Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Merits Of The 2021 Nominees

 After an extended period of time, it is now time for me to attempt to rank the nominees on the ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2021 by merits.  It is an attempt to be objective, although it can never be completely.  The values attached to those which we call merits are themselves subjective, let alone the weighted importance of criteria, or the choice to weigh them equally.  So why bother doing it at all?  The question itself has been raised, and truth be told, given that my litmus test is a basic pass/fail, and that I apparently have a much lower bar than several others in the hobbyist community, it seems almost ludicrous for me to try--and none of that even taking into account that few of these nominees are in any way within that which could be called my wheelhouse.  That almost gives me an advantage, as I have less emotional attachment, or decided detachment, regarding these artists.  But it also means that I have the most catching up to do; so it still seems odd for me of all people to try.  Nevertheless I do try for two reasons: one, because the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame makes a point to keep a narrow gate, it creates an artificial narrative demanding only the most deserving artists are inducted (though I'm happy if all inductees pass my standards); two, I have a compettive nature, conflictist at times, to use the term I learned in high school sociology.  Makling ranked lists is just part of my personality.  I even once ranked the twenty tracks of my Four Preps Greatest Hits CD in order of how I liked them. So ranking will commence.  

It's no small task this year either.  To use the jargon of Joe and Kristen, there are almost as many lanes as there are nominees.  They are so different this year, that saying any two occupy the same space borders on the ridiculous.  There are a couple places where it can possibly be said.  It almost requires a judgment call between the worth of subgenres, though I've tried to avoid that.  The other major reason it was so difficult for me this time is the nomination of Fela Kuti.  Whereas one can usually either extrapolate or ignore global significance of a nominee because their strongest sphere is either in the United States, the United Kingdom, or both; that is simply not the case with Kuti, and trying to account for the importance on a thoroughly different culture requires a lot of adjustment in the way we approach this task.  Hopefully I didn't louse it up too badly though.  

As always, I'm using my I-5 system: Innovation, Influence, Impact, Intangibles, and Issues.  Four positive categories, one negative.  Because of the stark differences between so many of the nominees, the Intangibles category has an increased importance this year.  Three last things to keep in mind, too.  First, just as in a dash race, the difference between first and last place can be one or two seconds, so to the difference between first and sixteenth can be razor thin.  Second, when I talk about the Innovation and Influence categories, I refer to direct musical innovation and influence.  "Changing the game" is not included in either of the categories, unless it's the music itself that changed the game.  Otherwise, I generally file those things under Intangibles.  The last important pre-game note is that most, if not all, of the reservations regarding nominations mentioned in the Issues category do not reflect my own personal feelings regarding the nominee's selection.  It's just a potential problem that someone either could raise or has already raised.  In fact, I already know my rebuttal to most of those reservations, but fleshing the issues themselves out in the written word gives a more well-rounded evaluation of an artist.  Let's begin.


Innovation:  In addtion to obsolescing the DJ from rap music, he helped make it a solo braggodocio show, replacing rap outfits. Additionally, he's also widely recognized for making rap more accessible via shorter songs, which help increase radio airplay, and for creating the bridge of R&B stylings between rap and non-rap R&B.

Influence:  As an early successful solo emcee, he was a massive influence on rappers that followed. 

Impact:  He had a steady stream of hit R&B singles and several albums that sold quite well.  Additionally, his name recognition factor is quite high.

Intangibles:  It wasn't just his music that was influential, but also his image.

Issues:  The current social climate makes some of his older lyrics a little cringeworthy, if they weren't already.  Additionally, the longer he remains outside the Hall, the more his legacy looks like a torch that has already been passed.


Innovation:  His fusion of soul and funk with the music of his homeland Nigeria resulted in a musical and cultural explosion.

Influence:  Because he is credited with Afrobeat's creation, and its continued existence and relevance in the musical world, his influence is both massive and consequential.

Impact:  Though his sales in colonial cultures aren't nearly as impressive, his sales and name recognition in Nigeria and in fact all of Africa makes this a stronger category than some would expect.

Intangibles:  In addition to being a musical and political revolutionary, his songwriting displays a gift for words and analogies that would impress Emerson and Longfellow.  

Issues:  I wish I could sit here and tell you the chief objection to his nomination is that his band Africa 70 wasn't nominated with him.  I really wish I could tell you that.  Reggae was influenced by soul music, much like Afrobeat, and recognition of reggae as part of the rock and roll diaspora is an uphill battle.  How much more so a style that isn't well-known in the States.


Innovation:  She was a defining figure of the singer/songwriter movement in the 1970s, helping to define it as a musical movement all its own, with connotations that continue to this day.

Influence:  Arguably the most influential of the singer/songwriters from that era, she is also the reason there's a difference in the meanings are evoked when one says "singer/songwriter" versus "musician who writes their own songs."

Impact:  Her name recognition as a musician eclipses her legacy as a Brill building songwriter partnered with her then-husband.  Tapestry remains a landmark album, and she had several other albums in the Top Ten of the Billboard 200.

Intangibles:  She's been recognized for her lifetime of work with other presitigious awards and honors.

Issues:  Is Tapestry enough?  Critics of her nomination say her musical legacy is a one-trick pony, and though the Hall has inducted other artists for whom the same thing can be said, it's still a relevant question, provided one believes that her entire nomination and case for induction hinges on that album.


Innovation:  They didn't invent heavy metal, but they elevated it with political themes and really helped cement the imagery of heavy metal that is often remembered.

Influence:  Easily one of the most influential bands in heavy metal and hard rock.

Impact:  A band of mostly middling album sales and nearly non-existent singles recognition in the U.S, they were much bigger in the U.K.  Plus, their tours historically sold well, resulting in incredible name recognition.

Intangibles:  Though not really a band member, their mascot Eddie just seems to be an X-factor for them.  Additionally, they have something of an underdog legacy, overcoming a limited airplay handicap to still be considered a major player in the pantheons of rock, even in the U.S.

Issues:  They're a band many know the name of, but not a band casual listeners would instantly recognize if one of their songs came on the radio or streaming service.  You've heard of them and know something about them because somebody you can tolerate in small doses is emphatic about them.  


Innovation:  She is a seminal figure in the creation of the hip-hop/soul merger, as a distinct and persistent style.

Influence:  She is cited as an influence by R&B and pop singers ranging from Beyonce to Taylor Swift, and beyond.

Impact:  She has at least a baker's dozen albums that made the Top Ten and a few dozen entries on the Pop charts, even more on the R&B charts.

Intangibles:  Royalty nicknames can be part of a marketing ploy, but when they endure, such as "Queen Of Hip-Hop/Soul," it's more than just marketing.  That's serious business.

Issues:  The endurance hip-hop/soul, as developed and defined by Blige, has been diminished by the rise of modern EDM, and the way rappers have jumped on that bandwagon.  Blige has adapted, but she no longer has home field advantage

6. JAY-Z

Innovation:  He helped redefine East coast rap, modernizing it.

Influence:  Easily one of the top three most influential rappers of the past twenty-five years, if not the most.

Impact:  The biggest commercial act on the ballot in terms of sales and chart presence, both in terms of singles and albums.  Overall name recognition is through the roof.

Intangibles:  As one-half of one the biggest power couples of the 21st century, plus his endorsement and side businesses, he is as much a brand as a musician.

Issues:  Being as much a brand as a musician has a tendency to be as much of a liability as it is an asset.  Plus, having dalliances bad enough to warrant an entire album from his wife, he has marred his own cache just a bit.


Innovation:  Her solo records didn't break much new sonic ground, unfrotunately, but it did allow her to modify and maybe even reinvent her style of singing into something different.

Influence:  Her style of rock singing has been extremely influential to rock singers, both male and female (and maybe singers of other genders too).

Impact: She has several instantly recognizable songs that were major hits, and hers is a household name.

Intangibles: Her comeback in the '80s is legendary, and her live stage presence was known for being electric.

Issues: The production values of her solo records are unmistakenly '80s and haven't aged well.  Also, if her induction as a solo artist is justifiable, then said justification requires that the merits of her solo career and records be completely separated from those of her career in the duo, rather than subsuming the latter under the former.  There is still an argument to be made, but it takes extra effort because of the extra work put in vis-a-vis the separation process.


Innovation:  Among the pioneers of nu metal, combining punk, rap, metal, and even elements of reggae, and brought it as close to the mainstream as can reasonably be expected.

Influence:  Because their scene was more underground, it's a little harder to measure, but a lot of the nu metal bands took their lead from this band.

Impact:  A few charted songs on the Album and Modern Rock charts, and a couple charted albums.

Intangibles:  There is a sense of authenticity to them, and congruity with their name, their music, and their image offstage.

Issues:  Their lyrics are often incomprehensible, so you don't know what they're saying, only that they're angry.  Additionally, not big on longevity.


Innovation:  Due to his experience in the control booth, he has found new ways to create unique sounds and make them his own, which was heard on his records.  He's one of the most experimental artists on this ballot.

Influence:  Because he's worked with a lot of artists who respect him, his influence has been able to circulate widely, even if not necessarily terribly strongly.

Impact:  His name recognition factor is very high, due to both his critical respect and his work with others.  As a musician, he's had several charted singles and a respectable amount of album sales.

Intangibles:  Not only one of the most experimental artists on the ballot, he's also one of the most versatile.  He can do multiple styles and sing in multiple ways.  That's not always a strong selling point for the Hall, but it is a tasty cherry on top.

Issues:  This nomination is for his work as a solo artist, a musician.  It's not always so simple to parse out his musicianship from his other credits, which may blur the ability to evaluate his actual output fairly.


Innovation:  Some might call her '60s records a kind of prototype of the "Quiet Storm" style of music that Roberta Flack and Sade would later grow and popularize.

Influence:  In addition to being influential to her inducted cousin, a number of songs she first recorded were later covered by soul singers and groups.

Impact: The second biggest singles and albums act among this year's nominees, just a huge list of charting singles and albums, top ten hits in three consecutive decades.

Intangibles:  The songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David are heavily respected, despite not being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame either, and Dionne's legacy is strongly entwined with theirs.

Issues:  Those who defend rap's inclusion into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame by insisting that rock and roll is more of an attitude, a sense of rebellion, and a culture of youth might just find themselves backpedaling at breakneck speeds to justify the nomination of a singer whose music, both lyrically and stylistically, is much more mature, and not a "Rated X" kind of mature--more like a "meticulously scrutinizing the details of potential life insurance policies while ingesting your daily bowl of high fiber cereal, which reminds me, you've got a colonoscopy coming up next month" kind of mature.  Emotional maturity, I mean.  Her rise to stardom on Twitter is her strongest ever connection to the youth culture.


Innovation:  They weren't the first post-punk band, but they were early enough in its evolution to have played a sizeable part in its formation.

Influence:  As one of the first bands of their style to achieve major commercial success, they were able to influence other bands that came after them, including pop-punk acts like Green Day.

Impact:  Four big singles that have endured, and a few others, plus a landmark album to their credit.

Intangibles:  The Hall loves to honor the rebellious troublemakers and rule-breakers; so naturally, they're falling all over themselves for the chance to induct this glass-ceiling-shattering band, right?  Right?

Issues:  While the Hall has no qualms about inducting acts that were short-lived, longevity is a great asset to have in the arsenal, and this band simply doesn't, having burnt out too soon.


Innovation:  One of the foundational acts of punk rock, shaping its simplicity and catchiness.

Influence:  They influenced a lot of punk bands, especially in the New York scene.

Impact:  A few charted albums, but nothing in the upper half.  No charted singles.

Intangibles:  They were also influential in terms of image, and critics loved them.

Issues:  Those they influenced surpassed them in terms of influence, commercial success, legacy, and possibly even image.


Innovation:  Her sound is incredibly unique to her that it cannot be called anything but groundbreaking.  Her infusion of Celtic, Bohemian, and so many other influences is just staggering.

Influence:  Big Boi from Outkast is a noted fan who took songwriting cues from her, as do a lot of singers and songwriters, as well.  The most direct descendants of her sounds would be artists like Tori Amos, Dido, and Annie Lennox.

Impact:  She's much more commercially successful in her native United Kingdom, but even in the States, she had several charted albums and songs on the Mainstream Rock charts.

Intangibles:  Her performances pioneered the usage of headset microphones.  More importantly, her overall level of artistry, particularly by Western standards, is extremely high.

Issues:  Her self-imposed decisions regarding her output and public appearances in general, let alone touring, have diminished her ability to reach larger audiences and reach superstar level.


Innovation:  Her collaborative efforts with other artists featured infusions of various styles with hers.

Influence:  After Donna Summer, she was probably the most influential of the disco songstresses, influencing a lot of female singers who followed, including those who have been nominated for and inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Impact:  She has two very well-known songs, along with about a dozen other charted singles, along with some charted albums, and her name recognition is extremely high.

Intangibles:  She has worked with and rubbed elbows with a lot of people in the industry, plus the legacy she has as the front person in Rufus adds to her cache.

Issues:  The Hall's penchant for false dichotomy makes one believe that either her solo career or that of Rufus will be inducted, not both, and many would prefer it be Rufus.

15. DEVO

Innovation:  They were them.  They were around at the genesis of post-punk and constantly pushed the sonic envelope with a style that was still considered ahead of the times twenty years later.

Influence:  Not the most widely cited of the post-punk bands, but due in part to their innovation, they were always in the conversation of highly influential bands of that ilk.

Impact:  Folks might be shocked to discover that they actually had several hits across the various trade publications, included multiple entries on Billboard's dance music charts.  They also charrted several albums.

Intangibles:  They're a highly respected band among musicians for their artistry, both visual and sonic.

Issues:  "Oh yeah, they had that one song, didn't they?  Did they do other stuff too?"--the general public  


Innovation:  They helped define harder and alternative rock in a post-grunge world.

Influence:  Presumably influential in the hard rock community.

Impact:  Steady major success on the Album and Mainstream Rock charts, with some decent crossover to the Hot 100, along with seven Top Ten albums.

Intangibles:  In addition to being called "the last great rock and roll band," Dave Grohl's general likeability has translated in a general positive perception of the band, translating into reach.

Issues:  Foo Fighters need to be inducted because... Dave Grohl?  That seems to be the crux of a lot of people's arguments, and it just doesn't sell.  Also, when you're called "the last great" anything, it suggests the tributary has run dry, and when you're up for honors from an institution that claims to be about recognizing and celebrating the perpetuation and evolution of something, it's not a ringing endorsement.

And with that, we conclue our look at the merits of the sixteen nominees for this year's class.  This was not an easy task by any means, and I'm still agonizing over it.  Nothing looks right or feels right, but any adjustments just make it worse.  In a simple "pass/fail" litmus test that I generally use, all sixteen of these get a pass from me, even those I may have balked at at one point.  When trying to write up these ranks, I also tried to separate their merits from the separate rankings list that AlexVoltaire has called "bottom line."  I tried to separate the idea of the Hall needing them, as he put it.  The Hall needs most if not all of these artists; whether it's representation of race, gender, geography, generations, or genre; the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame needs what each of these nominees bring to the table, the table with a giant hoagie on it.  So that's where this list leaves off.  Hopefully soon, it'll be a ranking of artists as I enjoy listening to them.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Delayed Reactions: 2021 Ballot

 After a week and a half, I'm finally getting around to posting my reactions to the ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2021.  Between the live reactions of the podcasts of our associates and the reactions already posted by fellow bloggers, I feel like most of what I could say and want to say would be superfluous, so I'll just briefly say how thrilled I am at how diverse this ballot is, both in terms of race and gender.  It's not perfectly balanced, as has already been noted, but given the overwhelming disappointment the past few years' ballots have been in this regard, it's an improvement, a start.  It's getting away from the classic rock staples, and moving forward and outward.  And if you're foolish like me and read the comments to the Hall Of Fame's social media posts, you know that there are a lot of people upset about that.  While there are still many classic rock acts for whom an argument can be made, it's well past time for the Hall to tell that crowd, "Okay there. It's not all about you, you know."  The perennial comments continue to surface about how anything deviating from the most persistent connotation of "rock" is simply not rock at all, but the Hall is strengthening their stance that rock and roll draws from multiple influences, infuses them into its DNA, and exudes them in their inclusion with new, imaginative, and wonderful art that not everyone will always understand.

Which brings me to a point I feel I need to address, one that I can at least partially answer to with my experience.  Not even a week in, we already saw a lot of half-heartedness toward the ballot because people simply aren't huge fans of the artists nominated.  There is a lot of complaining going on because there just aren't enough nominees that initially thrill people's souls or brains.  My response is: welcome to my world, there's the riverbed, go cry me one.  It's about inducting artists that deserve it and not necessarily ones that are in your Spotify playlist for when you stop working for the day and want to get blazed.  Go back to my entries about the 2012 nominees where I ranked the Red Hot Chili Peppers last in my personal tastes, but still listed them as being the most deserving of the nominees.  I didn't enjoy listening to them, but it was right for them to be nominated and subsequently inducted.  That is what is more important.  Second, take their nominations as a chance to learn more about the artists.  I've discovered how many of the grunge songs I like are by Nirvana, and that I'm not much into other grunge acts. And even then, there may be more that I do like.  I've discovered I like certain artists--just not the big hits that I knew, as well as artists whose hits excited me about their nomination--but not the deeper tracks in their catalog.  Challenge the notion that you already know all you need to about these artists.  And even after you've done all that, if you still can't muster the energy to be positive about this ballot, then remember that there are other people besides you.  These acts have fans who are ecstatic about their nominations.  Try being happy for other people instead of gloomy for your own sake.  There are a lot of musical journeys in this world apart from yours, and those of others have as much validity as yours.  Share in their joy now, as they've shared in yours in the past.

And now to the acts who have been nominated.

Mary J. Blige: Of all the acts on this ballot, this is the one I know the least about.  While Blige was at the height of her career, my dial was set to the Oldies station, and I also did a shift at the college radio station.  The only song by her that I know that I know of is her duet with U2 to cover "One."  So, this will be the greatest opportunity for me to finally join the world in the '90s.  I'm looking forward to it, and plan to go into this with an open mind and open ears.  But her nomination in the context of my musical experience is exactly the kind of thing Joe and Kristen talk about with the category of Does My Mom Know Who They Are?: not only do I recognize the name, I know she's a singer.  She's such a strong name that even those who willingly dwelt under rocks know the name and what she does.  

Kate Bush:  A return to the ballot for this reclusive lady from England.  Hers is an artistry that transcends generations.  Admittedly, her music isn't always the best soundtrack for blue-collar work, but that's okay.  I'm glad to see her back because in a simple pass-fail litmus test that I tend to use, she clears the bar easily.  A pleasant surprise that she's back. 

Devo:  Another surprise return nominee.  Didn't predict them, but looking forward to getting weird(er) while jamming on them.

Foo Fighters:  The first of either 7.5 or 8 that I predicted, depending on whose metric you use.  Among the blogging and podcasting members of the hobbyist community, this is probably the least exciting nominee for two reasons: one, literally everyone knew this was coming; two, much like Green Day for 2015, there's a sense of inevitability that is perhaps not fully warranted.  Nonetheless, in keeping with what I said, I will make the effort to be happy for their fans and take the opportunity to learn more about them.  I would say I know them the second-least, because they're the only artist of credit on "Learn To Fly," and "Weird Al" Yankovic wrote "With My Own Eyes" as a pastiche of the Foo Fighters' general oeuvre.

Go-Go's:  My second correct prediction, and one I admittedly felt unsure about.  I thought I might have been giving John Sykes and the Hall too much credit by picking them, but I'm as thrilled at their nomination as I am disappointed with myself for being so cynical.  In the confines of an established storyline, their nomination is in the same queue as Rush, the Moody Blues, and Bon Jovi:  the continued razing of the wall that was Jann S. Wenner's blacklist, and this one is probably the biggest blow to that wall yet, as it wasn't just personal distaste that got their name on that list, but a professional coming to loggerheads.  As for their music, "We Got The Beat" was their introduction for me when I heard it on--ready for this?--a children's music station, back in the early '90s.  Get 'em while they're young, and they will know rock.  And then to find out that Jane Wiedlin was both the singing telegram girl in "Clue" and Joan Of Arc in "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure"... it just makes my excitement even greater.

Iron Maiden: Speaking of "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure"... Iron Maiden? Excellent!  Hadn't predicted them.  I thought Thin Lizzy would be the metal pick this time.  Iron Maiden was already on the Previously Considered list, so their selection is not too surprising, but given the struggle metal has been having, I thought the Hall's priorities were well-known in this subgenre.  

Jay-Z:  The only things surprising about this nomination are that he's not the nominee whose music I know the least about, and that he's not the only rap nominee on the ballot.  Another nominee that literally everybody had, including me.  That's three.

Chaka Khan:  Depending upon whose metric you use, this is either a correct prediction, or the half point, as I had predicted Rufus to be nominated as a band.  I'm both happy and leery to see her nominated.  I have been adamant and on record about wanting her to be a dual inductee, but I feel that given how the Hall operates, the only way to make it happen is to get the lesser known group effort in first, then use that as a springboard for the solo career.  I worry that Rufus will be subsumed in an induction of Chaka as a solo artist.  Then again, they included Jerry Butler as a member of the Impressions so they wouldn't have to bother with his enormous solo career at a later time.  The Hall Of Fame sure loves their imaginary finiteness and false dichotomies, doesn't it?

Carole King:  Yes, I'm counting this one in my column.  While she didn't get bolded in my predictions post, when I learned that there were sixteen names, and I'd only named fifteen, I added her the night before the announcement on the Future Rock Legends forum on the 2021 Predictions thread. It counts.  Fifth name to my credit.  And what a name.  Even though I refused to include her in my re-ranking of Past Nominees, I promised I would if she got nominated again for this category, and if she somehow doesn't get in this time, she will be included in the next edition, whenever I have the motivation to do that again.  So, probably in 2025.  Stoked to see her nominated.  If she gets in this time, she'll be the first woman, and the first person RIGHTFULLY inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in two different categories.

Fela Kuti:  I first encountered Fela Kuti's music in a class about the history of the music of West Africa when I studied at Michigan State University.  The professor selected "Colonial Mentality" by Fela, and his son Femi's "Black Man Know Yourself" as demonstrations of Afrobeat.  Despite having also been on the Previously Considered list, his nomination is still a bit of a shock.  It has brought me both joy and sorrow: joy to see the groundswell of support in the fan vote from people in Africa, and sorrow at the persistent closed-mindedness to the diaspora that is rock and roll music from people (presumably) here in the States.  This nomination more than any on this ballot, in my opinion, demonstrates how important representation is, and the importance of validating other people's musical experiences.  I applaud this nomination and the ongoing efforts by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation to make sure people know that rock and roll music is defined as more than just the mating call of the male White middle-class English speaker.

LL Cool J:  Given the difficulty that rap has in getting enshrined at all, having two rappers on the ballot is a risky move, and practically suicide if one is a shoo-in.  Suffice to say, did not see this one coming, but at least I get to spend time jamming to his music while getting to call it "research."  Good luck LL.

New York Dolls:  The artist I'm delving into as I type this.  As much of a shock as it is, it's also refreshing when they bring a previous one-and-done nominee back.  And now with a phone that I can stream on, I'm getting to know their music better.  Ain't technology grand?

Rage Against The Machine:  Back for their third nomination, it also shows the Hall has no conflicts when it comes their own interests, just in case the history of the Non-Performer category wasn't enough of a smoking gun.  Some have called it ironic that they're being nominated again, now that Trump is out of office.  But I assure you, Biden is as much part of the machine, and this band would be more than happy to rage against the new administration, if they were reuniting.  With the Foo Fighters nominated, it's almost bizarre to see these guys back, even though the only sphere they both occupy is generational.

Todd Rundgren:  Our last three nominees, alphabetically speaking, are also numbers six, seven, and eight for my scorecard.  As for Todd, it was just a sense of there being an artist on their third consecutive nomination that inexplicably missed out twice before, much like the Cars.  I don't know if third time will be a charm for him, and he sure doesn't care.  Still, it'd be nice if he'd be happy for his fans, as his nomination validates what his music does for them.

Tina Turner:  The "hell yeah" nomination on this ballot for me, or at least as much as Carole King.  Predicting her was also a hope against hope that the Hall was paying attention to the world, if not us in the watching community.  It's dangerous to call anybody a lock, but the nomination alone feels pretty huge.  Gonna keep hoping that we get two more women inducted a second time this year.

Dionne Warwick:  This is almost like another Bill Withers situation for me: part of the reason I predicted her nomination was because I fed off the certainty of others in the community that this was her year.  I'm not sure if her current reign as Queen Of Twitter had anything to do with it, or if it was the induction of Whitney Houston last year that caused the reach back to her cousin, maybe both.  Either way, her being the sole representative of the music of the '60s is going to be worth watching as we wait to see how John Sykes' vision unfolds and plays out.

Indeed, the plan John Sykes has for the Hall will be interesting to watch overall.  But what is more interesting is how this ballot will resonate with the voting bloc.  The NomComm has put diversity on the ballot in the past, but they've also included enough White male guitar bands for the voting bloc to comfortably nest in their anonymity and their legion to give us relative homogeneity in the actual classes.  That's nigh impossible this time, so if we get a class resembling that of 2016 or 2018, it will be a flagrant signal to Sykes where he has to do more weeding and planting to get the diverse garden he claims to want.  And that leaves us where we are now: watching, waiting, and commenting.  Happy Rock Hall Season to all, and to all, vote in the fan poll everyday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Dumpster Fire 2021: Predicting The Ballot

 Sometime this week, the Nominating Committee for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame meets, or has already met. After the clockwork of the Hall's calendar got hiccoughed by the pandemic, the changing of the guard with John Sykes coming in, not to mention the anger, resentment, and frustration toward the Hall being given the extra months to swell; it almost seems somehow even more pointless to try and predict the ballot.  The Hall almost makes a point to be deaf to the people's voice and insensate to the winds of change, something I noted in my previous entry, and predicting the ballot has earned the analogy of predicting which way the winds will blow the flames of the dumpster fire.

Nevertheless, there's still something gripping about predicting the ballot. It's almost like the thrill of a cynical gambler: to be both upset and happy to collect your winnings when something terrible happens because you knew it would. You're not surprised, but you are disappointed. Even then, you still get a kick out of doing it again next go-around.  And with that, to quote Whitesnake: here I go again on my own.  I know; I hate myself for it, too.

Starting with the obvious, we are going to see Jay-Z and the Foo Fighters nominated.  Those two names are not going to not appear on the ballot.  I also strongly suspect the pandemic will cause John Prine to receive a second nomination, courtesy of the "death fairy."  From mortality to immortality.  With both Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode inducted this past year, that almost seems to be stacking the deck to get Kraftwerk over the bar and into the Hall this year.  Also, a return nomination for Rufus with Chaka Khan should be coming.  So far, business as usual.

But I do think there will be some shake-up. I'm strongly hoping that the inductions of Irving Azoff and Jon Landau are their proverbial gold watches before being shown the door. Hopefully, Landau is no longer the chair and that Azoff is done flexing his muscle for his clients.  And since the big push is for more women, it's important to take note that the two biggest campaigns at present are for the Go-Go's and Tina Turner as a solo artist. And though I think Burt Bacharach and Hal David are too MOR for induction as songwriters, the current reign of Dionne Warwick as the queen of Twitter makes her a prime candidate for nomination. After our collective shock of her missing out last year, there's a strong chance that Pat Benatar will be back.  It's also a bit out of left field, but I think her social media presence and her being a shining beacon of and to humanity are just raising the chances for Dolly Parton to appear on the ballot.

Unfortunately, I also have a strong suspicion that John Sykes' vision for the future really just means attracting the patronage of the White males who are simply younger than the White males to whom the Hall has been catering over the past two decades.  In that vein, Duran Duran is probably the big name that rises to the top.  There will still be the '70s rock picks too, and a return for Thin Lizzy will fill that slot quite sufficiently.  A third consecutive nomination for Todd Rundgren is pretty conceivable, too. After the debacle of the fan vote last time, I think the Dave Matthews Band will be sitting this one out, but Soundgarden could very well reappear.  I'll finish out at fifteen names and say that No Doubt would be an interesting possibility: Gwen Stefani lends a strong female presence, their induction would add more men than women to the voting bloc thus keeping bigger change from happening, they appeal to a younger breed of White males, Gwen's presence on "The Voice" keeps her name relevant, and her appearance in the video package for Irving Azoff potentially sets her band as the whisper in the NomComm's ear from Big Shorty, should his influence not be completely vanished.

So with that, I give you fifteen names that have a good shot at being nominated.  Truthfully, I haven't put too much thought into it, as averaging 11.5 hours a day tends to turn your brain to mush.  Their names will be revealed soon.  Try to stay upwind of the dumpster.

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Monsters Inside

 Merry Christmas, first of all.

By now, we've all watched the induction special, and have had our say about that. I have nothing further to add about what we watched, but two of the inductions certainly raised eyebrows regarding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's credibility. Those two are of course those of Jon Landau and Irving Azoff, the Non-Performer inductees. On a fairly recent episode of "Who Cares About The Rock Hall," Kristen Studard called it, "The ladder inducting itself," an analogy I'd never heard before, and though I get what it means, I'm curious about the etymology of it. Why a ladder? Not important, I suppose. But even at its initial announcement, it was chided with other metaphors, such as "insider baseball." One might even call it, "The tower inducting the ivory."

To some degree, it makes sense. Who are generally the most knowledgeable AND financially capable of establishing the institution in the first place? The industry insiders who helped elevate the music as part of the cultural zeitgeist, right? So, wouldn't it make sense to include some of them for what they did as part of the movement? By that logic, yeah.

Problem is, as we all know, it came with a metric tonne of strings attached: genres of music ignored for the longest time, specific artists blacklisted, others plain blackballed for crossing those in power in past business dealings, criminal atrocities by those in power whitewashed or just plain omitted in the telling of the story, favors becoming currency, political moves, etc. The inductions of Azoff and especially Landau demonstrate a digging in of the heels by the Foundation, with regards to its clique mentality.

I've previously expressed skepticism at inducting managers, period, but what is even more infuriating is that there are people who deserve induction in this category way more than these two, who haven't been inducted because they are not and were not part of the power players at the Foundation: Estelle Axton, Wolfman Jack, Bob Crewe, Hilly Kristal, Sylvia Robinson, Don Cornelius, just to name a few. Maybe Azoff and Landau deserve induction, but the Hall could've avoided some flak had they also inducted some people who aren't cozy with the Foundation. The Hall has gotten a little more populist with the Performer category, and they call it progress. But looking at who and when they induct Non-Performers is also incredibly telling, often prominently and proudly displaying a sense of elitism.

When stories are told of the early induction ceremonies, in terms of both how it was done and how it was recorded for posterity, it tends to get described as being for "the people in the room." And that's primarily what it still is. There is still an attitude simmering that, despite having a museum for the public to visit (pandemic notwithstanding), looks at our making this institution a hobby and retorts, "Why do you care so much about it? This belongs to us!" They built an ivory tower of sorts and told us all to behold; they wanted our praise and admiration, not our input. And perhaps nowhere is this more prominent than in the gender disparity in the Hall. In the past couple years, this has been brought to the forefront by Evelyn McDonnell, the Who Cares About The Rock Hall podcast, the Hall Watchers podcast, Future Rock Legends, and various members of the Hall watching community. It seems to have only gotten worse, though. John Sykes is promising change for the better, and we all need to be watching for it.

And watching ourselves, as I've recently been reminded. After a grave bout with foot-in-mouth disease, I lie here riddled with my own guilt and shame. I thought I was helping to smash the patriarchy, but instead, I shattered a friendship with my biases, inability to listen, and general narcissism. I demonstrated indifference in a moment of devil's advocacy where none was needed or wanted, inadvertently defended a sexual assailant, unwittingly maintained a double standard, and dismissed other people's musical journeys and insights outright--in short, many things we're trying to hold the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame accountable for. I don't say this to avoid reckoning, at least not entirely. When the hammer falls, I deserve to be under it, too ashamed to even utter words of apology, and not expecting to be believed anyway, though I am truly sorry to the point of depression. Since dining on shoe leather, I've done a lot of self-loathing and finally some soul-searching. I have problems, and I've at least been able to identify some personal moments that may have caused some of them. My conscious mind knows, believes, and cares; and dammit, I'll drag the ego with me, kicking and screaming if necessary. Call it hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance, being full of shit, or whatever; but the same stubbornness that makes me a fence post to talk to sometimes is the same thing that won't let me give up on trying to improve myself. Thankfully, I've got visible examples, from this year alone, in my personal life outside this hobby to look to for encouragement. I've used my voice for good before, and I will again. If I can first learn to listen more.

Hopefully, the Rock Hall will too.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Day Is Done

As I type this, we are still in a state of quarantine, as the pandemic of COVID19 continues to be the dominant force on this planet.  The number of lives already lost to this disease is mind-boggling, and among the lives lost was a man nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2019, but was not inducted.  I am of course referring to John Prine. 

While Prine didn't make it in that year, and is still not in, his nomination certainly did raise an awareness for his music that wasn't previously there.  When the nominees were announced in mid-to-late 2018 for the Class Of 2019, I remember one member of the Hall-watching community said something along the lines of, "I remember the first time I heard a John Prine song.  It was five minutes after he was announced as a nominee."  And I have to admit, I was pretty much in the same boat.  But I was willing to listen, to delve into his catalog, and see if I could understand his nomination.  And even though I ranked him way down on the Merits' ranking list, I understood the nomination.  His songwriting genius is undeniable.  His melodies are pleasant and unpretentious, the wit of his lyrics is sharp yet gentle when he wanted, or in your face if he wanted it that way, and the overall experience is refreshing and edifying.

It's just amazing how many of his songs I've found myself humming and thinking of in response to what was going on around me.  The political sphere of this country frequently has me thinking of "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore."  The day-to-day ridiculous in the immediate world around us will sometimes remind me "Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln, Nebraska 1967 (Crazy Bone)."  As someone with extremely low self-esteem, I find "Day Is Done" to have a sweet sadness that lets me know it's okay to feel down for a little bit, but not too long.  His duets are wonderful and at times profound.

John Prine died before he could be voted in to become inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but his nomination helped his music gain wider exposure.  This is something that the Hall does right.  I remember once reading an article about how being announced as a nominee helped increase an artist's sales for a short burst of time.  Same with being announced as an inductee.  And the actual ceremony.  The Hall increases exposure for the artists it nominates, which is necessary when the sole criterion is the passage of at least twenty-five years since an artist's debut release.  For those of us who follow the Hall as a hobby, "left field" picks like Prine will often give us a chance to check out artists we may not have known, or think we knew, or knew of, but didn't really know.  In the case of John Prine, I found an artist I really liked.  I also learned that I'm really not into grunge, not even a legendary act like Soundgarden.  I've gotten to know the music of T. Rex much more deeply, to delve deeper into R&B acts like Little Willie John, and even to buy music again, artists ranging from Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker to N.W.A. and 2Pac. 

It's easy to criticize the Hall, and we all do it from time to time.  But with the passing of John Prine, rather than be upset that he didn't get inducted while alive, I'm choosing to remember that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is how I first learned of the music of John Prine.  The Hall's mission is to enshrine and perpetuate incredible music that is part of the rock and roll diaspora, and when they introduce a great artist to people's ears for the first time, they are doing their job correctly.  This is why we care about the Hall, because they do things like this that are fantastic, and it's why we try to hold them accountable as much as we can, because when they get off track, it can be pretty egregious.  We care about the music itself, we ultimately believe in the Hall, and thus it galls us to find out about their surreptitious shenanigans.  But for tonight, it's about what they've done right.  In this case, introducing John Prine's brilliance to a new audience.

Thank you, Rock Hall.  Rest In Peace John Prine.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Delayed reactions. The Class Of 2020

I'd held off on commenting about the Class Of 2020 for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for some time because, well, everyone else was saying what I was thinking.  It didn't really seem necessary.  Nevertheless, as a blogger of this hobby, it's expected that I say a few words about this class, what's missing, etc.

So first off, I did terrible in my predictions.  Everyone said this was a tough ballot to predict from, but I don't think anyone did worse than me.  I do take a little consolation in the fact that my 7 and 8 seeds, two acts that were tough calls to eliminate, got in.  I nearly got four.  I don't feel bad about missing on Depeche Mode.  If Kraftwerk can't get in, why should I believe Depeche Mode would?  Okay, they had more hits in America, that's why.  And Nine Inch Nails... I mean, there wasn't going to be more than one "rock" band from the '90's, and the Dave Matthews Band were leading the fan poll.  Ah well, the world is still turning, and these are all deserving Performers being inducted.  All the same, I think this was my worst year of predicting, ever.

I'm actually thrilled that Whitney's getting in.  It continues the trend of first place finishers in my personal taste list getting in.  You have to go back to 2014 and the Spinners for the last time an act that topped my personal preferences list but didn't get in.  And she finished second in merits, so it's pretty awesome overall.  T. Rex making it isn't a bad thing either.  They're a little saccharine for me to binge-listen to all that often, but they're fun, a good choice when you need a little cheering up.  More importantly, it's important to induct more acts that were massively popular on a more global perspective, even if not in America.    Biggie and the Doobies?  Called them.  Yay, I got two.

The fact I only got two though also shows some big changes.  As has been noted, this was the first year in quite a long time that rock and roll, vis-a-vis the Hall's inductions, is not being primarily defined as guitar music.  We still have that perspective with T. Rex and the Doobie Brothers as inductees, but the rest?  Hip-hop, industrial, pop/soul, and synth dance music.  It's truly something to behold.  Is this something that's going to continue?  A lot of that will depend on who the Nominating Committee puts on the ballot of course.  For now, though, it's a phenomenon to take notice of.

However, perhaps one of the reasons that this class shaped up the way it did is divisions in the ballot.  Did Motorhead, Judas Priest, and Thin Lizzy divide the ballot against each other?  How did Soundgarden and the MC5 factor in?  Did Kraftwerk get drowned out by Depeche Mode alone, or was it a one-two combo with Nine Inch Nails?  Whitney Houston was clearly strong enough to stop Rufus with Chaka Khan.  Is Trent Reznor enough of a production wizard to have detracted votes away from Todd Rundgren?

Of course, the biggest question seems to be, how the hell did Pat Benatar miss?  Collectively, the hobbyist community figured her as big a shoo-in as the Doobie Brothers, maybe even bigger.  Her missing out is as perplexing as Todd Rundgren's last year, Radiohead's the year before, as well as other inexplicable anomalies like Queen and AC/DC missing out their first times on the ballot.  I really hope she's back next year.  It's impossible to tell at this point, but it'll be great if she is.

Which brings us to the case of the Dave Matthews Band.  For the record, I never had an issue with their nomination.  Back in 2006, shortly before I made my observations on the 2007 ballot on a robotic combat forum, I started a thread about upcoming acts that the Hall was going to have to deal with at some point, and the Dave Matthews Band were on that list, for exactly the reasons I said, elevating the live tour back to an artform, while still being immensely popular.  I never had a problem with the band's nomination.  It was the arrogance of the fan base on Twitter that was irritating, treating their loyalty and online presence as a clinching factor, especially after they pushed the band over one million votes in the fan poll, demanding that they be glorified for their efforts as well as the Dave Matthews Band themselves.  That was annoying, but as annoyed as I was with the fans, it did not bring me any joy when the Dave Matthews Band did not get named as an inductee for 2020.  In the days before the announcement, I was coming up with some jokes to post on Twitter about DMB not getting the nod, should they miss out.  They weren't meant to be hurtful, just some good-natured ribbing meant in the style and manner of the Comedy Central Roasts.  However, when I saw the dismay and outrage of the fans on Twitter following the disappointing announcements, I just didn't have the heart to make those jokes.  I knew they wouldn't be taken in the manner I would have intended them.  Best to just let them have their outrage, lick their wounds, and let them be upset for a time.

Well, Dave Matthews Band fans, welcome to the world of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  One of the long-time criticisms of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is that it's a private boys' club.  They don't have a whole lot of concern over what the general public cares about or thinks is important.  And it isn't just demonstrated with the Dave Matthews Band, though this is the first time that the first-place finisher in the fan vote has not ended up inducted as part of that class.  Only one of the five acts on the official fan ballot ended up getting inducted.  In all fairness, the Hall always made it clear that the fan poll would constitute one and only one official ballot (until the latest comments saying the fan vote counts as two), that the millions of fan votes on the fan ballot were only as meaningful as the combined votes from the surviving Ronettes.  It's one of the few times the Hall has ever been transparent.  There's a high amount of disconnect from the general public with this class, after a string of years that showed relative synchronization of thoughts, but it's just a further reminder that it's still their house, and they'll do as they please.  They never actually promised anything but as HallWatchers said on Twitter: "Whether we agree if the band belongs is besides the point. If they're going to lather people up about the kiosk/fan vote, only to yank their chains about bands they love and mean something to them, it's going to cause confusion and anger no matter how you slice it."  And later, HallWatchers also said, "And the thing is, I don't hate it as an idea. Have them in the museum as a fun, interactive thing to do. But when you start promoting it every time someone complains about a band not getting in, you're implying that kiosk is a solution to their complaint."  So maybe the Hall implied things they didn't mean to.  Those of us who follow the Hall knew this wasn't going to be meaningful, but the average person doesn't know that.  So yeah, it's disenchanting for them.  Still, I think their anger will be transient enough because in a year's time they'll no longer remember or care, unless DMB gets nominated again next year.  And even then, the anger will be subside if they make it next time.  I don't think the anger will last.  Will there be any further fallout?  It's hard to say; the Hall has so much shadiness surrounding them, you can pretty much take your pick on what will be remembered as their most grievous offense, and it won't be any one thing, but everything, and yet still the one thing.  Does that make sense?  I don't know, but it makes sense in my head.

But speaking of shady things surrounding the Hall, let's also get into the Ahmet Ertegun Award recipients for Non-Performers.  This year, we're honoring Irving Azoff and Jon Landau, two men with very high positions in the Foundation itself.  Landau chairs the Nominating Committee, while Azoff is on the board for the entire Foundation.  Once you know that, it already makes their inductions feel icky and self-congratulatory.  It gets worse when you recall that the last Non-Performer inductee was Bert Berns, in 2016, which happened right about the time that Little Steven was producing a play about Bert Berns.  The whole thing is too openly cronyistic to even be called "shady" anymore; it's right out there in broad daylight.

The cronyism of it all just derails the whole conversation to the point where we don't even ask "Do they deserve it?"  And I have to profess, it's not the best the Hall could've done.  I'm not opposed to inducting managers outright, mind you.  But this category is supposed to honor those who in their own non-performing ways helped perpetuate and evolve rock and roll music.  The Hall has only inducted two other managers: Andrew Loog Oldham and Brian Epstein, both in 2014.  These are two managers that played a very hands-on role in grooming their landmark acts, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.  Epstein managed the Beatles and made them clean up their act, meaning their stage antics and their look.  He groomed them into a band that was palatable enough to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, and in a sense, made Beatlemania happen.  Oldham intentionally marketed the Rolling Stones as a rougher band, an alternative to the Beatles.  He helped solidify their "bad boy" image, which in turn helped their stylistic direction.  Compare those two men to Azoff and Landau.  Azoff's most famous acts are Eagles and Steely Dan.  Now, Azoff's empire has gone on to manage and represent a multitude of acts, many big ones, such as Fleetwood Mac, the Doobie Brothers, Bon Jovi, just to name a few.  But did his management really do anything to shape or form the sound of any one particular artist?  I suppose it's a situation where you have to acknowledge that art never truly happens in a vacuum and that the music business is still a business.  Perhaps by handling all the tedious legalese and fine print, Irving Azoff frees up artists to be more creative without the stress of red tape weighing heavily on them, but it's really more of an indirect contribution to the creative process.  He doesn't so much inspire artists as he does clear obstacles that would stifle inspiration and creativity.  Should that be enough?  Well, with enough major artists under his wing and a large enough empire, maybe the testimony is deafeningly whispered and hiding in plain sight.

With Jon Landau, though, I'm having a harder time.  Irving Azoff has at least the quantity of artists whose careers he's bolstered, some quite significantly.  Landau really only has one: Bruce Springsteen.  If you're going to be Hall-worthy for managing one artist, that artist had better be in the rafters of the absolute top tier.  I'm talking Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and maybe a handful of others.  I love Bruce Springsteen's music, but if we're being honest, he isn't on the same plateau as those names in terms of importance to the story and history of rock and roll music.  He falls just a wee bit shy of that mark.  And even if Springsteen is that important, Landau didn't shape, mold, and groom the man we now know as "the Boss" the way that Epstein did the Beatles or Oldham, the Stones.  Even with Azoff, a management empire that big, the probabilities support the likelihood that there are at least a couple artists that Azoff personally had a hand in shaping their image, and thereby their musical direction.  With Landau, though, he's the diver who found a great pearl and gave up everything he had to have that pearl.  He claimed he saw the future of music, and it was named Bruce Springsteen.  Bruce pretty much already had his style and image in place by the time Landau came on board.  And yes, Landau produced several albums by the Boss and his band, but again, unless that artist is on the same level as Chuck Berry, you need more than one artist on your resume.  Yes, he produced an MC5 album, but the MC5 are having serious trouble getting their own due recognition.  He's also done some stuff for Shania Twain, but the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame currently has a tepid relationship with the world of country music.  Relatively modern mainstream country, the kind of country my friends refer to as "Nashville pop," is not esteemed by this institution we all find so riveting.  But wait, wasn't he also a critic at Rolling Stone?  Yes, but here's the thing: I don't think music critics should be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, not when it's their primary or sole contribution to the industry.  Paul Ackerman is an exception, because he broke ground by breaking through the pretentious and possibly racist blithe dismissal of an entirely new style of music.  But those journalists are few and far between.  Music critics in general, don't add much to the perpetuation and evolution of rock and roll, and if they do, it's in an opposition kind of way--that is, if a particular critic hates it, you know that you'll love it.  In the long run, music critics have been wrong so many times so often about musical works that history has smiled favorably upon (or raved about works that have been all but forgotten), they make weather forecasters feel like veteran bookies in Las Vegas.  I may be in the minority here, but I have yet to be convinced that music critics are worthy of the Ahmet Ertegun Award for their work as critics.  So, any and all merits that bolster the argument for Jon Landau as an inductee hinge entirely on his work with Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, and I don't think it's enough.  That's just me personally, and it won't change a thing.  Landau will be inducted, and he will get a Song Of Proof to represent him in The Great Playlist.  However, there are far too many candidates who are much worthier of enshrinement in this category, so many that there is no excuse for pulling these kinds of shenanigans.

So, that's the wrap-up on my long overdue thoughts about this class.  Late to the party, probably too late to even get a party favor or even half a glass of punch, but my thoughts nevertheless.  Still not ready to start thinking about 2021, though, at least not seriously.  Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to what this ceremony will be like when it's live on HBO, and I'll be sure to weigh in on that too, hopefully not as late though.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Predicting the inductees for 2020

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.

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%

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%

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%

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%

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%

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%

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%

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%

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%

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%

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.