The 2016 ballot has been announced, and everyone's weighing in with their thoughts about it, so it's kind of expected that I do the same.
Except, everyone's already said everything I've wanted to say. Or if they haven't, I've kind of already said most of my initial reactions on Future Rock Legends. So, forgive me if I'm parroting a bit too much here. Hopefully, there will be some original content too.
First off, I went 6 for 15 again. I predicted I would. I suppose this is what's muting the enthusiasm for me, somewhat: that I stink so badly at predicting the ballot. While I wasn't the only one who got only six, I don't think anyone correctly guessed fewer than that. Also, I suppose I'm kind of bummed that there are really only one or two acts that I absolutely love. There are many on here that I like, but not love. So that's something, I guess.
Second, a lot of people, including me, were correct in our prediction that the Nominating Committee downsizing would all but eliminate any acknowledgment of the '60's. Some of the acts were recording in the '60's, but none of them peaked any sooner than the '70's. That said, a lot of folks got their hopes up that the 80's would dominate this time around. Nope. Guess again.
As far as the actual artists themselves go, the first thing I thought was, "What the hell are the J.B.'s doing on the ballot? They're just going to be inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category anyway!" Now, no one's saying the J.B.'s aren't an interesting and worthy call; however, I believe literally everybody who knows the rudimentary aspects of the Hall, and has any knowledge of its side door shenanigans has already predicted that they will be inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category. It used to be known as the Sideman category, and it's widely considered the more appropriate place to put them, acknowledging all reality, including that their name comes from the fact that they were the backing band for one famous singer with the initials "JB." It's just too on the nose to think they'll be inducted in any other capacity. That said, fans of the Godfather Of Soul can rest easy seeing their name on the ballot, knowing that they'll most likely be inducted next year.
I suppose the next artist I should comment on is Los Lobos, mainly to say this is a band I need to get more familiar with before I say too much more about. What I will say for now, is that the general impression I get is they're a niche band. As far as niche bands go, the top of that list appears to be Big Star, who appear to have a bigger fan base, just not in the powerful positions. Los Lobos, on the other hand has a smaller fan base, which in a weird way, makes them even more niche. So, I'll just let you all wrap your minds around that one.
No real thoughts on the returns of Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A. or Chic, other than to say, "Yup."
As for the return of the Spinners, I'm pretty happy. The Spinners had some awesome jams and I love smooth Philly soul. I do worry about their chances though. They don't appear to be a major priority for any one voter who isn't a NomCom member, but they could sneak through.
As for the Smiths, I too was taken aback by the fact that the NomCom hadn't given up on them as they did the Cure and the Replacements in previous years. Glad they're back, though. Thoroughly enjoy their music too.
As for Chaka Khan, my first thought is, "Thanks for the tip ?uestlove!" If he hadn't posted that, I probably would have predicted Janet Jackson, not knowing I'd be right either way. I'd love to see both inducted, but I doubt that'll happen. Janet's got the bigger name power, and the bigger potential to dominate. Still, I feel pretty awesome that I was the only person I can think of offhand who predicted JUST Chaka Khan, and not Rufus as a whole.
So the running motif of my predictions was "pick the act you hate." That paid off exactly once: Yes has returned to the ballot. I'm not a prog fan, but if this is the act they want to put in now, then it's better to get that over with, too. While I did predict Deep Purple, I don't hate them, though I'm not a big fan either.
But those eleven acts are not the reason people are so abuzz or happy, though the last two are a big hint as to the reason. The nominations for the Cars, Cheap Trick, Chicago, and Steve Miller are what really have people stoked. All four have been previously considered, and all four are considered longtime snubs by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. First off, Chicago are juggernauts of the populist scene. They are the biggest albums act on the ballot, and the second biggest singles act (second to Janet Jackson). With a lengthy career that still has a thready pulse to this day, they're an act the Hall had long tried to ignore but could no longer. The Cars on the surface don't seem like a huge snub, or at least, not uncharacteristic of the Hall: the Hall has long dragged their feet on 80's acts with at least as much underground cred as mainstream, acts that feature some heavy synth elements, and new wave in general. Still, they are an act that is popular with the general populace, respected by critics, and influential to fellow artists. So, overall, it does seem a bit odd that it's only now they're being nominated. Conversely, the nomination of Cheap Trick really is more of a surprise that it happened, than it is that it's taken so long. They really don't seem to be any more special or deserving than acts like Journey, Styx, Foreigner, etc. So why them? Well, why not? If you're going to clear out the backlog of classic rock acts, and Cheap Trick is part of the backlog, then logically at some point, they'll have to be cleared out too. Doesn't really matter when. As for Steve Miller, the waters surrounding his nomination are already getting murky, mainly because the members of the Band behind him have been excluded. There's also been some tittering about how while he's produced some amazing music, he's also created some of the most atrocious. It's ultimately a matter of not knowing what to think.
However, put those four acts together, and you quickly understand the excitement. With these four, and Deep Purple and Yes as well, you've got a real chance to turn this into the Classic Rock Hall Of Fame. At least this year. Which sets the stage for it to happen again. And again. I said it casually, and I'll say it again here: when the Hall finally inducts Chic against the voting bloc's will, they could very possibly be the last non-rap R&B act inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. After that, guitars, guitars, guitars. I really hope that doesn't happen, and to that end, even though I like all four of those newly nominated classic rock acts, I hope they don't all get through this time. I'd like to see at least three of the R&B acts get in, just so I can have some reason to maintain some semblance of hope in the Hall. (Then again, I'd also like to see a class of nine or ten Performer inductees, but we know that ain't happening either.)
So there are my early impressions of this ballot. A lot of people are particularly stoked this time around. As for me, "stoked" really only applies to the Hall of the early days. I doubt I'll ever see a ballot of fifteen names that are both quite deserving and also in my collection because I love them. This ballot, however, ain't too shabby, and that's good enough for me.