Friday, December 8, 2017

Predictions for 2018: Bet (mostly) on White

After evaluating the nominees by merits and ranking them by personal preference, it is now finally time to list my predictions for the Class Of 2018 for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  The predictions are based on seeding them, ranking them by likelihood of induction, as determined by me.  In the past few years, the classic rock format has dominated the classes.  Bands whose heights of popularity were during the 1970s and 1980s, and were comprised almost entirely of White men have comprised at least half of each class's Performer inductees for the past few years.  I'm expecting that to continue, hence the subtitle for this entry.  Time to rank them in order of likeliness as I see them.  I could be wrong; I have been before.

Jazz-influenced singer.  First-time nominee.
Why she might make it:  People from every walk of music praise her musical abilities, and acknowledge the huge impact she has had.
Why she might not:  She's generally considered more of a jazz singer, having little to do with any sub-genre of rock and roll music, however it may be defined.
Whom she'd pave the way for:  There aren't too many like her, so guessing that could prove tricky.  However, for the sake of discussion, maybe she'd pave the way for Odetta or someone more obscure but more in line with traditional conventions of rock and roll, like Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings.
Biggest threats: Her most direct competition is probably Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but could include the Meters and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.
In the end:  When you're one of the few Black people, as well as one of the few women, on Jeff Ament's shirt, and when Dave Davies of the Kinks takes to Twitter to practically demand your induction, it's a pretty safe bet many other voters agree.  Odds of induction: 90%

Pop-metal band most popular during the 1980s.  Second time nominated, seeded #8 in 2011
Why they might make it:  They dominated the fan vote, and so far, the top finisher in the fan vote to date has always gotten inducted.  They were also probably the most popular of all the nominees, and the Hall is getting more populist.
Why they might not:  They have almost nothing in the way of critical support.  Additionally, the band's transition towards more country-tinged music slowly erodes their rock credibility.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Def Leppard is another band of similar style that has been considered before, but not yet nominated.  The trend toward populism could cause some heads to turn that way.
Biggest threats:  Rage Against The Machine had a harder edge on their guitars, Judas Priest is another metal band with more credibility.
In the end:  Jon's come a long way since "R2-D2, We Wish You A Merry Christmas."  And I'm sure he'll be grateful if no one mentions it when he's inducted.  He was probably hoping nobody would even mention it this Rock Hall season, but his luck was not to hold out.  Anyway, the band won the fan vote.  Until the trend is broken, it's folly to bet against it.  Odds of induction: 85%

Alternative rock act from England.  Newly eligible, first-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  They're quasi-nicknamed "the last important rock band," and have been widely celebrated in pretty much all of their output.
Why they might not:  They're a polarizing act.  It seems you either love them or hate them, regardless of how much you respect their art.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  The world of indie rock that is still known to the mainstream world somewhat could conceivably include Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire.
Biggest threats:  Rage Against The Machine is also newly eligible and could steal votes from them, Kate Bush and the Moody Blues are also known for being experimental.
In the end:  I think they're a little too well-loved by insiders to miss out.  Banking on this one.  Odds of induction: 80%

Early prog-rock band.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  This is a group that people have been clamoring for years to get inducted  They are ranked somewhere near the top of most people's list of snubs.
Why they might not:  They've been snubbed because people with deep roots and long reach within the institution had been actively trying to make sure this band stays out.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  After the Moody Blues, the prog community is probably most staunch about King Crimson getting in, with Jethro Tull probably somewhere relatively close behind.
Biggest threats: The Zombies are something of a threat, being a fellow British act from the '60s.  I'd also put Radiohead as an act that could detract from their votes, albeit the effect might be slight.
In the end:  I overestimated John Q. Public's love for this band, though they finished in second place in the fan vote.  Still, I think the fellow musicians in the voting body are squarely behind this act.  Odds of induction:  70%

Heavy metal band from the 1970s and 1980s.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  They are early heroes of heavy metal, highly influential.
Why they might not:  They didn't have a lot of songs that are in the public consciousness, due to how they were promoted and marketed, and might be written off as a one-trick pony.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Motorhead is most likely next in line behind Judas Priest, and UFO and Uriah Heep probably would follow.
Biggest threats:  Bon Jovi is also considered a hard rock/metal band of sorts, and could divide the ballot against them.  Link Wray is also a heavily influential guitarist and could snag a few votes away, too.  Don't overlook the MC5 either, in this regard.
In the end:  Heavy metal is tricky to predict because it doesn't get nominated too often.  Metallica got in on their first try, Black Sabbath needed eight nominations, and Deep Purple needed a few as well.  Early metal tends to need multiple nominations, and I was originally going to seed them eighth or ninth.  But last minute, I'm placing them to make it this year.  Odds of induction:  55%

Blues-based rock group.  Fifth-time nominee, unseeded the first two times, seeded #3 in 2011, and #5 in 2017.
Why they might make it:  They've got Jann S. Wenner and Little Steven in their corner, which is big.  Little Steven has a pretty good track record of getting his nominees in, and every couple years or so, a pet act of Wenner's gets in, such as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 2015.  Additionally, they're a great live act with an electrifying frontman who has been on hand for the Hall's ceremonies a time or two.  Lastly, the death of the eponymous member this past year, Jerome Geils, makes them the Death Fairy pick.
Why they might not:  Despite all the people in their corner, they're a tough sell.  On paper, they just don't stack up as being very worthy.  They're an act that is easy to forget in the shuffle of everything, and that could hurt.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Since they were originally rooted in the blues, maybe getting them in will get the Hall to look at blues artists again and go for Johnny Winter, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, or Albert Collins.  It could even open a door for Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes. 
Biggest threats:  The Cars are a '70s and '80s act that had a bit of commercial success, too, as is Dire Straits, so they are the most direct competition.  Bon Jovi and Judas Priest are classic rock acts that could steal votes too.
In the end:  Lately, the Rock Hall's classes are pretty sparse on repeat nominees getting inducted.  We're due for a purge at some point, but with Bon Jovi topping the fan vote, it'll need to be a six-inductee class for this group to make it.  But I think they will this time.  Odds of induction:  50%

(Gospel singer from the '30s and '40s)
(Why she might make it:  Widely considered a long-overdue candidate for the Early Influence category, it's encouraging to see her finally getting some attention.)
(Why she might not:  By nominating her in the Performer category, there is a chance that they are placing all their chips on inducting her as a Performer and won't hold discussion about her as an Early Influence.)
(Whom she'd pave the way for:  Gospel outfits like the Golden Gate Quartet, Swan Silvertones, and Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi could be considered as well.)
(Biggest threats:  Again, her nomination as a Performer could block this path.)
(In the end:  Everyone knows she belongs in this category.  She's heavily deserving, but will they do it?  Coin toss here.  Odds of induction as an Early Influence:  50%)

Rock band from England, prominent during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  "Money For Nothing" is considered a monumental record, and was the first video that aired on the British version of MTV.  Add "Walk Of Life" and "Sultans Of Swing," and you've got a case really starting to build.
Why they might not:  Arguably, their unquestionable musical excellence doesn't go much deeper than those three songs, and some argue that they couldn't continue to build and get better after their first album.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Tough call, but this is the act most likely opening the door further for Boston and Foreigner, and maybe reignite the flame for a solo Sting induction. 
Biggest threats: The J. Geils Band, the Moody Blues, and the Cars are all the most direct competition, while Bon Jovi and Judas Priest might nab a few check marks that would otherwise go to these guys.
In the end:  If Jerome Geils hadn't passed away this year, this band would be seeded sixth.  That was literally the difference on this one, and they could still somehow sneak through.  Odds of induction: 49%

Politically charged nu metal band.  Newly eligible, first-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  Tom Morello is on the Nominating Committee, which is going to carry weight with the voters.  Additionally, in the current political atmosphere, inducting a band that hates everything the current administration stands for would be considered the Hall's way of "sticking it to the man."
Why they might not:  The Hall has a gift for controversy, and this nomination reeks of "conflict of interest" and could even serve to make the band the new Chic.  Plus, nu metal may not be popular enough to get votes.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  It's hard to guess, but perhaps other acts like Slayer and Anthrax could get some attention in the wake of this band's induction.
Biggest threats:  Radiohead is the other newly eligible and most direct threat.  The MC5, whom Morello acknowledges their influence, could be more appealing to voters who think the Hall needs to be more chronologically correct with their inductions.
In the end:  They have a serious chance, but classic rock has been on a roll in the past few years, and Radiohead is the much safer bet between the two newly eligible acts.  So, much like Jane's Addiction, I'm not betting on this one.  But it's a tough cut.  Odds of induction: 45%

Early rock ‘n’ roll guitarist.  Second-time nominee, seeded #7 in 2014.
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: Dick Dale would be a huge name to go after once Link gets in.  As far as ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll early guitar heroes, Buddy Knox is also 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:  The Zombies are another classic oldies act that some would like to see in.  The MC5 and Judas Priest are also influential guitar-based outfits.
In the end:  He'd be a great addition, but it'll always be a tough go for him.  Odds of induction: 40%

New-wave rock band.  Third-time nominee, seeded #5 in 2016, and #8 last year.
Why they might make it: There aren't too many bands that can be innovative, widely acclaimed by critics, and popular with the listening public.  The Cars pulled it off and made it look effortless.
Why they might not: New-wave and synth-rock are pretty minimally represented in the Hall, and it's not a widely loved style by the powers-that-be therein.
Whom they'd pave the way for: An induction for the Cars probably won't bode too well for acts whose popularity was not in America, so don't expect a door to open for Gary Numan or Tubeway Army, but the strong synth lines could help connect the dots towards Duran Duran somewhere down the line.
Biggest threats:  The J. Geils Band are another classic rock band that enhance any good-time party.  Bon Jovi also fits that bill and could detract from this band, as could Dire Straits.
In the end:  On paper, they should have gotten in two years ago.  I guess, like War, they're having a hard time not being lost in the shuffle, which I think will happen again.  Odds of induction:  37.5%

English synth-pop duo.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  Their sound is infectious and one of those that might contend for epitomizing the entire decade of the 1980s.  Additionally, Annie Lennox as both a musician and a public figure for femininity and feminism, makes them a formidable contender.
Why they might not: From Kraftwerk to fellow nominee Depeche Mode, the synth-driven sound of rock and roll has had a hard time getting recognized.  Really, the 1980s in general have trouble getting respect.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  I'd expect Annie to break down the door for more women.  Maybe we could finally push through Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Gloria Estefan And The Miami Sound Machine, as well as more synth-driven acts like Duran Duran.
Biggest threats:  Depeche Mode is the most obvious threat in their way.  I actually see Rufus featuring Chaka Khan as a bit of a threat for them too.
In the end:  The question keeps coming up from fellow watchers, "Who doesn't love Annie Lennox?"  Well, I don't.  I don't hate her, but I'm not a huge fan either.  All that aside, I see the classic rock steamroller continuing through and flattening their hopes.  Odds of induction: 35%

Synth-rock outfit from England.  Second-time nominee, seeded #11 last year.
Why they might make it:  Depeche Mode represent something pretty innovative and signature of the '80s, and despite never really grabbing the brass ring at any one time, they're recognized as one of the biggest names in their field for the entirety of their career and catalog.
Why they might not:  Their style is ultimately not that well-loved, especially by critics in the voting bloc.  Plus, with the Smiths, the Replacements, and the Cure all failing to get inducted in the past, it just seems like so much of the '80s is going to be kept out for awhile. 
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Simple Minds have been considered before, and an induction of Depeche Mode might give them a shot, as well as the Thompson Twins and Tears For Fears, and maybe even Dead Or Alive.
Biggest threats:  Eurythmics is the clearest direct competition.  Bon Jovi is the go-to act for the '80s.
In the end:  In a weird way, Depeche Mode can be described as a "big fish in a small pond," particularly when discussing their subgenre's representation in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  That's not saying they're small potatoes, just that what they bring to the Hall's table isn't getting asked to be passed around all that much.  And with a ballot this large and a small class likely, they'll drop through the cracks.  A lot of people like them, but can't find room for them this time around.  Odds of induction: 33.3%

One of hip-hop’s very first solo superstars.  This is his fourth nomination, seeded #8 both in 2010 and 2011, and #4 in 2014.
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 years ago, "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 threats: No other rap acts on the ballot, unless you count Rage Against The Machine, but Rufus featuring Chaka Khan could draw a lot of the R&B votes away from him.
In the end:  Classic rock is dominating the conversation right now.  The comments about last year's ceremony--how the time spent inducting 2Pac was when a lot of people chose to use the bathroom--yields a bleak picture.  I think Nina Simone is going to be the sole, token "diversity" inductee this year.  Truth hurts.  Odds of induction:  30%

14. THE MC5
Hard-rockin' proto-punk band.  Third time nominated, Unseeded the first time, seeded #12 last year.
Why they might make it:  They're heavily respected for their innovation and influence.  Plus, who wouldn't want to see an MC5 tribute performance fronted by Fred "Sonic" Smith's wife Patti?  That could only be awesome.
Why they might not:  They were short-lived and didn't have much presence, and still don't have much name recognition with the general music-listening public.  Also, distortion as an effect is novel and artistic, but overall is a gimmick that doesn't break down walls for them.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  They could help pave the way for acts like Television and the also-once-nominated New York Dolls.
Biggest threats:  Strangely enough, the biggest competition is Rage Against The Machine, a band influenced in part by the MC5.  The Zombies are also a threat in their own right.
In the end:  It's nice to see them nominated again, looking forward to seeing their name appear again because this won't be their year.  Odds of induction: 25%

‘60s British Invasion rock group that prominently featured keyboards.  Third time they've been nominated, seeded #8 in 2014, and #14 last year.
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.  
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:  Those nostalgic for oldies also have Link Wray, the Moody Blues, and the MC5 to consider.
In the end:  One can never count the '60s out entirely, but with the Moody Blues on the ballot, a much more clear favorite, this is one not to bank on.  Odds of induction: 20%

Funk group from the '70s and early '80s. Second nomination, seeded dead last (#15) for 2012.
Why they might make it: They had an amazing run with styles that included roots music, funk, disco, and ballads. Plus, Chaka Khan is a well-known singer, so her name power could help.
Why they might not: R&B, particularly anything related to disco, has a difficult time getting recognized. Plus, some still worry that this would prevent a future induction for Chaka Khan as a solo artist.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Their varied history could be good news for acts like Delaney And Bonnie, as well as bands like Sade, but in reality, would probably only help other funk outfits, like the GAP Band, or the Average White Band.
Biggest threats: The Meters are the most direct threat, and LL Cool J could snare votes away.
In the end: If they could be nominated as just "Rufus," it would quell ambiguity and rumors of a joint induction.  But even without ambiguity, they still are a longshot.  Odds of induction: 16.67%

British songstress, known for experimental sonic styles. First-time nominee.
Why she might make it: Her work is highly acclaimed for its artistry and inventiveness. Additionally, she is quite influential to female musicians even to this day.
Why she might not: Her music is inventive to the point of being difficult for the masses to listen to. She didn't rely much on sales and did not tour much, so she's not a name people think of enshrining.
Whom she'd pave the way for: Artistic female musicians, like Tori Amos could come through the door Kate would open.
Biggest threats: For artistic women, Eurythmics are the most direct competition, arguably followed by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.
In the end: I honestly doubt she'll see a second nomination any year soon, let alone getting in this year. Odds of induction: 15%

Funk band that did much session work, rooted firmly in New Orleans.  Fourth-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #13 in 2013, and dead last (#16) for 2014.
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, 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: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan is the most direct threat, and LL Cool J is also a threat in the R&B arena.
In the end: This is one of those bands that will need the push from critics, historians, and industry insiders who aren't band members to get in. The voting bloc has increased about to where it was before they reduced it drastically, so there is a chance, but it is doubtful. Odds of induction: 12.5%

Gospel singer from the '30s and '40s. First-time nominee.
Why she might make it: She commands a lot of respect in the music industry, and to some, basically invented rock and roll.
Why she might not: By now, everyone and their Aunt Ruthie has pointed out that she shouldn't even be a Performer nominee. Many suspect she will be an Early Influence inductee if she doesn't get the votes here, so why waste a vote?
Whom she'd pave the way for: She is such a singular figure, that after much thought, the only person thought of to follow is Big Mama Thornton.
Biggest threats: The biggest threat is the possibility of induction as an Early Influence. As far as other artists, possibly Nina Simone.
In the end: What is she even doing on the ballot as a Performer nominee, anyway? Odds of induction: 10%

20. CHIC
I know, they weren't even nominated, but it just doesn't feel like a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ballot without them. But with Nile inducted last year... Odds of induction: 0%

So there you have it. I'm predicting six inductees as Performers, the top six seeds, and probably one Early Influence inductee. Hope you enjoyed my breakdown of this year's nominees, and we'll know very shortly how our predictions play out.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

With help from Spotify, personal preferences 2018.

Now that the objective measurements of merits are complete, it's time to be real about whether or not I like the artists nominated for next year's class.  As I've said in the past, I do this because the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame lists "unquestionable musical excellence" as the primary criterion (beyond the 25-year eligibility rule), but how is that even defined?  It probably means a mite more than simply liking an act, although not caring for an act seems to have been grounds enough for exclusion for years, though that is now changing.  This year, the personal taste factor has been something of a conundrum.  From the outset, I said I wasn't really enthused about this year's ballot because there really weren't any acts I loved all that much on it.  And while that is still mostly true, the fact is I wasn't very familiar with too many of them, either.  Well, that changed this year.

About a month and a half ago, I finally decided to start upgrading my tech, and I finally got a smartphone.  I downloaded Spotify and proceeded to spend a day at work listening to each of the nominees.  My work day usually involves about four or five hours of office time and four hours of time out in the streets.  So, I spent about four or five hours just binge listening to each of the nominees.  And I gotta say, I really don't hate any of the nominees after all.  This list is going to rank them one to nineteen, but even though someone's got to finish last, there's really not a bum in the lot.  I know that sounds platitudinal, but I've never been shy about admitting I flat out don't like a nominee: in the past, I've expressed disdain for Sting, Yes, and Cat Stevens, so when I say I actually found binge-listening to the nominees while working to be both quite pleasant and very rewarding, know its sincerity.

I should point out, though, that listening to the nominees while working is not always the best way to get a feel for their music.  For example, Kate Bush is not the kind of artist you should listen to while doing blue collar work.  Surprisingly, neither is Depeche Mode, though Eurythmics works well.  Link Wray and the Meters, both having recorded a lot of instrumentals, are not the best call for the workplace either, if you have to keep checking your phone for song titles, since there are few lyrics to infer titles from.  But the benefits are undeniable. When you listen to an artist for four or five hours straight, you get a feel for the artist's overall style and their catalog, especially when it's on Shuffle Play.  It wasn't perfect: almost all the Zombies' playlist came from either their 2013 live album, or their 2015 reunion album Still Got That Hunger.  And if you search for just "Rufus," you will get the nominee, but also the Australian electronica group also called Rufus Du Sol, as well as a duet by Rufus And Carla, plus the "Naked Mole Rap" from the Kim Possible soundtrack.  Do not ever listen to that last song.  You will regret it.  Overall though, four or five hours covered a lot of ground, though not every song.  But I don't feel you have to listen every note of every song to know whether or not you like an artist.  I think the amount of time I spent for each nominee is sufficient.  However, I did supplement my Spotify with YouTube, going back over the charted hits on the various Billboard charts, and even the Cashbox and Record World charts to give a listen to any significant songs Spotify may have skipped over.  So between Spotify and Youtube, I believe I've gotten a serious handle on the general oeuvre of each nominee.  So with that in mind, time to incorporate my feelings on each nominee, where I'll include my favorite song by each, and average it out with their merits.  Interestingly enough, relative positions and favorite songs have changed from where they've been in the past.  That's why one is supposed to never stop doing their research.  Here we go!

1. Nina Simone
Such a varied and wonderful singer.  I won't say I liked every song of hers that I heard, but pretty darn close.  Whether she took four and a half minutes with "Four Women" or just over a minute with "Color Is A Beautiful Thing," she always said it well.
Favorite song: "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"
Merit rank: 2
Average of ranks: 1.5

2. The Moody Blues
This one actually surprises me a bit.  I really don't care for prog as a general rule, but they made a point not to eschew catchiness, combined with their nearly immaculate vocal harmonies, which I'm a always a sucker for.
Favorite song: "Your Wildest Dreams"
Merit rank: 4
Average of ranks: 3

3. The Cars
In our current social climate, I think some of the lyrics in some of their songs really would not go over well.  That said, they're still wonderful listening.
Favorite song: "Tonight She Comes"
Merit rank: 7
Average of ranks: 5

4. The J. Geils Band
It's actually a downside for me that the live recordings are so much more electric than the studio, as I stuck pretty much to judging them by their studio recordings.
Favorite song: "Just Can't Wait"
Merit rank: 18
Average of ranks: 11

5. Bon Jovi
Initially, I thought this would be number one.  I grew up in the Midwest, and Midwesterners love hair metal.  Regardless of race, creed, and whatnot, Midwesterners are mostly united by a shared love of hair metal.  And if you don't like it, we'll just tell you, "Have A Nice Day!"
Favorite song: "Born To Be My Baby"
Merit rank: 15
Average of ranks: 10

6. The Zombies
If I hadn't been so irked that most of what I was listening to on their binge session was from 2013 or later, I would really have enjoyed their latest album more.  It was still good, and the classics still hold up.  By the way, in my initial reactions to the ballot, I commented that of all the nominees, there was only one whose music I had previously purchased for personal pleasure, rather than furthering my Rock Hall research.  That would be these guys.
Favorite song: "Tell Her No"
Merit rank: 16
Average of ranks: 11

7. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
I love a good gospel song.  Though I have to admit, due to the way historians compile anthologies, the lines blur a little.  My favorite song was initially going to be "Shout Sister Shout" until I discovered that was technically a Lucky Millinder And His Orchestra record.
Favorite song: "Strange Things Happening Every Day"
Merit rank: 1
Average of ranks: 4

8. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
It's something of a shame that a lot of the personnel on Seal In Red were not only not part of the nomination, but also not listed among the snubbed members, as that album is a big part of getting them ranked this high. Chaka's voice is awesome, but so is this album without her.  It's amazing.  Listen to it.
Favorite song: "Take It To The Top"
Merit rank: 14
Average of ranks: 11

9. Eurythmics
This is the biggest shocker of all.  I figured the vast majority of their stuff sounded like "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" and "Here Comes The Rain Again," both of which I despise.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much more they were than just the moody synth sounds.  I still don't love Annie Lennox nearly as much as fellow monitors Tom Lane and AlexVoltaire, but I don't hate their music as much as I thought I would.
Favorite song: "When Tomorrow Comes"
Merit rank: 10
Average of ranks: 9.5

10. The Meters
The sound of New Orleans is hit-and-miss for me.  I love Fats Domino, don't care much for Dr. John, love some of the Neville Brothers but not other songs.  So, the Meters had some songs I really enjoyed, and they also had "Fire On The Bayou."
Favorite song: "They All Ask'd For You"
Merit rank: 17
Average of ranks: 13.5

11. Link Wray
His instrumentals are wonderful; however, he's no singer.  That said, even when he sang he was saying some important stuff.  Still worth listening to, though I'd skip the Robert Gordon collaborations.
Favorite song: "Copenhagen Boogie"
Merit rank: 11
Average of ranks: 11

12. LL Cool J
It really is quite amazing how his music, even within the same era, combined such masculinity and fragility, and even some sophomoric takes on life too.  Oh yeah, and mad respect for sampling the Moonglows.
Favorite song: "The Do Wop"
Merit rank: 3
Average of ranks: 7.5

13. Judas Priest
I didn't think I'd be able to put up with them for four hours, but their brand of metal is actually pretty melodic, and even when it isn't, most of it is still pretty awesome.
Favorite song: "United"
Merit rank: 8
Average of ranks: 10.5

14. Depeche Mode
I was actually surprised to realize I don't like this act as much as I thought I did.  The early stuff, with the higher-pitched synth lines and their attempts at harmonies have a certain allure for me.  Even though the production values are far superior on their later stuff, I like catchy.  What can I say?  I'm an egalitarian music snob.
Favorite song: "Just Can't Get Enough"
Merit rank: 9
Average of ranks: 11.5

15. Radiohead
Another surprise that I liked them more than I thought I did.  I loved "Idioteque" in college, but really never caught on to them.  Almost ranked them above Depeche Mode because the good is better than Depeche Mode's good, but the ones I didn't care for pull their overall average just a notch lower.
Favorite song: "No Surprises"
Merit rank: 6
Average of ranks: 10.5

16. Dire Straits
Sorry AlexVoltaire!  Only marginally better than they did in merits!  This was the biggest disappointment for me.  I was really expecting their body of work to be more like the biggest hits.  In reality, they're more akin to Gary Lewis And The Playboys: the hits they're remembered for are fantastic, and so are some of the B-sides; however, the rest of it is pretty weak.  With a few exceptions, outside the big three, they strike me as a troubadour outfit, a slow jams band for White boys who can't dance, and a poor man's E Street Band rolled into one.  But the hits still hold up quite well.
Favorite song: "Walk Of Life"
Merit rank: 19
Average of ranks: 17.5

17. The MC5
I'm not a huge fan of their cacophony, but mining their stuff deeper really has given me a greater appreciation for them.
Favorite song: "The American Ruse"
Merit rank: 13
Average of ranks: 15

18. Kate Bush
Admittedly difficult to binge-listen to at work; however, this has more to do with the fact that a lot of her work is the kind of aural art you'd expect to find in the auditory wing of a sort of museum for high art for all your senses, as opposed to conventional definitions of "songs," especially from an artist you'd expect to see enshrined in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  That said, it would be a wonderful conceptual coup if she got inducted and one of the pieces she performed was "50 Words For Snow."
Favorite song: "Eat The Music"
Merit rank: 12
Average of ranks: 15

19. Rage Against The Machine
Again, I don't hate any of the nominees.  I'm not big into nu metal, but it's great music to work along too, and when I could make out the lyrics, it was worth absorbing.  This is how I discovered just how innovative their sound is too, so don't think I'm being patronizing here.  As I said at the top, someone has to be in nineteenth place, but I still enjoyed it.
Favorite song: "People Of The Sun"
Merit rank: 5
Average of ranks: 12

So when you consider the averages of all the ranks, the logical course of voting for me should theoretically be Nina Simone, the Moody Blues, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Cars, and LL Cool J.  In actuality, I have been voting for Nina Simone, LL Cool J, the Meters, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, and Kate Bush.  This has been part of me sticking to my guns, per my socially conscious open letter to Nominating Committee (though Rufus is interracial).  That said, if the five highest averages got enshrined (let's make it seven, with Sister Rosetta Tharpe going in as an Early Influence and the six other highest averages, which here includes Eurythmics and Bon Jovi), I would be pretty elated with that class.  Is that what I'm predicting?  Stick around, that's coming really soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Getting a grasp on 2018's nominees' merits.

After much deliberation, it is now time to look at our nominees and see them in terms of their merits.  We all have our favorites, but when we're truly honest, do they actually deserve enshrinement?  And how does one measure an artist's merit?  Well, by now, folks are relatively familiar with what I have called the four I's.  They stand like pillars to hold up an artist's merit.

This year, however, I'm introducing a fifth I.  It's something I've toyed with doing for awhile, but held off on.  And it's a different I word and idea.  Instead of thinking of my four I's like pillars, think of them more like fingers on the hand.  Influence is the index finger because it points the way for other acts to come.  Impact is the middle finger because it's the longest and usually the most noticeable.  And if you're a music snob, and a nominated act pretty much only has Impact in their favor, their nomination can seem obscene.  Innovation is the ring finger because while it seems weakest, for some people it's longer than the index, and it's very noticeable if it's missing.  Intangibles is the pinky because it's shortest and is on the end usually.  This fifth I is the thumb.  It's the thumb because it is opposable.  Whereas the other four I's are the pro factors for an artist, this is the con factor, why some might be opposed to their nomination and possible induction.  Because while you can hold onto something with the four fingers, having that thumb really helps you get a grip on an artist's nomination.

So this year, we have five I's: Innovation, Influence, Impact, Intangibles, and Issues.  Where and when did they break new ground, who followed in their footsteps, how big were they, what else is there that gives depth, and why might some be opposed to their nomination?  Will I regret this?  We'll see.

Influence: Hugely influential as a guitarist and as a singer, still noteworthy today.  From blues, to rock and roll, and even modern gospel.
Innovation: Her live performances included daring licks that some consider proto-rock and roll.
Impact: A few hits on the R&B charts and supposedly a pair on what was the Pop charts at the time.  Album charts weren't a thing back then really; albums barely were.  Additionally, her version of "Silent Night" still remains one of the all-time classic recorded versions of that beloved hymn.
Intangibles: People who hadn't even heard of her five years ago are claiming her as an egregious snub.  Once they discover her, they're hooked.
Issues: Her studio recordings are very clearly gospel, and she predates the general conventions of rock and roll history by a decade or so.

Influence: She commands immense respect from musicians of all styles, races, and genders, with numerous covers of her material and singers attempting to emulate her style.
Impact: A couple handfuls of hits scattered over a few decades, plus another handful of songs considered to be classics despite not charting.  Despite being steeped in jazz, which has always been an album-preferring format, only ten charted albums on the Billboard 200, only two getting into the upper half.
Innovation: Jazz is one of those styles where it's always inventive while never being anything new under the sun.  So, to measure Nina's merits here shows her contributions to be both immense and infinitesimal.  Schrodinger would love this.
Intangibles: She isn't just jazz.  She could sing blues, gospel, broadway, and a few of her songs could even be arguably considered soul.  Extremely versatile.
Issues: While flirting with soul, which is very much recognized as part of rock and roll, the vast body of her work really isn't so recognized.  While the definition of rock and roll isn't engraved in marble, various people with varying definitions widely agree that she's the nominee who is "the least rock and roll."

Influence: Hip-hop music grew out of block parties and was largely borne of DJ culture.  LL Cool J is a seminal figure for what made it an emcee’s game.
Impact: The man’s had a steady stream of hit singles in both the R&B and pop scenes.  A respectable album chart showing, too.  Plus, with his acting career, he also has a substantial name recognition factor.  Most commercially successful R&B act on the ballot.
Innovation: His innovation and influence pretty much complement each other to the point of blurring the lines.  In addition to virtually obsolescing the DJ from rap music, he helped make it a solo braggadocio show, replacing rap outfits.  Additionally, he’s recognized for both making rap more accessible in smaller bites (shorter songs, meaning more likely radio play) and for creating the bridge of R&B stylings that we still see today in non-rap R&B music.
Intangibles: LL Cool J didn't just make it an emcee's game, his image is also what helped make rap the game for the ladies' man.
Issues: Between his acting career eating up more of his time later in his career, and the embarrassment of "Accidental Racist," which he contributed to, his most recent flavor is sour.

Innovation: They're widely considered among the inventors of prog rock, if not the band that really invented it.
Influence: All prog rock.  Maybe not all of them took direct cues from the Moody Blues, but every prog band after them owes them a huge debt.
Impact: One of the featured characteristics of prog is difficulty finding acceptance in the mainstream world.  Not for these guys.  They are the highest ranked albums' artist on this list, and in the top five singles' acts among the nominees.
Intangibles: They are capable of great stylistic diversity, which is something not seen with every nominee or inductee that comes along.
Issues: Prog has never garnered a lot of critical respect, and while some don't care about critics, there's a reason they are able to do what they do, and their opinions have weight.

Innovation: Since this isn't my strongest area, I'll defer to the expertise of others, but my research shows incredible combinations of elements of metal, rap, punk, and even reggae.  Apparently they're considered among the pioneers of Nu Metal, or at least brought it as close to mainstream as can be while not being called sellouts.
Influence: Because they resonated with underground circles, this is harder to measure, but there are a lot of rock bands that took their lead from them.
Impact: A few hits on the pop and rock charts, with charting albums.
Intangibles: A very politically charged outfit, they brought their message strong and hard.
Issues: It's sometimes hard to grasp their message because you can't always discern what Zach De La Rocha is saying.  Additionally, they received a blow to their ego and perhaps their credibility when former vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan called them his favorite band of all time.

Influence: Among the chief torch-bearers of the ethereal rock sound, their influence is still felt when listening to non-mainstream rock.
Innovation: While they didn't invent the ethereal rock sound, what they did with it is unique and easily identifiable to them.
Impact: About as big with the general public as a band can be without being lowest common denominator.  A respectable number of hit songs and albums.
Intangibles: With songs like "Creep," "No Surprises," "Idioteque," and "Knives Out;" Radiohead might be the second most versatile nominee on this year's ballot in terms of their musical stylings, second only to Nina Simone.
Issues: Thom Yorke's voice does not sit well with everyone; additionally, their love/hate relationship with their own fame has caused a few hiatuses that make them occasionally inconsistent.  Also, not everyone is that fond or respectful of their most recent works.

Innovation: One of the front runners of new wave music, they helped define an entire movement in the music world.
Influence: Again, one of the front runners of new wave.  They influenced a lot of the new wave and even synth-pop and synth-rock acts of the '80's. 
Impact: A very commercially successful group with a string of Top 40 hits.
Intangibles: This was a band that seemed to have something for everyone, including critics, who also had a lot of good things to say about them.
Issues: I'm drawing a blank on this one, actually.  Maybe Ric Ocasek's going solo kept them from realizing their full potential.

Influence: Their level of influence is right up there with Motorhead (sorry, I'm not going to pull up special characters to give you the umlaut, you know where it goes), and a noticeable but not too wide distance behind Black Sabbath.
Innovation: Not the first metal act, but being from metal's first decade, they had a huge say in what metal would be and how it would be identified.
Impact: Only one hit single, but with over a dozen charted albums, they have a respectable catalog filled with songs that fans love to extol and debate over.
Intangibles: They're among the highest-touted snubs among hard rock aficionados and dilettantes, most notably Eddie Trunk.
Issues: Because they weren't as commercial as many other acts, and because they weren't Black Sabbath, Judas Priest are sometimes held in lower esteem.

Influence: As one of biggest names of that synth-driven style that could be known by any number of names, they fit in as an influence to many acts that came after in the decade or two that followed.
Impact: A noticeable string of charted hits and non-charted classics, as well as hit albums to note.  They were big in both the Album and Modern Rock Tracks charts, as well as the Dance charts.
Innovation: Not super innovative, but the fact that they were all-synthesized may speak a word or two in this category.
Intangibles: This is a group that even the most hardcore of rockists wouldn't complain too much about if they got inducted, which is not inconsequential.
Issues: While everyone may enjoy a song or two from them, their overall style is not for everyone, and may not sit well in discussion circles.

Impact: A solid run of pop hits and even some dance chart hits, and a handful of charted albums that sold reasonably well.  
Influence: With Annie Lennox at the helm, Eurythmics were highly influential to female musicians to come, as well as dance music acts.
Innovation: A lot of the synth-rock acts came up together around the same time, so who pioneered what is hard to say, but Eurythmics were definitely unique in their dominant pulsations prevalent in their songs.
Intangibles: Annie Lennox is a solid figure for feminism, not just for her image, but very much in the duo's music.
Issues: Not everyone is onboard with the legitimacy of synth-pop, plus Annie Lennox's solo career may appeal to Small Hall folks who may wish to wait for Lennox to be nominated solo.

Influence: Pretty much the entire reason this man is on the ballot.  The importance of the power chord as heard on "Rumble" is hard to overstate.  His style of playing on that record and the subsequent ones has influenced myriads of guitarists.
Innovation: Not the premiere rock and roll guitarist, but his style did help shape the sub-genre of surf rock, which is significant.
Impact: “Rumble” is about on par with Les Paul’s “Nola” among cornerstones of guitar music.  From the charts, not much of a showing: one album and four singles.
Intangibles: In 2012, the Hall inducted six groups that they had previously only inducted the frontman.  In the event of a Link Wray induction, the Ray Men really should be included, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks it’s a major oversight either.
Issues: He's often dismissed as a one-trick pony, and even when he's not dismissed, he has trouble getting enough clamor and attention competing with others who had many more hits.

Innovation: Maybe my ears are off, but I swear I hear infusions of Celtic music in many of her songs.  Anyone else hear it, and is there any other major artist and/or Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominee that can say that they combined Celtic influences consistently in their music?  Maybe not the most famous songs, but when you listen to her albums.  Maybe it's just me.  Either way, she's incredibly unique to the point where you have to acknowledge it as innovative.
Impact: She's significantly successful in the United Kingdom, and has a noticeable amount of album' chart success in the United States, though not many hit singles.
Influence: I'm not too familiar with who all cites her as an influence, but between her solidarity as a successful songstress as well as an abstract thinker, she's had to have influenced some serious artistry.
Intangibles: She is probably the most artistic act on the ballot, and by that, I mean highbrow art.
Issues: While it's a poor excuse to exclude her, her sporadic output and promotional reticence, including a refusal to tour, does marginally inhibit her ability to reach larger audiences, combined with a style that is too highbrow for most commercial outlets, it makes her nomination unusual to say the least.

13. THE MC5
Innovation: Possibly the first to intentionally and regularly use distortion as a key component of their sound, they are also credited as one of the pioneers of punk rock.
Influence: Tremendously so, again, especially in the worlds of punk and hard rock.
Impact: One hit single, two charted albums, both of which at one point were on Rolling Stone's list of most important albums of all time.
Intangibles: They're a strong example of attitude that some say is more important than the actual music when defining "rock and roll."  On top of that, given the breadth of artists, including Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees that have come out of the Great Lake State, simply the fact that they came from Michigan, especially from Detroit, almost kind of adds an extra layer of credibility to them, much as being British in the '60s might also be considered a bonus.
Issues: Between a limited commercial run, and often incomprehensible lyrics due to the use of distortion, they might not pass a few people's bars for "Unquestionable musical excellence."

Impact: In its own right Rufus struck big a few times with great and funky R&B songs like “Ain’t Nobody”, “Once You Get Started”, and of course, “Tell Me Something Good.”  
Innovation:  The sounds they made with their rhythm section were seldom, if ever, heard before, and their insistence on vocal harmonies with funk in a way that even Sly And The Family Stone didn’t do as consistently makes their sound something somewhat new and creative.
Influence:  Really helped bring funk to the disco scene, which was later carried on by the GAP Band and Chic.
Intangibles: In his Top Pop Singles books, Joel Whitburn lists Rufus under the letter K as part of Chaka Khan.  However, in his R&B singles, Disco/Dance tracks, and Hot Albums books, Whitburn lists Rufus as a separate entity from solo Chaka Khan.  That, and the fact that many of the singles from the group did in fact credit “Rufus And Chaka Khan”, inducting them under this identity actually still leaves the door open for a separate, second, and solo induction for Chaka Khan.  And that might not be a bad idea.
Issues: The sinking feeling that only either the group Rufus or solo Chaka Khan will get inducted should inspire voters to vote for this act, but often works counter, refusing to vote for either until the Rock Hall offers more clarity, perhaps by nominating both entities on the same ballot.

Impact: They're the biggest singles' act of the entire ballot, and in the top three albums' acts.  Their song, "Livin' On A Prayer" has been called the song that most epitomized the 1980s by VH1.
Influence: Not the biggest, but as one of the most successful hair-metal acts, they were undoubtedly influential upon a lot of one- and two-hit wonder acts that tried to duplicate their success.
Innovation: Virtually nil, though some credit them for the popularization of the talk box beyond mere gimmickry.
Intangibles: Bon Jovi is one the few hair-metal acts that survived and retained some relevance after Nirvana practically destroyed the sub-genre with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and Bon Jovi managed to do it the longest and strongest.
Issues: They are considered the schlockiest act on the ballot, being compared to Journey in terms of who's a lower common denominator.  Additionally, the aging rocker factor is hitting Bon Jovi like a ton of bricks, as they've done some decidedly country outings, including that abominable duet with Jennifer Nettles.

Impact: Despite only having seven hits on the pop charts (including the Bubbling Under), their big three are really well remembered, and so powerfully symbolic of the ‘60s that it overshadows the short-lived life of the group.  Also, with an album in Rolling Stone’s upper fifth of Top 500 albums of all-time, it’s a critical respect thing, too.
Innovation: When you first hear them, it’s almost indescribable.  It’s moody and haunting, but not really blues, or even jazz, though there may be elements of those styles in there.  But it’s unique, and infectious.
Influence: Somewhat limited, perhaps due to their short-lived run as a group, but every now and then, some hint of their style creeps up, the most well-known of which might be the Guess Who’s “Undun.”
Intangibles: Being a 60’s British Invasion group always means something, not just because of the way the British Invasion collectively shook up the musical landscape, but also because of the music itself of each outfit.  The Zombies have a high general populace approval overall.
Issues: They were very short-lived and are as much being derided as a pet pick of Little Steven as they are being hailed as a Hall-worthy act from the 60s.

Influence: They helped carry on the New Orleans sound, and bring it into the ‘70s and beyond.
Impact: A couple handfuls of hits in the singles charts, and they had a few hit albums too.
Innovation: A little bit, alongside Sly And The Family Stone and the JB’s, helping shape and update the sound of funk.
Intangibles: Two of the members of the Meters were named Neville… as in the Neville Brothers, who have also been looked at as potential candidates.  Perhaps the Hall wants this group in first, then have two more members of the Clyde McPhatter Club.
Issues: Considered by some to be too minor.  As a band that did a lot of session work, some of their songs sound like backing tracks that never had vocals added.

Impact: A noticeable run of both hit albums and hit singles.
Influence: Not a whole lot of citation, but their style of blues-rock likely created some ripples.
Innovation: Not much here either, though perhaps a uniqueness and diversity of sound could be argued.
Intangibles: An electrifying live act.  Considering how many acts sound great on record but are duds on tour, or those whose tours are the true and sole reason to be excited about an act, the fact that they're a band that has great stage presence and that most people like at least one studio recording by them is not something to overlook entirely. 
Issues: It's no secret they're a pet act of Jann S. Wenner, and many believe that without his seal of approval, this band wouldn't even be in the discussion.

Impact: A small but respectable string of hits and other well-remembered classics.  Their first album is pretty well lauded to boot.
Innovation: Not a lot, but it's worth noting that they're one of the few really big acts of the time that you could hear infusions of country and some folk in their guitar-rock sound.
Influence: Marginal, but Mark Knopfler himself is pretty well-respected as a musician.  I do, however, wonder if maybe they were an influence on Tom Petty's solo career.
Intangibles: Hey, did you know Mark Knopfler got a dinosaur named after him?  Apparently, the scientists who named it were listening to a lot of Dire Straits when they discovered several remains of the creatures and realized they discovered a new dinosaur.   Masiakasaurus knopfleri.  It just adds to their overall coolness factor.
Issues: Outside of their three major hits, their music is largely unknown and very different, so if you only know, "Sultans Of Swing," "Money For Nothing," and "Walk Of Life," you probably don't really know Dire Straits, and many would say there's little to their case beyond those three songs.

So that is how this year's nominees measure up, according to my metrics.  For devotees of acts that didn't rank nearly as high as you'd like, always remember: getting nominated is a huge distinction in itself.  It's like reading a roll call of those who graduated with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.  Even if you're at the bottom of that list, you're still considered much more accomplished than those whose names weren't read at all.  Coming soon, the ranking of nominees by personal tastes.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Musings On The 2018 Ballot

Extra, extra!  Read all about it!  The nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2018 have been announced.  Once again we have a whopping nineteen, count 'em nineteen, nominees.  This ballot is already being praised for being strong and deep, and there certainly is some credibility to that claim.

The first thing you may have noticed is that the goal of my plea over the summer was not met.  Indeed, it was by some metrics a spectacular failure, though I do not view it that way.  While I'm a little heartbroken, I can't say I'm too surprised.  As I said before, getting Nominating Committee members to even read it was a longshot.  Overall, I don't feel too bad though.  I did what I could to persuade one facet of our society to be a more vocal proponent for the good of overall society, and as they say, virtue is its own reward.

Good thing, too, because this ballot honestly doesn't hold much personal reward for me.  As I've said on Twitter and Facebook, there aren't many nominees that I'm actually a big fan of.  A casual fan, yes, but except for one, none of these nominees are acts that I've ever bought any of their music for any reason other than Rock Hall research.  I'm not deeply chagrined, however, since most of my favorite acts have already been enshrined, many of them long ago.  The takeaway from this paragraph is don't be too upset when you see my ranking of the nominees based on my own personal tastes in music; there will be some razor-thin margins deciding between numbers three through number sixteen.  And don't even hold me to those numbers.  I haven't even begun to think about it yet.

The thoughts I am having include begrudgingly agreeing with fellow monitor DarinRG, in that an English-centric ballot is probably much needed for the Hall.  Much like the classic rock deluge of the past couple years, the "big in Britain" bloc has been bursting at the seams for some time now, too.  While I'm glad that the mother country is finally getting some more looks, it's also sad because I love soul music.  England may swing like a pendulum do, but when Small Faces are considered among the premium soul acts from your country, just don't brag about it too much, m'kay?  I chalk this up to another backlog created by the "Small Hall" mentality that dominated the institution for so many years, and still has a tight grip around the throat of rock and roll accolades.  Of course, there is probably no act on this year's ballot more British than Kate Bush, in that she's huge in England, but while not totally obscure in the States, the comparison of celebrity is not even close.

While there are, I believe, a majority of acts on this ballot coming from across the pond, that's actually not so much what I'm noticing as I am the extreme potential for ballot divisions this year.  For example, Depeche Mode and Eurythmics may just divide the ballot between each other in terms of synth-rock representation, and both could fail to get in for that.  Between the newly eligible favorites, we could see a division between Radiohead and Rage Against The Machine in that they're alternative-scene rock bands that are newly eligible this year.  While that may be where the similarities end, when you've got five or even six votes on a ballot of nineteen names, superficial similarities could be enough to found a schism upon.  Such could also be used to compare '60s acts with few hits and a seemingly short run, but long-remembered, i.e. the Zombies and the MC5, and Link Wray too, if you include the '50s.  Don't overlook having two metal bands on the ballot either: Judas Priest and Bon Jovi.  Metal fans are probably raging at the comparison between early metal and '80s hair metal, but if you remember anything about the '80s, even the faint echoes that I have, having been born during the Reagan years myself, it wasn't entirely uncommon for Bon Jovi and Judas Priest to have overlap in their fan bases.  For rural America back then, metal was metal, and you took in any and all of it with equal initial enthusiasm.

Another potential ballot division lies between Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Nina Simone, two African-American ladies that have a had a lot of the musical community clamoring for their induction while also speculating that maybe the delay of their respective recognition has been due to not knowing how to enshrine them.  Already, the watching community is suffering the early onset of rage-confusion induced aneurysms at Tharpe's nomination in the Performer category, and not announced induction as an Early Influence.  Indeed, it is a bit puzzling, as Tharpe's prime was during the '40s, before the generally-accepted genesis of rock and roll, and yet, there is merit to the argument.  As a article once postulated (see entry #3), she invented rock and roll.  Not Ike Turner or Jackie Brenston, not Louis Jordan, not Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bill Haley, or Elvis Presley.  Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  The link in that article is broken, so here's the video they originally linked to.

Of course, that's a live performance, and not the records, which allows the performer a little more liberty to cut loose, and it's only a select sample of her catalog, but the point is, there's an argument to be made.  As for Nina Simone, she doesn't predate rock and roll so much, but her style is more accurately described as "jazz."  While rock and roll comes from a variety of influences and embraces many different styles in a diasporic or umbrella-like manner, even rock and roll has its borders and boundaries toward what can be included in the nomenclature.  Nina Simone arguably lies primarily outside that limit.  Her case could be interesting too.  They inducted jazz legend Miles Davis as a Performer, but they also kind of sidestepped the "Early" in "Early Influence" when they inducted Wanda Jackson and Freddie King.  So, they could go either way with Nina Simone here.  Either way however, they severely damaged the legitimacy of inductions as Early Influences of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Nina Simone just by nominating them for the Performer category this time around.

The representation of rock-era R&B is paltry this year, possibly to prevent ballot division.  Rufus featuring Chaka Khan return, showing a devotion to Chaka by the Hall.  All I can say is I hope she is eventually inducted twice, once for the group and once as a soloist.  Also returning are the Meters who keep popping up, but seem to struggle with support, at least in the fan vote.  Like Rufus, they are funky, but they aren't really associated with the disco scene as Rufus was.  Rap is represented as well, with LL Cool J returning to the ballot.  Monitor DarinRG commented on FRL about the Hall trying to clear the way by giving LL Cool J little to no direct competition.  This may be true, but LL Cool J has failed when he's been the only rap act on the ballot before too.  In my humble opinion, when it comes to R&B, the only way to "clear the way" for acts like LL Cool J is to inundate the ballot with R&B so that it's mathematically impossible to NOT have R&B inducted, and make sure that the pet act, LL Cool J in this case, is the strongest name.  But I could be wrong.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ballot these days if the chance for classic rock to dominate wasn't possible.  Bon Jovi and Judas Priest have already been mentioned, and both get airplay on classic rock radio stations, but they're not the only examples.  Two more are making a repeat appearance after last year's ballot.  Both the Cars and the J. Geils Band are back.  With the death of Jerome Geils this year, they prove to be the death fairy pick and that could propel them into the Hall this time around.  The Cars are back, trying to not be the next Black Sabbath or Stooges.  Dire Straits is an act that not many saw coming, but is pretty widely accepted as a good call.  Other than our newly eligibles and the two women who could arguably be inducted as Early Influences, Dire Straits is the only act on this year's ballot that has never been nominated or even been on the Previously Considered list before.  Could be an act to keep our eyes on.  Of course, probably the biggest news is that the Moody Blues have finally been nominated, though sadly, Denny Laine is going to be shafted again.  With no induction of Wings, and not on the list of members included in this nomination, poor Denny Laine will again be on the outside looking in.  The Moody Blues are among the longest-grieved snubs by the Rock And Roll community, with many naming them as the most pressing omission.  Now, it's already been stated that predicting the fan ballot will be difficult, but when you look at the number one finisher in the fan vote, the history reads as follows: Rush, KISS, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, Chicago, and Journey.  Classic rock acts that have been long outcried as egregious snubs.  Bon Jovi and Dire Straits haven't had near the outcry for them.  So it's really between Judas Priest and the Moody Blues, in my opinion.  Metal is something of an untested variable for the fan ballot, but all the same, the overwhelming support of the Moody Blues tells me this is the act that will finish on top in the fan vote, possibly by a wide margin.

So there are the preliminary thoughts on this ballot.  Soon to come, a ranking by merits, by preference, and by odds of induction.  Hopefully in that order.