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.