On Wednesday, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced the nominees for their Class Of 2023. It's a name so full of good names, that it leaves one feeling underwhelmed. Maybe it's because most of the names should have been inducted awhile ago, or maybe it's just a short-circuiting from inability to decide whom we'd vote for. In my case, it's also because except for one, none of them are acts I listened to in my teens or twenties. But I always enjoy brushing up on the nominees, so I'll be enjoying the process. Ranking them in future lists may be extremely difficult. Woe is me.
Running down the nominees, we begin by running up a hill, because Kate Bush has been nominated again. And Rage Against The Machine has also been nominated for the third consecutive time. Keep an eye on these two. They are names we are starting to get tired of seeing, but there's a good chance one or both of these two will get in.
Among the widely predicted, Missy Elliott appears as a newly eligible (more on that to come). The first female rapper nominated, and the only Black woman on the ballot, it's possible the Hall was just trying to keep the lane relatively clear, but it ends up not being a good look. It'll end up looking even worse if she doesn't make it. Looking at who else I predicted, George Michael has finally been nominated. I'll just say right now that my rankings for both merits and personal taste will exclude Wham, which could be good or bad for him. I love "Freedom" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," but I loathe "Careless Whisper" and "Last Christmas." So, none of those songs will be factored in, though probably three of those will be included when I binge his material to get a fuller understanding and appreciation of his catalog. And the last name that I got right was Sheryl Crow, which was pretty much just about reading the cues and seeing how much she'd been playing ball with the Hall.
Onto the names I didn't predict, congrats to those who correctly picked Cyndi Lauper to find her way onto the ballot. I don't have the same level of fandom for her yet, and maybe won't, but I'm certainly intrigued by the rise in popularity and will be curious to see how she comes out. I'm not sure how many picked some of the other nominees either, but I understand there'd been at least one prediction for Willie Nelson, which is pretty cool. It'll be interesting to see how much of his cache and clout leading up to his nomination is really about his music, or if it is, as Kristen Studard hinted, all about the weed. Returning to the ballot, as some predicted, is Iron Maiden, taking the apparent metal slot, with Judas Priest being in now. Pretty cool as well. We need more metal in the Hall. I'm not sure how many predicted A Tribe Called Quest to return. I sure didn't. I figured them for a one-and-done like other important, but not widely popular hip-hop acts like Eric B. And Rakim or Afrika Bambaataa. This could be a new turning point for the Hall. Stay tuned folks. The return of Soundgarden isn't too huge a surprise, as it's pretty in line with what Sykes has been trying to accomplish. In contrast, the return of the Spinners to the ballot is a bit of a surprise, but a very welcome one, as my years of listening to Oldies radio while doing homework are being revisited by this nomination. It's nice to get nostalgic. But the Spinners aren't the only callback to the '70s, as Warren Zevon is on the ballot. I have his album My Ride's Here, but I haven't listened to it in years. It'll be nice to acquaint myself with that again, as well as his other songs that aren't "Werewolves Of London."
Moving on to the final two, it's pretty cool to see Joy Division/New Order nominated jointly together. At least, it's cool as long as the Hall doesn't bungle the PR on it like they did with the Small Faces/Faces situation. That was truly embarrassing, as the people at the Hall made it clear they didn't even believe what they were saying in defense of it. With this grouping, it's defensible, and I'm not opposed to it. Admittedly, there is a bit of a stylistic difference between the two eras, but that's true about groups that didn't change their name when personnel changed, like with Genesis, or Van Halen. Just because Joy Division sounded more akin to the Cure and New Order to the Pet Shop Boys doesn't mean it wasn't a natural evolution that happened to coincide with the personnel and name changes. Like I said, as long as the Hall doesn't screw it up, it's good.
The last nominee, and the one that's getting the attention, is the White Stripes, a band that I somehow missed during my college radio days. By all previous measures, they weren't eligible until next year, but because the Rock Hall's calendar got jostled off-cycle by the pandemic in 2020, the Nominating Committee is now meeting in the same year as the induction ceremony. It certainly simplifies the math of it all. The only problem I really have with this nomination and tweaking of our understanding of the 25-year rule is that it signifies the Hall's definite and indefinite commitment to a schedule cycle that no one really seems to like very much, if at all. At least, we in the fan and watching community don't like it (and I haven't heard anyone in the Foundation speak positively about it either). Joe and Kristen got exhausted with the extra work and lack of downtime, or at least the time to do lighter episodes about artists that aren't in and have never been on the ballot, like Pixies, to allude to an early episode. Eric and Mary have also expressed disgruntlement about the schedule, though their "except the Mondays we're not" caveat hopefully gives them a little buffer to help them keep their sanity. I really haven't heard anyone say they like this schedule, and that includes me. With this schedule, I'm almost certainly never going to be able to attend an induction ceremony, as I'm never able to roll over vacation time because I'm always under scrutiny for too many hours during the fiscal year, unless I'm able to owe vacation time and earn it later in the fiscal year. But even then, our busy season really begins after Columbus Day, so being able to get approved for vacation in late October or early November is incredibly difficult. And with Cleveland in the cycle for the ceremony, it'll be even worse with the volatile autumnal weather. Take it from a native Midwesterner: no one wants to visit Cleveland in early November. This new schedule is apparently here to stay, much to our chagrin.
There's really no issue with the nominees individually. There's a lot of concern about diversity not being the greatest, especially racial diversity, but when you consider each nominee, it's a pretty solid ballot. And that's kind of what is to be expected with a collaborative effort. Compromises made resulting in only big names getting through instead of more dangerous and offbeat possibilities. The extremely experimental artists are omitted, as are the dangerous ladies for whom it'd be on-brand to set literal fire to things during their performance instead of having only have blazing and incendiary lyrics. But for me, the biggest disappointment and biggest letdown for diversity is that Destiny's Child didn't get nominated. With no nomination of Destiny's Child, we will not be having Beyonce as a double-FYE (first-year eligible) inductee. If Beyonce wasn't good enough to be a double-FYE, then what woman is? Make that "would have been," because I honestly don't know of any other woman from this point forward who might possibly be a double-FYE. Admittedly, I'm not up on modern music, so I genuinely don't know. Destiny's Child was a huge part of the late '90s and early '00s soundtrack; just because Beyonce's solo career has surpassed the group's efforts doesn't mean the group should have been ignored. I'm not even a member of the Beyhive, and I'm dismayed about this. This absolutely should have happened, and with this small a ballot with this little representation of racial minorities and women, it's inexcusable that it didn't.
So yes, there are fourteen great nominees on this ballot. Only a couple actual surprises, and to parrot Michelle Bourg, Kate Bush being the consensus pick is wild. But here we are, and soon there we will be: evaluating, predicting, commenting, critiquing, awaiting the category picks, and hopefully even attending. Except for me on that last one, unless a miracle happens. This new calendar sucks.