last year.
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. 
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.
Biggest threats: Chic is the biggest threat, and the rap acts could detract from other forms of R&B
In the end: It’s a surprise they’re back again this year, so someone wants them in, but once Chic is in, this will be an act that will also need several nominations to get inducted.  Not this time around.  Induction chances: 10%

So there’s this year’s ballot.  I’ve ranked them by merits, by taste, and now by likelihood of induction.  To recap: predicting Nirvana, Chic, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J, Linda Ronstadt, maybe Yes, and possibly Link Wray as an Early Influence.  Time to wait and see what happens.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to see who makes the final cut.

    I'm hoping Janet Jackson finally receives a nomination next time around!