After much procrastination, and a boatload of work hours, I'm starting to type up this post on Christmas Eve. Time to finally put together a final prediction for the 2020 Class for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. It's been a tough one. Hard to nail down the final predictions, as everyone has said, so here's my stab at predicting the Class. No telling how many times I'll change my mind before I publish. Enjoy. P.S. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, and Happy New Year.
1. PAT BENATAR
Rock and roll solo performer, though nominated with her husband and lead guitarist, Neil Giraldo. First-time nominee.
Why she might make it: She appeals to those who want more women in the Hall, as well as those with a myopic definition of rock and roll that follows the traditions of acts like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Why she might not: Those with the aforementioned myopic definition sometimes want to limit it to full band units, i.e. those with at least a drummer and bassist, too. Solo performers need not apply, in their opinion.
Whom she'd pave the way for: All-female bands such as the Go-Go's and the Bangles could follow her lead. It's also a bit of a stretch, but it could also lead to Suzi Quatro.
Biggest threats: Honestly, I don't see her so much in the "female lane." To me, it's more that this is a hard- and classic rock lovers' ballot; so Motorhead, Judas Priest, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy, the Doobie Brothers, and even Todd Rundgren could block her.
In the end: I think she's the best bet from keeping this class from being a total sausage fest. Odds of induction: 80%
2. THIN LIZZY
Hard-rock band from Ireland. First-time nominee.
Why they might make it: For some reason, having dual lead guitars is seen as the most important innovation in rock and roll since Lennon-McCartney filled an entire album with their own compositions, and Thin Lizzy is the band people point to for that. Since the announcement of the nominees, most every guest on "Who Cares About The Rock Hall?" has said this is a band they'd vote for, including an actual member of the voting bloc. They've got potential.
Why they might not: They had a limited impact here in the United States, and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame still remains a "rather American" institution. Perception shaping reality, they may not be viewed by enough voters as important enough.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Thin Lizzy could open the door wider for acts from the British Isles that didn't quite cross the pond so successfully, such as Humble Pie and Mott The Hoople.
Biggest threats: Judas Priest and T. Rex are the most direct competition, but even the hard rock of Soundgarden could be a threat, as well as Pat Benatar.
In the end: After the announcement of the nominees, I said that if the trend of the lowest common denominator act winning the fan ballot continued, Thin Lizzy would be a lock. And while they aren't winning the fan ballot, they appear to be catnip to the people whom the Hall would like to give a ballot. Odds of induction: 75%
3. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
East coast rapper. Newly eligible.
Why he might make it: Even from the grave, he's a highly influential rapper, regarded by some as the greatest rapper ever.
Why he might not: With a fairly limited catalog, his nomination has also drawn criticism of chronology from within the rap community
Whom he'd pave the way for: Jay-Z is on deck, Puff Daddy has got to be on the way as well.
Biggest threats: There are no other rap acts, but Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston could steal R&B votes, not to mention Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, and the Dave Matthews Band are competition for the votes for '90's acts.
In the end: Eric from "Hall Watchers" talked about 'induction by fiat," particularly in the case of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. But if "induction by fiat" was that certain of a possibility, why was Chic never inducted this way? Still, the legacies of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. are forever intertwined, and if 2Pac got in right away, I have to believe Mr. Wallace will follow suit. Odds of induction: 70%
4. THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
Rock and roll group often considered "blue-eyed soul." First-time nominee.
Why they might make it: They are responsible for a long train running of well-known rock and roll songs during the '70's. They had two successful eras of different lead singers. From a "playing the game" perspective, the hiring of Irving Azoff is considered a smart move toward getting in the Hall. Lastly, the forthcoming tour seems to be designed to kick off in Cleveland at the induction ceremony.
Why tbey might not: A tour that kicks off with a Hall Of Fame induction in 2020, could just as well conclude with a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2021. Plus, the moniker of "yacht rock" isn't necessarily meant as a pejorative, but it does almost gaslight their legacy as being a band that one only likes "ironically." The Hall doesn't appear to appreciate irony. Acts that should have been bigger than they were, yes; irony, not so much. Plus, on a ballot full of hard rock favorites, the Doobies may not be regarded as high a priority.
Whom they'd pave the way for: If the Doobie Brothers are the current classic rock staple that the Hall has their collective mind on, it'll have to be them before we get to Foreigner, Styx, or Jimmy Buffett. On the other hand, having the members of this band as future voters could help renew the push for the J. Geils Band.
Biggest threats: Pat Benatar is about the biggest hitmaker of the classic rock format after the Doobie Brothers and could split the vote with them. Let's also not ignore the metal of Motorhead or Judas Priest, or the likes of Thin Lizzy or even Todd Rundgren.
In the end: The Hall still favors "dad rock" pretty heavily, and with the possible exception of Judas Priest, no act on the ballot stands for dad rock better than this outfit. Odds of induction: 60%
5. JUDAS PRIEST
Heavy metal band. Second-time nominee. Seeded #5 for 2018.
Why they might make it: They're one of the most important heavy metal acts of all time, let alone those not yet in the Hall. Innovative, influential in both sound and image, they've got the resume for induction.
Why they might not: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has been less than on the ball when it comes to inducting heavy metal acts. Additionally, on a cursory, Americentric level, this band is usually considered a one-trick pony.
Whom they'd pave the way for: With Motorhead also on the ballot, other possibilities to follow include UFO and Uriah Heep.
Biggest threats: Motorhead and Thin Lizzy are the most direct competition, but Pat Benatar, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, and T. Rex could split the vote.
In the end: Since the charter class, the Hall has had only one class where all Performer inductees were first-time nominees, and even then, the Early Influence inductee was a repeat nominee for the Performer category... even on that year's ballot. History indicates that there will be at least one repeat nominee inducted. Of the repeat nominees, this is the one I think that has the best chance.. at least in the Performer category. Odds of induction: 55%
6. THE DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Jam band most popular during the '90's. First-time nominee.
Why they might make it: They are currently leading the fan vote, and the history has always favored the top-finisher of the fan vote. Additionally, they were, and still are, a massively popular act in terms of album sales.
Why they might not: Leading the fan poll is really the only major thing going for them as far as "the game" goes. They don't seem to be garnering a lot of appreciation from the voting bloc, that we can tell. And while the first-place finishers in the fan vote have all gotten in to date, this is the first time where the first-place winner in the fan vote WON'T be an artist with some regularity in "classic rock" programming. The Dave Matthews Band are too modern for classic rock stations, and that may be the distinguishing factor that has always coincided with past first-place finishers.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Members of the Foundation have already called the Dave Matthews Band the litmus test for Phish in the future. They'll probably also be the gate for other '90's rock acts ranging from Beck to No Doubt.
Biggest threats: Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails seem to be likely competition, as well as the Notorious B.I.G. when it comes to '90's acts.
In the end: Litmus test indeed. Literally only predicting them to make it if they go with six. If they weren't leading the fan vote, they be seeded #12 or so. Right now, going with the correlative trend for its own sake. Odds of induction: 50%
7. T. REX
Glam rock band from the United Kingdom. First-time nominee
Why they might make it: They're recognized as pioneers of glam rock and also very influential to British punk and post-punk bands. They're expected to be a huge draw for British members of the voting bloc.
Why they might not: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame still has a largely American bias, and even though that started to turn around last year, there's no guarantee for how long that kind of run will last.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Glam rock doesn't have a whole lot of promising acts that could follow suit. Maybe the Sweet could follow through. Or maybe some British post-punk act like the Smiths could get another look once this band is in.
Biggest threats: British rockers Judas Priest and Motorhead, not to mention Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, are pretty immediate threats. There's also some threat from classic rockers like the Doobie Brothers, Pat Benatar, and Todd Rundgren. And if it's influential to punk you want, don't ignore the MC5, either.
In the end: They were originally going to make the final cut. With my mind constantly changing and things getting moved around, it's a solid enough reason to make them the upset special. Odds of induction: 49%
8. WHITNEY HOUSTON
R&B diva. First-time nominee
Why she might make it: She's a commercial juggernaut, one of the biggest-selling acts of the entire twentieth century, let alone not in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet. She's got the respect of members of the hard-rock community too, depiste being a R&B and adult contemporary diva.
Why she might not: In addition to being deceased, dance music doesn't usually get into the Hall Of Fame very easily, nor does adult contemporary ballads, both of which were in Whitney's wheelhouse.
Whom she'd pave the way for: Um ... Bobby Brown? Ow! Ow! Stop hitting me! Ow! I was kidding! I meant Mariah Carey! Or Gloria Estefan And The Miami Sound Machine! Ow!
Biggest threats: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan are the immediate competition. Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode also have claims on the dance music, while the Notorious B.I.G. has serious R&B credibility to steal votes away from Whitney.
In the end: I really want to believe that Whitney Houston will get in this year; I also really want to believe that eating a five-cheese pizza every weekend is good for your heart. This ballot's just too crowded for me to think she'll squeeze in over most of those seeded above her. But it could happen. Odds of induction: 45%
Grunge band, rose to prominence in the '90's. First-time nominee.
Why they might make it: They've already given Chris Cornell a tribute at an induction ceremony. This is someone the Hall clearly loves, and they don't want to wait on getting this band inducted.
Why they might not: While grunge has a pretty steady track record so far, the Hall hasn't really tried going outside the obvious names. Soundgarden isn't obscure, but they're not the first name one thinks of when grunge is mentioned.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Alice In Chains is the next name in grunge if Soundgarden gets in this year. Other '90's rock acts that have been nominated could be nominated again, such as Jane's Addiction.
Biggest threats: Nine Inch Nails and the Dave Matthews Band are the most direct threats, while metal acts Judas Priest and Motorhead also could draw votes away.
In the end: The classic rock contingency just has too strong a grip on the voting bloc to think that the younger acts are going to dominate the class. Odds of induction: 40%
10. NINE INCH NAILS
Industrial rock act that is essentially one man, Trent Reznor. Third-time nominee. Seeded #9 for 2015 and #10 for 2016.
Why he/they might make it: Nine Inch Nails is the act that really helped make industrial mainstream, bringing it to a wider audience. This act even made Rolling Stone's list of immortals, which could very strongly signal eventual induction. Additionally, with 2020's induction ceremony being in Cleveland, they'd love to have a relatively close "hometown hero" to have as an inductee.
Why he/they might not: Industrial is still a pretty niche genre, and may not have a wide enough circulation to resonate with enough of the voting bloc.
Whom he'd/they'd pave the way for: Despite being influential, Nine Inch Nails doesn't really open any obvious tributaries. Maybe Ministry?
Biggest threats: Soundgarden and the Dave Matthews Band are the other '90's "rock" acts that stand most directly in the way. Hard rock like Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Thin Lizzy could also divert some votes away.
In the end: There are really strong arguments for all three '90's "rock" acts to make it in this year, but in order for that to happen, at least two of the following three things have to happen: one, Biggie doesn't get in; two, no women are inducted; three, the classic rock contingency gets "Okay, Boomer"ed--hard. Maybe one of those three can happen, but not two, and certainly not all three, and I think Nine Inch Nails will fall the shortest of those three acts. Odds of induction: 37.5%
British heavy metal group. First-time nominee.
Why they might make it: Frontman Lemmy Kilmister is among the upper echelons of well-known, charismatic rock frontmen who embody the rock and roll lifestyle.
Why they might not: The mythos of Motorhead travels further than the actual musical legacy. For their respectable run of charted albums, people really don't know too many of their songs, especially outside of "Ace Of Spades."
Whom they'd pave the way for: The big heavy metal acts of the '80's that aren't in yet, such as Pantera, Anthrax, and Megadeth could get some attention.
Biggest threats: Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Soundgarden, T. Rex, and Pat Benatar could all be viable alternatives to voting for Motorhead.
In the end: It's just too crowded a ballot for them this time around. But it's good to see them get nominated. It's a step in the right direction. Better luck next time. Odds of induction: 35%
12. DEPECHE MODE
Synth-rock outfit from England. Third time nominated. Seeded #11 for 2017 and #12 for 2018.
Why they might make it: They're recognized as one of the biggest outfits in their particular sub-genre of the rock and roll diaspora, proving both innovative and influential.
Why they might not: They represent a piece of the rock and roll diaspora that just doesn't get a lot of respect, particularly from the Hall itself.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Even though their biggest successes came in the late '80's and '90's, they'd probably open the door backwards for synth-pop groups of the '80's like Simple Minds, Tears For Fears, and the Thompson Twins.
Biggest threats: Kraftwerk, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, and Whitney Houston are all part of the dance music scene and could stand in the way.
In the end: They deserve to be in, but the classic rock fatigue is nowhere close to setting in. Not this year. Odds of induction: 33.3%
13. TODD RUNDGREN
Musical utility-player and producer extraordinaire. Second-time nominee, seeded #3 last year.
Why he might make it: Todd is well connected in the industry, with strong ties that reach pretty far. He sings, plays instruments, writes, produces, and even innovates listening opportunities.
Why he might not: Voters might try to divest Todd's production and writing credits from his records where he's the primary, or even sole artist. That mental compartmentalization may keep him from being seen as worthy.
Whom he'd pave the way for: He doesn't open up too many tributaries, but maybe others that are well-loved within the industry have a shot, like Big Star, or a second nomination for John Prine down the line.
Biggest threats: The entire classic rock pantheon on this ballot, including Pat Benatar, the Doobie Brothers, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy, and even Judas Priest, and Motorhead.
In the end: He was in the top five of the fan vote last year, but is not this year, simply beause there's more classic rock to choose from. That'll carry over to the voting bloc, too, most likely. Odds of induction: 30%
Pioneering electronica act. This is their sixth nomination: their first nomination for the Class of 2003 predates my seeding system, seeded #9 in 2013, #13 in 2015, #10 in both 2017 and 2019.
Why they might make it: Anyone with even a hair more music knowledge than John Q. Public says this act belongs in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Why they might not: With limited success and name recognition in the United States, it really will depend on the voting body becoming more and more British before continental European acts can become a bigger presence in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Additionally, some of the powers-that-be have hinted that an act like Kraftwerk might soon be inducted as an "Early Influence" inductee, promoting a possible "sliding scale" of historical impact and importance.
Whom they'd pave the way for: If Kraftwerk can get in, that could clear the lane for a second nomination of Devo. It could also help dance music acts like Daft Punk or Moby get a look. Also, European acts like Can, Cliff Richard And The Shadows, and Johnny Hallyday might finally break onto the ballot.
Biggest threats: Depeche Mode is probably the most direct competition, but don't neglect Whitney Houston or Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. They could steal votes from the Germans as well.
In the end: When the powers-that-be tip their hand like that, it almost spells certain doom for proper induction in the Performer category. I won't weigh in on their odds of being inducted as an Early Influence, mainly because I find the idea itself to be reprehensible with a pungent stench. I'll just say that this time won't see them as a Performer inductee. Odds of induction: 25%
15. THE MC5
Hard-rockin' proto-punk band from Michigan. Fifth nomination. Their first nomination for 2003 predates my seeding system, seeded #12 in 2017, and #14 for both 2018 and 2019.
Why they might make it: They're an extremely innovative and influential band, helping to give rise to punk rock as a sub-genre of rock and roll. With the induction ceremony in Cleveland this year, it'd be great to have the nearby neighbor of Detroit included in the festivities.
Why they might not: They just don't have the name recognition. They're not well-known enough to stand out above some of the other names. Also, if Kraftwerk is being seen as a viable Early Influence inductee, how much more so the MC5, who are the earliest act on this ballot.
Whom they'd pave the way for: They could help get the New York Dolls nominated a second time. Getting the MC5 in could also clear up the logjam hindering Rage Against The Machine getting in as well.
Biggest threats: T. Rex, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Pat Benatar, and even Soundgarden could be seen as alternatives.
In the end: The whole science of taxonomy, and much of science itself, is predicated on the idea that one key way we demonstrate an understanding of a subject matter is by naming and categorizing it. And while this is more about art than science, much of that principle carries over. Inducting Todd Rundgren as a Non-Performer would be forgivable, as he certainly has the credibility there, while an Award For Musical Excellence induction would be a little less forgivable, but still understandable. However, the Hall violating their own established parameters and just being willy-nilly about the way they induct artists as a means to address the backlog might appease an artist and their fans because said artist is now a "Hall Of Fame inductee," but the Foundation's obligation to historial veracity is compromised every time they do it, and demonstrates either a critical lack of understanding of the subject matter, or lackidaisical commitment to the same. As for the MC5, maybe one year they'll pull a Stooges and get in over a huge name guitar band (the Stooges beat out both KISS and Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2010), but it's never a smart bet. Odds of induction: 20%
16. RUFUS FEATURING CHAKA KHAN
Funk-rock group from the '70's and early '80's. As a group, this is their fourth nomination, seeded #15 for 2012, #16 for 2018, #13 for 2019.
Why they might make it: They were stylistically diverse, dabbling in funk, roots, disco, ballads and more. Additionally, Chaka Khan is a name that is known.
Why they might not: R&B is struggling to get in the Hall right now. Especially if it's related to disco in any way. Additionally, Small Hall thinkers want to induct Chaka Khan as a soloist and shuck the rest of the group.
Whom they'd pave the way for: The Pointer Sisters would benefit greatly by Rufus's induction. So would Sade, and funk groups like the GAP Band.
Biggest threats: Whitney Houston is the diva that could be a Chaka-blocker. Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode also have connections to the dance music scene that could hinder the group as well. The Notorious B.I.G. is also a big name in R&B to prevent this outfit from getting enshrined.
In the end: There's no talk of inducting this group in any other category, though the possibility of Chaka getting an Award For Musical Excellence induction for both her group and solo efforts is a scary thought that Small Hallers would gleefully rub their palms for. Suck rocks, Small Hallers. Not a chance for this group this year, though. Odds of induction: 15%
My seeds are planted in their appropriate rows, as I see them. This is a very difficult ballot to predict a class from, given that the Hall will induct fewer than half of them. It'd be great to just see the entire ballot inducted. THAT'S how you address and clear the backlog: just induct more artists. Seeing as how the Hall just digs their heels in deeper and harder every time someone raises a critique like this, there's no way any real changes are coming this year. So that's how I'm calling it this year. We'll find out soon. It's New Year's Day as I wrap up my prediction post. We'll know this month who's getting in. Happy New Year.