Sunday, February 5, 2023

Yikes And Away: The Ballot Of 2023

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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Quick Predict: Ballot 2023

Taking a moment to quickly throw out some predictions for the 2023 ballot for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Hopefully not as lengthy as the usual post, so here are some thoughts on who might make the ballot.

First off, while there is no sure thing to predict, I'm going to predict three newly eligibles for the ballot.  First, is Missy Elliott.  Regarded as the most worthy newly eligible act, as well as the most likely first female rapper to be inducted, this is someone that the community has been talking about and keeping an eye on, hoping to manifest this one into happening.  Second is going to be Destiny's Child.  The induction of Dolly Parton this past year is evidence of what I call the Hall's "relevance through reactionism.  Dolly's status as a national treasure got too big for the Hall not to try and induct her (not that she wasn't deserving, though), and even though Beyonce's solo career is much, much bigger and more legendary, the Hall almost certainly is not going to pass on the opportunity to make Queen Bey a double first year eligible inductee.  They want names to pack the house, and hers is a lock to do so.  The Hall loves big names like hers, and I have to believe they'll want to make that happen.  But whom do they love even more?  Their own people, such as Dave Grohl.  It might be too big of a stretch to imagine he'd be included, but if they want a second three-time inductee, they might just go for Queens Of The Stone Age. It's a stretch, but what the hell?  The Hall does crazy things sometimes.

Next up will be the return nominees.  With a new chair of the NomComm, it's possible last year's nominees including so many repeats may have been a last ditch attempt by the old guard.  Then again, maybe not.  Stranger Things have happened, which is why everyone including me is predicting Kate Bush to return to the ballot.  But I also think Dionne Warwick and Devo have a chance to return.  Crazy as it may sound, I think a third consecutive nomination may also be in the cards for Fela Kuti..  And of course, loving their own means it'll probably spell a return for Rage Against The Machine too.

Who's been eligible but will just be appearing for the first time?  Well, keeping in a somewhat traditional rock vein, look for INXS to possibly be a priority.  If the Hall's feeling particularly populist, it could finally be good news for Motley Crue as well.  And if they want to go with names of the nineties, then No Doubt is a name that might come up as well.  Of course, it's also only a matter of time before Outkast bursts onto the ballot.  And when it comes to playing ball with the Hall, you need to keep Sheryl Crow in the conversation as well.  If the Hall is not done with classic rock though, it could be time for Bad Company to be nominated.  And if Rick Krim joined the NomComm to push for more prog, Jethro Tull seems to be the currently priority in that column.  I'll go for a ballot of seventeen as well, and say George Michael is due up as well, mainly because he's been namechecked in some acceptance speeches recently.  And from the video packages, let's go ahead and grab Mariah Carey.  

So that's a quickly whipped up batch of nominees.  Sadly, it is largely mainstream, but after what we saw with this year's class, that's the way to skew.  Am I right?  Am I wrong?  We'll know very soon.


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2022

 It's time now to officially add songs to the great playlist: the Songs Of Proof.  We're about to canonize another fourteen songs to the list.  I do say canonize a bit ironically, though, as some Songs Of Proof have changed, or at least changed as appearing on Spotify.  There's no single medley track of "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions" on Spotify, so to keep it a single song, on Spotify it's "Bicycle Race."  Neil Young's catalog has largely been pulled from Spotify, as has Joni Mitchell's, so I can't play the ones I want.  Until those issues are resolved, I'm using "Journey Through The Past" for Neil Young and a live performance of "Hejira" for Joni Mitchell.  I hope I don't have to have a caveat that I have to be able to find the song on Spotify or YouTube.  That's kind of a dickish way to have to operate, that you can't have a well-known song available for a huge artist.  So, let's hope that issue is so infrequent that I can largely ignore it.  They don't have Holland-Dozier featuring Brian Holland's version of "Don't Leave Me Starving For Your Love," which is an admittedly obscure song, so finding a faithful cover by a group called the Jagged Edges was good enough for me.  Nesuhi Ertegun's has officially been changed to "Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin, and Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five's has been changed to "The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel."  And Pete Seeger's is now "Talking Atom (Old Man Atom)."  

Looking to this class, there were only a few that really seemed to come to me easily.  I wouldn't call them obvious, but some of the choices I knew had to be them when I heard them.  Some of them I'm still grappling with, trying to decide which is the song that satisfies me best, because they have so many that could do the job.  But that's also where I hope to facilitate discussion either in the Comments below, or on the Future Rock Legends site, or on social media.  So let's celebrate this class.  As I said in my previous post, the fanfic Playlist Wars playlist, I'm going to include some thoughts about the ceremony, as I viewed it on HBO, because what I saw helped me choose some songs.  Let's get into the list.

Harry Belafonte:  A lot of dismay has been conveyed about the lack of a presenter for three of the inductees, and I think of those three, the disservice was greatest to Harry Belafonte.  There was a lot of skepticism about the inclusion of Harry Belafonte as one of the inductees.  I remember years ago, listening to Oldies radio, when they would do the Top 5 at 5 from that date in rock and roll history from a certain year.  Along with including the songs, the deejay would include tidbits of trivia, such as news of the world or trivia about the songs, or whatnot.  One particular date, when they were focusing on the Top 5 from a date in the late '50s, there had been a trivia tidbit that around that time, so-called experts of pop culture predicted that rock and roll music would disappear into the annals of history as a footnote, and that calypso music would rise victorious over the raucous rock and roll.  Harry Belafonte's star was heavily on the rise at the time, so he was especially touted as the one leading the charge.  So, his induction into this institution is a bit puzzling based on the music, even though he really explored many types of world music and not just calypso.  But the adversarial marketing of calypso initially seemed to make this induction almost akin to inducting Mitch Miller or Perry Como.  There was also a lot of talk that the primary reason Harry was being inducted was because of his political and humanitarian efforts in the world, and the Hall definitely loves to enshrine artists who are heavily political in their music, and also exhibit at the museum moments when rock music helped change or shape the political landscape.  The video package for Harry Belafonte's induction touched on both aspects but ultimately failed on both parts, and a presenter or inductor would have helped clarify the vision.  His video package did do one thing right: they showed Harry Belafonte as a well-rounded interpreter and creator of songs, embracing various styles.  They just didn't show how all that music was influential.  Nor did the video sufficiently convince me that his social activism was of paramount importance to this inclusion.  The overall impression I was given is that Harry Belafonte was inducted for the same reason Dolly Parton was.  He wasn't inducted because of his music, nor because of all the good he's done in the world; they inducted him because he's a national treasure, because he's Harry fucking Belafonte.  But I care about the music more.  So, because Gary U.S. Bonds did an interpretive cover called "Twist Twist Senora," and because Mary of the Hall Watchers podcast mentioned how people cheered and got on their feet when they heard this song playing in the package, the song chosen is "Jump In The Line."

Pat Benatar:  I'm gonna be that guy.  The purist who sticks to what the label says.  I'm not listing Neil Giraldo.  Nothing personal.  Neil is of course a huge part of shaping their sound, but promoting her as a soloist was the correct call.  To credit them as a duo would give potential listeners and radio programmers the preconceived notion that they should expect a fun and different interpretation of "Muskrat Love" or something like that.  So, promoting Pat as a solo act was pretty prudent, unless you wanted to give the band behind her a name a la the Blackhearts.  That would have been cool, but that didn't happen.  And why not fight for the rest of the long-time members of her band to be inducted too?  The whole ordeal is messy, and I'm just gonna refer to this induction by the credited artist on the legendary recordings.  That said, hearing his point of view was pretty cool, because nothing happens in a vacuum.  And as an olive branch, I'm going to make sure the song used is also one that has kick-ass riffs.  After all, his shredding is a big part of the reason why those who think inside the Trunk agree that Pat absolutely belongs.  But I also wanted to include a song that showcases her vocal range, even if only momentarily.  So that's why I didn't use "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."  It has nothing to do with her protest against gun violence; it just doesn't do justice to her ability to soar and hit high notes so beautifully.  There were a couple really strong contenders.  "We Live For Love" very nearly was the choice, as was "Treat Me Right."  In the end though, I think I'm going to default to the other obvious selection, the one that actually does show her voice in the high range for a few bars.  "Heartbreaker" is the choice.

Elizabeth Cotten:  The second of the three inductees who didn't get an inductor, but luckily the case for Cotten isn't marred as badly as Belafonte's.  The video package for Libba focused on her style of playing that was hugely influential and the songs that have become part of the fabric of folk lore (but not folklore).  Her selection as an Early Influence was, as a I said in a previous post, "out of the blue, out of the park."  Unsurprisingly, her Song Of Proof is "Freight Train."  There are so many other amazing songs of hers, and I particularly love "When I Get Home," a song that shows undeterred faith in the midst of hardships.  I think "Freight Train" shows a little bit of that too, but also a sense that to really leave this world behind for the next, it shouldn't be easy to make a pilgrimage to where one made that transition.  I think there's an interesting theological discussion there, which includes not being certain where the tomb of Jesus was, nor the stable where he was born, so that those locations don't become sites of idolatry.  But I digress.  This is one induction where I'm willing to be flexible on calendar timelines.  Her songs sound much older than the recordings, because they were written decades before being recorded.  Definitely have to go with the obvious on this one.

Duran Duran:  So many songs to choose from.  Which one would you select?  I have to admit I prefer picking songs where the single version is the same as the album version, though as we get further into the MTV era, that is going to be less feasible, since the big hit records were many times pared down from the album cuts.  I guess I'm just going to have to deal with that, just like I will with the abuse of categories.  As I said in my personal preferences list for the nominees, Duran Duran is a band that I haven't been able to appreciate fully because of other people ruining their music for me.  Admittedly though, their legato songs like "Rio" and "Hungry Like The Wolf" and even "Ordinary World" are the ones I'm drawn to more, whereas the songs with pronounced, almost staccato enunciation, particularly on the choruses, like "Wild Boys" or "Girls On Film" don't do much for me.  I'm not sure I'm making a great differentiation between those kinds of songs, but I will say that "A View To A Kill" is a pretty good bridge between the songs I really enjoy and the ones I might change the station because of.  I don't love it, but I don't hate it.  It's a little annoying, but not enough to change the station.  It's pretty good, and it has a lot of the synthesized sound that is pretty emblematic of the band and the era.  When I think of the music of the 1980s, the synth-pop sound is what I think of first and foremost, and Duran Duran is the banner band for that sound.  It may not be the apex of the James Bond franchise, but this theme will be the Song Of Proof for the band that played Robert Downey Jr.'s fiftieth birthday party.

Eminem:  As much as I enjoy the graduate level child psychology class you could make out of his Slim Shady songs, it'd be pretty disingenuous to make "My Name Is" or "We Made You" the song to use.  I think the fact that he eschewed his iconic "Lose Yourself" during his induction performance speaks to how he'd like to be known for more than that one song.  Nevertheless, whether he's being Slim, Em, or Marshall, the song to use for this inductee should have some feel of anger in its delivery.  Sadly, this also knocked out "Not Afraid," another song I truly love.  And as long as possible, I do intend to keep Songs Of Proof ones where the inductee is the only artist of credit (save Charlie Christian, cherry-picked out of the group he was in).  So, that ruled out of a few other songs.  "The Way I Am" wasn't a big enough hit, or it would have been that.  "Berzerk" nearly made the cut, as did "Rap God," but it was fellow album track "Survival" that I feel best encapsulates what makes the man tick and drives his music.  Whether it's a catharsis of childishness that has yet to be confronted, a fury at the world for what it is, or the need to rip into one's self; survival is a basic sentiment that we don't question as an end to itself, and perhaps everything we do, say, or think is because we've processed it as being necessary for survival, whether our own physical selves, our legacies, our ideologies, our society, or even our species.  The song itself isn't quite that profound, but it does push the listener in that direction, and I've chosen it to represent Eminem.

Eurythmics:  Even though I loathe the song, the choice has to be "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)."  As much as I dig so heavily on "When Tomorrow Comes" and to a lesser extent "Would I Lie To You," I feel those songs are peace and friendship gestures to cishet White guys like me, and not what makes them a truly revolutionary and artistic band that is worthy of induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  And those aren't the only two songs I like, either. (Plus, the former didn't even make the Hot 100!)  But "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" is also credited to Aretha Franklin and is disqualified under my guidelines.  "Missionary Man" is a fun one, but isn't as iconic or emblematic of their sound.  When it comes to the overall image, the sound, and the Britishness of Eurythmics, "Here Comes The Rain Again" also falls short.  "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" is deceptive in how simple it sounds and also makes Annie Lennox seem more imitable than she actually is.  Not my favorite track, but it's the clear choice to represent her and Dave.

Allen Grubman:  Allen Grubman's induction is part of a disturbing and growing trend that is hopefully stemmed by the retirement of Jon Landau from the Nominating Committee.  Whatever else you have to say about Jann S. Wenner, his vision of this category as he wanted it seemed to be something most of us agree on: industry people who either create quality or know it when they hear it and take an active part in facilitating its permeation into our culture.  That understanding maybe got challenged a mite by the induction of Paul Ackerman, though writing favorably about it can fit within those parameters, and maybe even be said about Jann S. Wenner.  Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham as managers definitely slid under the radar because their stories are known in how they actually helped shaped a band's sound, by first reshaping their image, to make them successful.  It got really fuzzy with Landau, who produced a fair amount but may not have an extensive enough resume to warrant induction; and Irving Azoff who appears to do nothing directly with the creative aspects.  Some could argue that's what Clarence Avant's induction continues too, though he did run a couple record labels as well.  Allen's induction is of course the new height of cronyism in the Hall.  But if we're looking for the positive, let's reflect on the testimonies in the video package and of John Mellencamp.  Grubman's role is indirect, removing the obstacles that can hinder the creative processes of artists, the legal obstacles in his case.  When an artist can't receive the revenues they should because they don't own their masters or other rights, it makes it more difficult, impossible sometimes, for an artist to invest in their future and flourish.  I think of TLC, who had to file for bankruptcy at the height of their popularity because they weren't being taken care of properly.  And even the doo-wop groups of the '50s who were taken advantage of, not least because they were Black.  If Mellencamp's testimony is to be believed, and if people like Grubman can stem the tide of tragedy that befalls creative talents who aren't prepared for the business side of things, and help bolster their future and legacy, then maybe it is worth enshrining lawyers, agents, publicists, and the like.  That said, that entire spiel is the mental gymnastics I have to do to justify this, whereas the people at the Hall are content to just honor him simply because he's one of them.  His portion of the ceremony and induction as was shown left me lukewarm.  You might even say it left me... "Numb."  And since U2 was one his clients, let's go with it.  That's not a total insult on my part either.  I love the Zooropa album, including that song, and the lyrics are a legalistic, almost pharisaic laundry list of thou-shalt-nots, so to use this song for a lawyer actually fits pretty darn well.

Jimmy Iovine:  Jimmy Iovine suffers from being inducted the same year as Allen Grubman.  If he had been inducted before Jon Landau, there wouldn't have been one ounce of skepticism over his induction, I'm guessing.  It is a little surprising though, that he hadn't been inducted sooner.  Perhaps the door truly got opened to that possibility with the rise of John Sykes at the helm for the Hall.  Being more focused on the MTV era probably makes it more possible to shine the light on the non-performing movers and shakers of that era.  A producer extraordinaire, he is also a problematic figure.  However, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has zero issues with courting controversy.  Admittedly, his heyday is a little outside of my comfort zone, though as a huge U2 fan, the founding of Interscope Records is important to me.  But I just used U2 for Allen Grubman, and he's much more known and legendary for his work earlier than working with those Irish lads.  Thanks to Stevie Nicks' induction as a soloist in 2019, we got a to learn a lot more about Jimmy Iovine, possibly more than we wanted to, but we're probably all a little better off knowing about it.  Maybe not.  And if you're a classic rock freak, there's probably a good deal of reverence for his work with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers.  Since Songs Of Proof for Non-Performers and Sidemen inductees don't have to be by a single artist, standout collaborative efforts are an excellent opportunity to honor such inductees.  And for that, we're saluting this defiant man with "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around."

Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis:  Oh, that problematic word "and."  I actually spent way more time than anyone else would dare wondering if the Mort Shuman rule should apply here, and give one song to Jimmy Jam and another to Terry Lewis.  I decided not to for a couple reasons: one, they're in the Award For Musical Excellence category, and not the Non-Performer (Ahmet Ertegun Award) category; two, I only gave one song to the E Street Band and only one for the next entry; three, their induction really shows them as two people with a common mind.  Not in an "all orange cats share one brain cell" kind of way, but in a synergistic way of great minds thinking alike.  Even though they have had disagreements, they always have the same goal and can agree when its right.  And it was a charming moment when Jimmy Jam led the crowd in an abridged alphabet song, to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to focus on music education.  And even though the Song Of Proof doesn't have to be by Janet Jackson, it has to be by Janet Jackson.  There were actually two strong contenders, and to show how strong the field was, the one that lost out was the album title track, "Rhythm Nation," considered for them having an iconic sound and touch.  But Janet and the video package really showcased that the true magic of their process was listening to their artists and getting their input.  They asked the soil what type of crops it wanted to produce.  In a business where artistic agency and trajectory can be manufactured and molded and frequently is, Jimmy and Terry helped facilitate a more organic method of creation, essentially giving the artists control of that.  So, a title track got beaten out by another album title cut.  It's "Control" by Janet Jackson.

Judas Priest:  The Hall doesn't want you to know they're not a Performer inductee, and many among us don't care.  So, I'm not going to change my selection of their Song Of Proof based on the category that they're in.  They're a Performer inductee in my book, for what little that means, and I hope the Hall seriously considers my suggestion regarding propositions as a way of making things less confusing without resorting to the "obit just gonna say 'inductee'" line.  That dog doesn't hunt.  But getting back to Judas Priest, I loved Alice Cooper's speech, and I'd love to see him play a man who's hired to be a contract killer only to have him turn out to be an undercover cop who puts someone behind bars.  Maybe that's just me, but his speech makes a really good case for making "Hellbent For Leather" to be the selection.  And the broadcast that shows "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight" was fantastic.  The fact that Rob can still hit those notes is just marvelous.  It shows dedication and discipline to what he does that many stars simply lack.  Ultimately, though, I think the elevation of heavy metal music and spirit of rebellion and defiance is best depicted in "You've Got Another Thing Coming."  It's about celebrating life and not letting other people quell that.  It's about shutting people out of your life who bring you down.  It rebels in a way that has purpose, which places it in very good company with less-metal inductees.  Maybe not the most beloved song, but it is the one that crossed over, and with good reason.  Same song I wanted to use all along.

Dolly Parton:  When I said "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" would make an ideal all-star jam, we were all still under the assumption that Dolly would open the ceremony, not close it.  "Jolene" made a great song to end on (even if only in broadcast), even if it's not one of my favorite Dolly songs.  Pink's speech was phenomenal, too.  Dolly really is the epitome of being as gentle as a dove, but crafty as a serpent.  And it doesn't have to have a White Stripes sound for "Rockin'" to be a rock and roll song.  It's as rocking a song as a Jerry Lee Lewis or Bill Haley song.  Country is after all one of the parent genres that help comprise rock and roll music, and her influences on rock musicians, especially women rockers, is inescapable.  That said, I'm still following my general guideline that when an inductee is firmly a part of one of the parent genres, to the point where they don't feel any part of them is rock and roll, choose a song that maybe shows otherwise, even if only slightly.  In many instances, that means a song with enough pop sensibilities to have some commonalities with rock and roll music.  For Dolly, that actually means "Baby I'm Burnin'" is being used to justify her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Part of it is the preference to occasionally use a less obvious song, but it's also important to remind folks that her contribution to the rock scape is more than just "9 To 5," though I absolutely love that song too.

Lionel Richie:  Lionel had a really great acceptance speech.  I think his comment about creative artists versus created artists cuts to the heart of why some artists make the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and why some don't.  Or at least what the Rock Hall tries to be about.  I very easily see the Rock Hall apologists and insiders using that excerpt from Lionel's speech to justify why some extremely popular favorites are still on the outside looking in.  His performances were okay, and of course, like many others in the community, my heart sank when I found out he performed a Commodores song as part of his set.  The Hall has been erratic and unfavorable to R&B, especially the voting bloc.  So while the Singles category wasn't supposed to be a mortuary for the artists of the listed songs, it absolutely has been.  The induction of Nile Rodgers in the Award For Musical Excellence was the death knell for the rest of Chic, not that the NomComm cared one iota about any of the other members of that group, though.  Likewise, it sadly is most likely that the induction of Lionel Richie will be the excuse to never discuss the Commodores again.  Boo.  Meanwhile, for Lionel's solo work, I've decided that the rhythmically driven, yet accessible "Running With The Night" is going to be his selected song.  It has a very '80s vibe, yet isn't cheesy, and isn't one of the songs that gets played to death.  It's the quiet song that remains timeless.  

Sylvia Robinson:  Welp, ope, and uffda, I gave away the store on this inductee in my previous post.  I flat out said that Sylvia Robinson's Song Of Proof was going to be "It's Good To Be The Queen," and that has not changed.  There were a few good reasons to induct her.  "Love Is Strange" is iconic enough during the foundational years that inducting Mickey And Sylvia, even as an Early Influence, might be justifiable.  And even if I don't personally care for her '70s soul that much, it was certainly very different, innovative even, so that would be justifiable as well.  But as with Lionel Richie, it's likely that this will be the only time she will be inducted, and of the three reasons, founding Sugarhill Records is the clear, obvious winner.  Even if the heyday of the label was short lived, the cultural impact and ripples created have been impossible to overstate.  And as everyone else has said, not having an inductor for her was an absolute travesty.  If you want us to swallow the bilge of all categories being equal, then make some frigging effort to treat them equally.  Leave the worrying about time to the editors of the broadcast version.  You just do the inductees right for the the actual induction.  It's good to be the queen, and you disrespected the queen.  But yeah, that's the clear and obvious song to use for her.

Carly Simon:  Carly Simon's path to the Hall has been a strange one.  She was long touted as a big, missing piece, especially for both women in rock and roll and as a part of the singer/songwriter scape of the '70s.  Yet, when she was nominated, the response was initially enthusiastic, but dropped off quickly.  Or so it seemed to me.  And when she was announced as an inductee, the sense of being underwhelmed was palpable because so many of us had picked this class either completely correctly or nearly so, as well as the fact it was so heavily mainstream.  That was really no one person's fault, and certainly not Carly's, but there was a feeling I got that if we could have swapped out one of the inductees for a less mainstream and more "dangerous" nominee, many would have dropped Carly (or Dolly, because she tried to have her nomination rescinded).  And then there was the jagged little fiasco with the tribute performance. For the record, I believe Alanis was treated badly.  In addition to the entertainment industry just having misogyny in its DNA, there were probably people behind the scenes who had worked with her in the past and figured she was still as easy to usurp and abuse as she was when she first became popular.  And boy howdy, were they wrong.  Either way, when an artist like Carly Simon is recognized, the temptation to naysay stems from the way her legacy has been poorly preserved.  She has long been treated as a one-trick pony by Oldies radio, or if they remembered a second song, it was her duet with James Taylor, covering "Mockingbird."  And I'd seen internet message boards calling "Nobody Does It Better" the worst James Bond theme, with the possible exception of "Die Another Day."  Yet, the reality and introspection she offered in songs like "Anticipation," "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," and "Haven't Got Time For The Pain" are every bit as profound as songs by the male singer/songwriters of that era, arranged and styled similarly, and hold up just as well.  That said, "You're So Vain" is still a step above all those other songs, in terms of empowerment, catchiness, mythology, and overall impact.  Maybe that's a little anticlimactic, but at the end of the day, it's the correct choice.  That song isn't the entire reason she's in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame; it just best demonstrates why she belongs.

And with that, we put the bow on celebrating the Class of 2022.  It's a fun class and a fun mental exercise to pick a song to celebrate each inductee.  Where did I nail it?  Where did I miss?  Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments below.  And of course, to recap:

Harry Belafonte: "Jump In The Line"
Pat Benatar: "Heartbreaker"
Elizabeth Cotten:  "Freight Train"
Duran Duran: "A View To A Kill"
Eminem: "Survival"
Eurythmics: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"
Allen Grubman:  "Numb" by U2
Jimmy Iovine: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks (with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers)
Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis:  "Control" by Janet Jackson
Judas Priest:  "You've Got Another Thing Coming"
Dolly Parton:  "Baby I'm Burnin'"
Lionel Richie:  "Running With The Night"
Sylvia Robinson:  "It's Good To Be The Queen" by Sylvia
Carly Simon:  "You're So Vain"

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Eine Kleine Fanfic Part Deux

 The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony for the Class Of 2022 is airing on HBO as I type this, but I find that most of my comments and thoughts not only echo most of what has been said already by those who were there or haven't been consistently working over seventy hours a week, but they also play a factor into the selection of my Songs Of Proof for this class.  So, I'm going to marry the two posts together at that time.  Meanwhile, I've still been celebrating the music of this class in a way that is reminiscent of last year's class.  

This past year, I got the chance to participate on an episode of the Playlist Wars podcast, assembling my competitive, celebratory list of the music of Motown.  While I don't know what percentage of the votes I got, I do know that I lost.  Host Brian Colburn won with 50% of the vote, and guest host Ed and I split the remaining half.  I'm guessing that not having the Four Tops or Mary Wells on my list put me solidly in third, but oh well.  It was a lot of fun.  Sadly, the podcast is on hiatus while the hosts tend to their own commitments in their offline lives, and I wish them the both the best.  However, that announcement didn't come until after I had put together a fanfiction list celebrating this year's class.  Parenthetically, I was asked if I wanted to do an episode about the ballot, ten songs by presumably ten of the seventeen nominees.  I declined for a couple reasons, mainly because I was uncertain I wanted to see the discussion on Twitter following that hypothetical episode's drop.  Not that I didn't trust the fellow playlisters, but we all know how any discussion on Twitter can unravel when random people come across it, especially surrounding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  But for my own personal enjoyment, I put together another Playlist Wars style playlist celebrating not the ballot, but the actual inductees for the Class Of 2022.

Brief refresher: the premise of the Playlist Wars podcast is simple: take an artist or theme, create the best ten-song playlist about that, and pit it against two others, celebrating the music in a competitive manner, not unlike the way Battlebots roboteers celebrate science and engineering by trying to destroy each other's creations in the BattleBox.  So this is what I've done.  Will I do this again if the podcast doesn't return from hiatus?  Maybe.  It's fun for me, and I hope you all enjoy listening to the combination of songs in this permutative list that is meant to work as a single unit, like an album.  But it also depends on if the classes continue to be large enough to make a list feasible.  So, now I'm gonna share my vision of how I'd put the gloves on with Brian and Gomez.  

Track 01:  "Banana Boat (Day-O)" by Harry Belafonte

Like last year's list, I begin with a side category inductee, partially to remind everyone that there are inductees besides the names most heavily promoted, and partially because it just works.  Instead of a lesser known track that makes a great entrance, though, I start off with a song that everyone knows, many can't help but sing along to when they hear it, and is a little bit of a slow burn in terms of getting the energy going.  The song is infectious, and because of its cultural ubiquity, you can attempt the accent without judgment (usually).  This is a song that demonstrates Harry Belafonte not necessarily as an Early Influence, though also that, but moreover Harry as an icon to the whole world.  Who wouldn't want to lead off with that?  So I did.

Track 02:  "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon

I gotta admit, Carly Simon was the most difficult inductee to put on this list, both in terms of choosing the song, and also placing it most strategically.  But my guiding ground rule for these playlists so far is that every Performer inductee must be represented.  Eventually I defaulted to placing her most iconic song in the second slot.  It's a little wobbly, but in terms of energy, it's a step up from the previous song.  With its bass intro and build up in the arrangement, it works well.  And like the Belafonte selection, this is a widely known song.  People know it, they know it as a mystery in the annals of rock and roll cryptology, and they still love to sing along with it.  

Track 03:  "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar

Just for clarification, I assembled this playlist shortly after the inductees were announced.  So this selection was chosen months in advance of Pat's announcement that she would no longer perform this song as a protest against gun violence.  Getting to the song itself, this is where we bring the energy up.  It's not a fast song, but with its guitar distortion energy and pounding rhythm, plus Pat Benatar's energetic vocals, this is a song that will wake you up if you aren't yet.  Again, a song that everyone knows and loves, but as I noticed with the topical episodes of Playlist Wars, it's best to not to go too deep or obscure.  When it's an artist episode, you can win with some awesome deep cuts.  Topical episodes, do it LRR: Least Research Required.  Too bad I didn't take my own advice in the Motown battle.

Track 04:  "Hungry Like The Wolf" by Duran Duran

Keeping the energy going and getting a little faster, we come now to the fan vote topper. Originally, I was going to slot "Rio" as Track 03, but "Haven't Got Time For The Pain" didn't work either as Carly's song for the list or in the fourth slot, so I switched it up a bit.  Plus, I didn't want to be dealing with the debate of whether I should have used the single or the album version of "Rio."  "Hungry Like The Wolf" is another fun and recognizable song.  It has the same energy and represents the band really well.  And with other vocals on the record, you can even try to harmonize a little, though it's not easy, at least for me.  That's why they're the professionals.

Track 05:  "It's Good To Be The Queen" by Sylvia

Despite what I said about "Least Research Required," I still decided I needed to have some deep cuts, because that's who I am.  I often find more joy in the songs that haven't been rammed down my ear canals umpteen times.  And I thought it would be a wonderful curveball to include this Non-Performer inductee who had a recording career.  I will admit though, it was tough to pick a song.  I didn't want to use "Love Is Strange," since Mickey is not an inductee, and I actually don't care for her breathy soul singing of the early '70s.  I'm not a fan of Diana Ross's voice either, and Sylvia's voice during that time sounds a little like a winded Diana Ross.  It's supposed to be sexy, but it just doesn't work for me.  This rap song, however, does.  And it's more appropriate for this playlist because of why she's being inducted.  While I wish to reiterate that this is NOT the Songs Of Proof list, I'll just give an unsurprising leak that this is definitely going to be the Song Of Proof for Sylvia Robinson too.  As far as its placement on this list, halfway is a good place to throw the big curveball, and if this playlist were to be on an analog format, like vinyl or cassette, this would be an ideal song to end Side A.

Track 06:  "We Made You" by Eminem

To kick off the hypothetical Side B, we follow rap with rap.  And it just seems like it'd be fun to flip the cassette over, press to play, and hear that musical sting followed by "Guess who?  You miss me?"  I love this song.  When I first saw the video for this song, I was laughing my head off at how Eminem was making fun of both pop culture and himself.  This isn't an obscure song, but it also isn't one of his best-known ones, and certainly not one that made him an obvious shoo-in for induction on his first year of eligibility.  Listening to this song, it certainly does sound like he's letting his Slim Shady persona run loose with the electronic shock collar around its neck turned off again; however, listening to it more closely, I've also suspected that this is loosely and secretly about the sleaze that is commonly attributed to the world of entertainment agents.  Or not, but I think so.

Track 07:  "Tennessee Homesick Blues" by Dolly Parton

I like to be meticulous with the placement of songs in my playlists, making sure it flows well and logically.  So naturally, I follow up the controversial rapper with the national treasure of a country legend who couldn't even keep herself out of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  As I said about my playlist for the Class Of 2021, the seventh slot is where I like to put my clean-up hitter.  So of course that's Dolly Parton.  And while this is not a particularly well-known song by her, this is one I fell in love with at first listen.  The infectious guitar line, her yodeling, the autobiographical lyrics that still resonate with you anytime you find yourself missing your old home or maybe feeling like you don't fit in where you are now.  I'm not sure if this is my favorite song on the list, but it's way up there.  Great song.

Track 08:  "All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie

When compiling this playlist, I found that the back half came together a lot quicker, more easily and naturally, and first, actually.  Choosing the right Lionel Richie song was probably the most difficult of the latter half, and while this isn't my favorite track by him, I felt this was the right choice.  Again, jumping around seemingly aimlessly in terms of musical style.  And yet, why wouldn't you follow up Dolly with Lionel?  Country and calypso-infused R&B.  It just says yes to me.  What starts out with some subdued energy breaks out into a party.  And maybe celebrating all night long is what you do when you've cured the homesickness expressed in the previous track.    But watching him perform this track as he is inducted, this is good song to put on the playlist for Lionel.

Track 09:  "Night Crawler" by Judas Priest

Representing the third side category, the Award For Musical Excellence, a band that was nominated again, and finally the Foundation had enough of the voting bloc's shenanigans, deciding to just induct them.  Not being a diehard metal fan, let alone of Judas Priest, I don't know if this qualifies as a more obscure Judas Priest song or not.  It's not one of the iconic ones that they performed at their induction.  But this song just tears.  This might be the favorite song of mine on this list, and in fact, this song helped me decide on the Lionel Richie song.  Maybe we shouldn't party all night long lest we incur the night crawler!  Gets your heart racing, and when I first started assembling this list, this was the very first song I had pinned down, both in selection and placement.  Excellent example of metal, in terms of style and the genre's lyrical ability to give the PMRC members a collective coronary.

Track 10:  "When Tomorrow Comes" by Eurythmics

And logically, what drives the beast back below the bowels of the abyss?  When tomorrow comes, of course!  Along with "Night Crawler," this song was decided almost right away (followed shortly by "We Made You" after deciding not to start with "My Name Is").  Given how much I was forced to play and listen to "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" and also "Here Comes The Rain Again," it's still somewhat amazing to realize that Annie and Dave have this one in their arsenal as well.  This song has such a sunny ambience to it in a way I can't really describe, partially due perhaps to the title itself.  But the straightforward rock to it that would fit in perfectly alongside U2's "In God's Country" makes this a perfect official closer.  The day is ending and we are content to look forward to tomorrow.  

Hidden bonus track:  "When I Get Home" by Elizabeth Cotten

But of course if you ask Petrarch, time, including tomorrow, is conquered by eternity.  And this song is about that, specifically eternity in Heaven and the new creation with her God.  Originally I had this other Early Influence inductee worked into the list of ten, but when I found "It's Good To Be The Queen," I knew that Elizabeth was going to be included as the hidden bonus track.  Just like last year's list, this has an old-tyme feel, though this one is more from the simplicity of the arrangement than the actual age of the recordings.  But it works beautifully--sonically, thematically, and for the sake of being inclusive of titled recording artists in this class.  And it's also good to remind folks that she had songs other than "Freight Train."

Potential Honorable Mention:  "Cool" by the Time (honoring Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis)

So, I didn't know that Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis had released an album under their own name when I put this list together, and I doubt it would have made a difference.  I knew they'd been in the Time, but wasn't sure which songs they'd been on.  Turns out they weren't on the two big ones I played on Retro Weekends, "Jungle Love" or "The Bird."  Oh well.  But "Cool" is a fun jam to throw on that they played on as official members of the band.  So let's have fun and imagine that Brian or Gomez would have thrown this one in the mix and make it the Honorable Mention.  And this is the only potential Honorable Mention I'm going to entertain this time too.  Not gonna have two more for Jimmy or Allan, even though I *KNOW* Brian would use Jimmy Iovine's induction as an excuse to include Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers on his list (tell me I'm wrong, Brian).  But like last time, honorable mentions aren't on the playlist that I have in my YouTube "Library" folder.  

And once again, there we are: a fanfictitious episode for a podcast that may be done for good (though I hope not).  It's a fun way to celebrate the music, satisfy my list-making personality, and keep the inductees fresh while putting the final pieces together deciding the Songs Of Proof.  I'm still not thinking one iota about next year's ballot, so don't ask yet.

On a personal note, this is my first entry since moving into a new place.  This has been a tumultuous year that is not over and looks like it won't get any better.  And I mean that in terms of my professional life, my home life, my immediate family, and may even harm my church life.  So if the nominees come out before I post my Songs Of Proof for this class, please understand.  If I don't post a nominees prediction list, or maybe just a barebones list with no explanation, please understand.  And if I go on hiatus and maybe close up shop altogether, I hope you understand.  I hope that won't happen, but my life is largely bereft of joy right now.  Every day is a matter of playing linebacker: just lower my head, plow forward as best as I can, and hope that each day I've gained more yards than I've lost.  This blog does give me joy, but it takes a lot of time to type up and post usually (tonight's an exception... start to finish within one airing of the ceremony).  More time than I feel I've got most of the time.  Hopefully I'll see you all on the other side.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Everything But The Music: Reacting To The Class Of 2022

Recently, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced their inductees for the Class Of 2022.  In what is becoming a tradition of seeing a ballot and saying, "There're really no bad names on here," we now follow that up by seeing the class and saying, "Well that's... fine."  And that's what tends to happen when most of us can accurately predict most of the inductees.  Instead of feeling awesome about nailing it almost exactly and precisely, it feels a little disappointing.  Actually, that's not completely true.  We do feel a little awesome about our prognostication skills, but we maybe don't exactly love what we predicted to happen.  Previously, I admitted that I would be happier to be proven wrong. And I'm calling it as going 7.5/8 in my predictions.  Basically, my top eight seeds are all getting inducted, and all but one of them in the Performer category.  So... pretty much got them all.  

But what also soils the celebration is when we look at the inductees and attempt to decode what each of their inductions means for the Hall, and the overall theme with these Performer inductees is "asses in the seats."  Except for Pat Benatar (who extends my streak, thank you Pat), every one of them has had a #1 hit on the pop charts, and the act with the fewest Hot 100 hits is Eurythmics with 15.  When 2016's class proved to be a rout for classic rock, we called it a "populist" class, because the Hall appeared to be kowtowing to the masses, or at least the loudest, whitest, malest masses.  But we still called it a pretty good class.  Now in 2022, we want to call it "populist" because it's comprised of acts with no less than 15 Hot 100 hits.  It has been commented that this is the Rock And Roll Hall Of FAME after all, right?  Heck, even I've said that in online discussion as a response to people who seemed to believe that Billboard was the SI unit for measuring selling out (when "selling out" and "cashing in" were considered derogatory).  This year, the voters clearly went for the familiar names.  Call it lethargy, call it nostalgia, or call it following the money.  Maybe a factor of all three.  Whatever you call it, what we don't have is a pleasant mixture that includes subversive innovation so ahead of its time that commercial success eluded it.  In fact, the only nominee who missed out who also enjoyed massive commercial success in the American pop singles charts on par with the inductees is Dionne Warwick.  If she'd made it, it'd really be a clean sweep as far as hit singles went. 

And really, if it had been Warwick and Kate Bush getting in instead of Eminem and Lionel Richie, this would have been a banner year for the ladies.  Carly Simon is the singer/songwriter inductee of the classic connotation, even though, pretty much all of the inductees were thoroughly involved with the writing of their music.  Pat Benatar and Annie Lennox of Eurythmics are of course included.  And of course Dolly Parton is the queen whose procession to induction will likely involve the waving of palm branches and will hopefully include being chauffeured by Rob Halford on a borrowed motorcycle that has never been driven before.  And even though Duran Duran is a band of all men, they are a band that women have been outspoken on social media about needing to be inducted.  They have presumably been heard, and Duran Duran are on their way in.  

Additionally, it's really a big year for the icons of the '80s.  And that's probably the biggest hallmark for the Hall this year.  This is a big execution of John Sykes' vision, moving the Hall forward, even if incrementally.  And if we're being honest, we shouldn't be surprised that the big sellers are the ones that are getting in.  It's a simple arithmetic, when you consider what Nick Bambach, Michelle Bourg, and Eric and Mary of "Hall Watchers" have mentioned.  We have a "safe" class with the only "dangerous" act getting in as an Award For Musical Excellence inductee because the Hall is adding more voters from a younger generation... a generation whose icons are not yet eligible for the Hall, and when it comes to those who are eligible, they're going for the names their parents taught them, aka the hitmakers, which will give us a good product for television and a good fundraiser for the foundation.  Maybe the math is off, but that's one way to interpret the data.

The fingerprints of the MTV era are also present in a few of the other inductees, too.  With producer Jimmy Iovine and production duo of Jimmy Jam And Terry Lewis being inducted, a lot of the sounds and styles of MTV are represented here as well.  Admittedly, it's a little weird that both are primarily regarded as producers, but one is inducted as a Non-Performer and the other as Award For Musical Excellence.  I would genuinely question the logic, as I'm inclined to lay aside the time that Jimmy and Terry were in the Time with Morris Day.  However, that bridge has been incinerated, even in 2012 with the induction of the sound engineers in Award For Musical Excellence.  

Speaking of Award For Music Excellence, congratulations to Judas Priest getting in, and sorry that the voting bloc sucks so bad when it comes to metal.  Nick Bambach and I had the exact same top eight seeds, in slightly different permutations.  He says he went 8/8 while I say 7.5/8.  The difference is he considers it the same honor, and I don't.  To me, being elected adds an extra level of validation, while this category means getting chosen again by the same folks who chose you for the ballot in the first place.  That said, I really don't wish to rehash this argument.  Michelle Bourg said it beautifully on her blog.  What I do hope for though, is a simple middle ground.  Whether you agree with the way the categories are used now or not, I do want to suggest this as a middle ground, a place where we can meet and agree.  Can we at least agree that using the categories like this gives the Foundation, Board Of Directors, Nominating Committee, and whoever else--that doing it this way gives them no incentive to actually amend the process in any meaningful way that relieves the backlog while still inducting worthy artists?  Can we at least agree that the use of the categories like this gives the powers-that-be no real motivation to change things for the better in the short and long term?  Because if they have to keep inducting acts that would otherwise be considered Performers as Early Influences or in Award For Musical Excellence, the chance that they'll get around to pre-rock artists and session musicians that younger generations may not know the names of decreases.  So if we can at least agree on that, we have something.  

Which brings us to our two Early Influence inductees.  First off is Elizabeth Cotten, a wonderful folk singer who both does and doesn't predate rock and roll music.  Songs written before World War I, but she was never recorded until the mid-'50s.  That's probably splitting hairs, though.  Despite network and superstation radio, and even network television by this time, pop culture permeation still wasn't all that instantaneous, and certainly not like it is now.  But her style is definitely reminiscent and in the vein of late-40's and early-'50s folk.  So, no quibbles on this allocation, and her induction is what I describe as "out of the blue, out of the park."  Fantastic job, Rock Hall.

The other Early Influence inductee is slightly more amusing and questionable.  I actually have mixed feelings about the induction of Harry Belafonte as an Early Influence, but I also freely admit not knowing nearly enough.  Harry, interestingly, did record in the early '50s, doing folk and pop songs, but he is of course best known for his calypso contributions.  I do know he also delved into world music, but his calypso records are of course his legacy.  I am curious about the influence calypso has had on the evolution of rock and roll.  If calypso is part of the recipe for reggae, then okay; however, the reason my feelings are mixed about this induction is because I once heard that in the late '50s, so-called experts of the entertainment industry predicted that rock and roll was just a fad, would die out, and be replaced by a calypso fad, possibly on the popularity of Belafonte's records.  Since calypso was being juxtaposed as adversarial, or possibly even promoted as the victor over rock and roll, it feels a little odd to enshrine its biggest name.  But then again, the story may not be true, and even if it were, maybe Harry didn't agree with those experts and respected the music.  Certainly enough to induct Public Enemy in 2013.  I'm eager to learn more though.  I want to know more about how his music has influenced rock and roll musicians.  What I sincerely hope is NOT the case, however, is that he is being inducted as an Early Influence because of his political activism, and that he just happened to also be a musician.  If he's being inducted for hobnobbing with rock and rollers at events and rallies for political activism, then no, he shouldn't be getting inducted.  Rock and roll is first and foremost a form of music, and while Sykes wants to redefine it as the music of youth culture, or music with an attitude, to borrow from Chuck D, it's still music foremost.  It's not a political agenda that uses a musical milieu.  There are plenty of inducted rock acts that weren't political in their music, and plenty of small-time acts that make political music that are not worthy of enshrinement.  If Belafonte's induction is primarily about his political music, fine.  If it's about his political activism, not fine.  Then you may as well induct Matt Taibbi as a Non-Performer for all his left-wing articles that just happened to be published in a magazine somewhat focused on rock and roll, and rock and roll culture.  And the day THAT happens is the day I stop giving every inductee a Song Of Proof.

Speaking of Non-Performer inductees who may not deserve a Song Of Proof, lawyer Alan Grubman is getting inducted because he is Bruce Springsteen's lawyer.  I mean, I thought the justifications for Landau, Azoff, and maybe also Avant were stretching it somewhat, but this one.... uffda.  I even read some of the blurb on him on the Rock Hall website.  They used the buzzwords in all the wrong ways.  When I read that he liked to be "creative" and "innovative" when creating contracts for his clients, I made that face that says, "I would laugh if not for the abject horror of what I just witnessed."  This is clearly about his work in founding this institution that is our collective hobby.  But an induction?  No no no no no.  This is not someone you induct into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame; at best, you induct him into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Hall Of Fame.  Redundancy intended and necessary.  In other words, give him a plaque at the ceremony thanking him for all his work in the Foundation, just like they did for Paul Shaffer years ago, without actually inducting him.  The ceremony is put on by the Foundation, so if they want to take a moment to pull back the curtain and acknowledge the people who make the evening possible, that's all well and good.  But as so many have said, rock and roll doesn't need a hall of fame to be valid, so inducting him for his work in the foundation is invalid.  And unless he's clearing samples, or pioneering contract boilerplates that help artists retain their rights, he's not contributing to the perpetuation and evolution of rock and roll.  Get that bum out of here.  They'll really need to sell me with his video package at the ceremony.

But let's end our inductee review on a happy note.  Hurray for Sylvia Robinson getting in!  Finally a woman inducted as a Non-Performer without being part of a duo with a one-time husband.  And first woman of color inducted in this category.  This is huge for representation, but also huge for hip-hop.  She's the first Non-Performer inductee whose most notable achievements were in the advancement of hip-hop and rap.  Yes, there have been label executives who signed hip-hop acts, but the first label to have major success with the style, and founded to promote and elevate hip-hop?  That is monumental.  And the first inducted Non-Performer whose contributions to hip-hop headline their resume is (will be) Sylvia Robinson.  Not Rick Rubin, though hopefully he'll be in too.  Nor is it Dr. Dre, another good selection.  It's Sylvia Robinson.  A huge moment for the Hall watching community that has been pushing for her.  You did well, and hopefully more will follow.  

So, a mostly cool class, no?  Yes.  The inductees are worth celebrating, but it worries me where their tributaries lead.  There's some cognitive dissonance, because the voting bloc seems to act independently and almost counter to the will of the NomComm, and yet we still say "the Hall" appears to be acting a certain way.  To a degree, it doesn't feel like these inductees were chosen for their musical contributions.  Some feel like the NomComm said, "Okay, who's trending right now that is also eligible?"  That seems to be how we got Dolly Parton and Dionne Warwick on the ballot, and right now, seems to bode well for Kate Bush to return.  It seems to also explain Fela Kuti's return this year.  It's about the names who will sell tickets.  It's about what's cool to think, like, and believe. It's about who also makes them look good, as well as who their friends are.  But as much as we--and they--love the music, that doesn't seem to be what it's about.  I'm sure that feeling will pass by the time the ceremony comes though, and certainly by the time the next ballot rolls around.  But I'm nowhere near ready to start predicting that ballot, so don't ask.  Time to just enjoy the Class Of 2022 for now. Happy inductions everyone.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Making The Predictions: The Class Of 2022

 And now, the end is near, and so I make my end predictions.  My friends, I seed them all, breaking down odds with several sections.  Merits and politics, their sounds and lanes on alleg'd highways.  But more, much more than this, I seed them my way.

And yet, as I type this, a lot of people have agreed with me in some eerily similar ways.  I love it though, and I'm here for it.  It does make me feel a little less of an outlier at times.  But with this particular ballot, and the hand that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame played last year, there are all sorts of caveats to be had, and we'll get to those after I finish planting my seeds in a row.  As a reminder, all odds are arbitrary and don't exactly follow the rules and bylaws that statistical analysis ought.  I'm a rebel like that.  Let's get planting.


White rapper, megastar of the early 21st century.  Newly eligible.

Why he might make it:  There's a lot of feeling of inevitability with this man.  This is a name the Hall wants and is not wont to wait to enshrine.  He has mass appeal, massive sales, critical acclaim, and has shown up to the Hall, for the Hall in the past, including last year.

Why he might not:  He's... problematic.  His history and his lyrics are a bit unsettling at times, and reflect some seriously ugly thoughts that some voters would rather keep buried.  Calling him the Ted Nugent of rap might be going too far, since Eminem's talent is unquestionable, but the way he uses that talent sometimes falls short of the ideal that might have been used to describe Camelot, or even a decent human being.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  Other superstar rappers like 50 Cent will be eligible soon.  Also, the Hall may avail themselves to reach back a couple years and finally nominate Outkast.

Biggest threats:  A Tribe Called Quest is the direct hip-hop competition, and Beck is the other artistic soloist from the same era that gets love from critics and fans alike.

In the end:  This isn't entirely a foregone conclusion, but it sure feels like it at times.  And maybe some just won't vote for him because they figure he doesn't need their vote.  But those who are thinking about the broadcast or otherwise chasing the bottom line will make sure the box is checked for him.  Odds of induction: 90%


New-wave/synth-rock band, most popular during the 1980s.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  This is a band with massive popularity, longevity, and represents the era that John Sykes is definitely looking to maximize right now: the golden age of MTV.  

Why they might not:  The critics that like them now are either doing so in hindsight, or weren't around when Duran Duran was at the height of their popularity.  Additionally, some still dismiss them as being a pretty boy band, and not serious.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  Stylistically, there aren't too many who even come close to being as good as Duran Duran, let alone as popular.  Simple Minds have been "previously considered," so that's about the only one of their contemporaries I'd list.

Biggest threats:  Eurythmics and Devo both occupy the new-wave space, and Pat Benatar is an important figure from the early days of MTV.  Kate Bush is also an innovator from that time.

In the end:  Topping the fan vote usually bodes well, not as a guarantee so much, but as an indicator, a weather vane, maybe.  The smart money is still on them.  Odds of induction:  80%


Female rock star, nominated with her husband and guitarist, Neil Giraldo.  Second-time nominee, seeded #1 for the Class Of 2020.  Oops.

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.  Also, she's the most popular (commercially charted) act of the "classic rock" ilk on this ballot; so the lane appears to be somewhat clear for her.

Why she might not:  Somehow she missed last time.  Whatever reasons she wasn't voted for last time could resurface.  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:  The Bangles could follow her lead.  It's also a bit of a stretch, but it could lead to Suzi Quatro, or even Siouxsie And The Banshees.

Biggest threats:  Judas Priest is the only other nominee that could comfortably be called "classic rock," and Eurythmics include a famous and fierce front femme from the '80s.

In the end:  It simply may have been too crowded a field last time, where Pat got lost in the shuffle.  Less crowded now, and even Eddie Trunk voted for her.  Things look a lot better this time for her.  Not a lock by any stretch though.  Odds of induction:  70%


Singer/songwriter most prominent during the '70s.  First-time nominee.

Why she might make it:  She created one of the most iconic songs from the entire decade of the 1970s.  She is also a singer/songwriter in the classic connotation that also includes such inductees as Cat Stevens, Carole King, and James Taylor.  

Why she might not:  A lot of the singer/songwriter styles of that era got co-opted by the Easy Listening format, an evolution of the Middle Of the Road format, whose artists and programmers often opposed rock and roll in its early days.  At least one voter has said they wouldn't vote for any iteration of Middle Of the Road music, which they believe Carly's catalog to largely be.  Additionally, retrospective radio formats have done a poor job of preserving her legacy beyond a single song.  If your parents didn't love Carly, you probably only know one or two... maybe three songs.

Whom she'd pave the way for:  If gender of your singer/songwriters doesn't matter, then she could pave the way for another singer/songwriter who, despite having a substantial career, is largely remembered for one song that has a lot of speculation about its meaning... like Don McLean.  Warren Zevon might also fall into that very category.  She could also open the door for other singer/songwriters like Jim Croce, Nick Drake, or women like Roberta Flack or even Helen Reddy.

Biggest threats: Dionne Warwick and Lionel Richie are the other two artists whose catalogs have that soft rock appeal, and are the most similar.  Dolly Parton might have been a factor, and Kate Bush could also be a detractor.

In the end:  It doesn't feel as certain as the others, but I have a hunch that the power of "You're So Vain" will grab a lot of the older living inductees who liked her music.  And enough of the critics to give her the edge over Richie or Warwick.  Odds of induction:  60%


Heavy metal band.  Third-time nominee.  Seeded #5 for 2018, and also #5 for 2020.

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:  Metal, metal metal.  Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Pantera, Megadeth.  All of these could benefit from a Judas Priest induction.

Biggest threats:  Pat Benatar is the other classic rock act, and Rage Against The Machine is the other hard rock band, the closest to metal on the ballot after them.  Punk rock bands the MC5 and New York Dolls might steal votes too.

In the end:  This is the third time I've seeded Judas Priest at #5, and I'll be honest, this time it REALLY feels like a gamble.  However, the last two times, they were on ballots that were really congested with other bands that even if not metal, did occupy a similar space and share a common audience.  That's not really the case this year.  And "purists" like Eddie Trunk will have absolutely no quibble with voting for both Pat Benatar and Judas Priest, and maybe Rage Against The Machine too, and giving the middle finger to other subgenres represented on the ballot.  It's not like catching the southbound express lane just past Northgate at 10:30 in the morning, but it's about as opportune a chance as this metal act is going to have.  And this time, I think it's going to happen?  Odds of induction:  52%


Country music legend with decades of relevance.  First-time nominee.

Why she might make it:  She's a national treasure.  Her music is quality, and proof that quality really knows no genre boundaries.  She's also been influential on a multitude of artists across different genres, including the more traditional rock scape.

Why she might not:  Because she asked people not to vote for her, and people are willing to do as she asks, especially because she was so polite and gracious with her request.  Additionally, anyone with even an iota of cynicism can smell the disingenuity of the Hall on this one.  Dolly's name will sell tickets to the induction ceremony.  She's just that well-loved, and the Hall's making a grab for the cash.  Cynics may not want to let that fly, and her request gives them a perfect out.

Whom she'd pave the way for:  She'd bust the door wide open for country acts that were influential on rock and roll music.  Willie Nelson has been talked about for years as being worthy of induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  I'd also include Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris as artists who could get some looks.  Waylon Jennings too, and let's add Hank Williams, Jr., because why not?

Biggest threats:  Herself.  But for the purposes of the exercise, let's include friendly artists like Dionne Warwick and Carly Simon.  And let's add Fela Kuti, another artist whose music some would balk at calling part of the rock and roll landscape, but is nevertheless very deserving.

In the end:  This one is the biggest wild card here.  How many got their votes in before Dolly issued her statement?  How many would have voted for her?  I think Dolly's attempted withdrawal created enough initial confusion to present the opportunity for the Hall to induct her in the Award For Musical Excellence category in case she doesn't get enough votes.  Her most recent statement that she would graciously accept the award if voted in, made on the day the votes were due, further gives the Hall license to induct her this way, with the full knowledge that she'll be gracious about the award, and they can say that in good conscience, they believed she would've gotten the votes, so they decided to induct her.  Besides, country artists who may not consider themselves rock is exactly one of the things this category was reimagined to accommodate, or so they would probably claim.  Her two statements, and their timing, created a situation tailor-made for the Hall to induct her one way or another, and have there be absolutely no controversy about it.  She's getting in this year.  I'm about as certain of that as I am of Eminem getting in.  Which category?  There, I'm not sure.  It's the big question mark.  So for the Performer category.... Odds of induction:  50%


English new-wave/synth-pop duo.  Second-time nominee, seeded #11 for 2018.
Why they might make it:  Their sound is infectious and one of those that might contend for epitomizing the entire decade of the 1980s.  Additionally, Annie Lennox as both a musician and a public figure for femininity and feminism, makes them a formidable contender.  Dave Stewart's production genius and industry connections help, too.

Why they might not: New-wave and synth-pop are not having an easy time making inroads.  The Cars took three tries, same with Depeche Mode, and we're just now getting to Duran Duran, too.  There's some dragging of the feet in this subgenre from both the NomComm and the voters.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  I'd expect Annie to break down the door for more women.  Maybe we could finally push through Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Estefan And The Miami Sound Machine, as well as more synth-driven acts like the Pet Shop Boys.

Biggest threats:  Duran Duran is the most obvious competition.  Followed by Devo.  And Kate Bush.  Powerful women of the '80s also include Pat Benatar and Dolly Parton.

In the end:  They've got a fighting chance.  With the Dolly situation being what it is, they could be the sixth Performer inductee, with Dolly getting inducted in AME.  I don't think there'll be seven, but if so, it's them.  Sadly, I don't see any People Of Color getting inducted in the Performer category this year.  I hope I'm wrong, but I'm drawing the final line here.  And maybe not even them.  Odds of induction:  49%


R&B legend, formerly of the Commodores, with a major solo career in the '80s and '90s.  First-time nominee.

Why he might make it:  Currently on the Hall's radar for appearing at last year's induction ceremony and inducting Clarence Avant.  He's a superstar of the 1980s whose reach extends slightly into the country community, and he retains relevance as an American Idol judge.

Why he might not:  Since the start of the new millennium, the Hall has a less than stellar track record with any kind of R&B, particularly R&B that isn't rap or hip-hop.  They also don't have a great track record with smooth, easy listening that isn't from a classic '70s singer/songwriter.  Additionally, some worry that a Lionel induction will instantly terminate any chance of induction for Lionel's group, the Commodores.  They believe both deserve induction, but that if the solo act goes first, the group will be left out in the cold.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  Hopefully, it would lead to the Commodores being inducted as a group later on.  Beyond that, maybe big names in smooth soul like Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White, or fellow Motown act Boyz II Men.

Biggest threats:  Carly Simon and Dionne Warwick also have an easy listening style, while those who want it a little funkier may opt for Fela Kuti.  Or if it's a decade thing, Eurythmics and Duran Duran are also popular picks from the '80s.

In the end:  He's a strong contender, no question about it.  I went back and forth on this one.  Oh boy, did I.  So, I'm not counting him out, but not picking him to get in either.  Odds of induction:  45%


Indie superstar from the '90s.  First-time nominee.

Why he might make it:  He's a critical darling, who has maintained a level of commercial success too.  He also doesn't have too much direct competition.  He almost seems like an artist groomed to get inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Why he might not:  He had major success with "Loser" but has never been able to duplicate that level of mainstream success.  While I just said he has maintained a level of commercial success, that level has been middling at best, in terms of singles, one of the perils of having that indie sound.  He also just hasn't risen to the top of the conversation much this cycle.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  This is one that's truly out of my element.  I'm not sure whom else he'd pave the way for, at least those who have a realistic chance of being part of the conversation.  Gorillaz is the only one I can point to at the moment.

Biggest threats:  Eminem is the big name for those who want a '90s star.  Rage Against The Machine might take away from him as well, as could artistic, musical nomad Kate Bush.

In the end:  I initially had him in my top five.  But in addition to him just not coming up in the discussion much, Dolly's withdrawal attempt also gave a better chance to some other artists, and Beck wasn't one of them.  He sank while others had a newly increased chance.  And that feels like where we are with him.  Odds of induction:  40%


Female pop singer with a decades-spanning career.  Second-time nominee, seeded #7 for 2021.

Why she might make it:  She has a lengthy career, has worked with a lot of big names, and is having a huge resurgence in popularity due to Twitter.  The Hall does like to strike while the iron is hot.

Why she might not:  Most of her big hits were either hits on the Adult Contemporary charts, or could have been.  Songs she made popular could have fit very comfortably on The Lawrence Welk Show back in the '60s, which is to say some have trouble considering her all that "rock and roll."  For crying out loud, even Perry Como covered "That's What Friends Are For."

Whom she'd pave the way for:  An induction for Warwick would probably lead to the induction of the songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach & Hal David in the Non-Performer category.  Because of her collaboration, she could help the Spinners get nominated again, or maybe get nominations for other women of the earlier years, like Connie Francis.

Biggest threats:  Carly Simon and Lionel Richie are the most direct competition, in my opinion.  Popular women artists Pat Benatar and Eurythmics could also steal some votes.

In the end:  From the votes that we know have been cast, she's got a pretty good shot.  And the older inductees may vote for her as a name they recognize.  I just don't think it'll quite be enough.  Odds of induction:  37.5%


Hip-hop act from the early '90s.  First-time nominee.

Why they might make it:  They're pioneers of a certain style of hip-hop, artistic, dare I say literate, and the membership formed a kind of synergy, resulting in some amazing beats and jams.

Why they might not:  Very little name recognition.  And if you've heard of them, you still maybe can't name a single song by them.  Not a steady presence in the pop charts, and thus, didn't break as big as some other names on the ballot.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  An induction for this group could open the doors for De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, and a return nomination for Eric B. And Rakim.

Biggest threats:  Eminem is the bigger rap name on the ballot that more people will recognize.  Rage Against The Machine and Beck both had some rap elements to their songs and were from the same decade, so they also could steal votes.

In the end:  Again, the sample we have is very promising for A Tribe Called Quest, but it's also very heavily slanted and niche.  Like when the early polls in an otherwise red state show the Democratic candidate in an early lead.  There's some initial surprise, followed by the realization that there are many more precincts to report yet.  If we couldn't have two rap inductees in the Performer category when Public Enemy and N.W.A. were on the ballot, it's definitely not happening here either.  Odds of induction:  35%


Afrobeat pioneer.  Second-time nominee, seeded #14 for 2021.

Why he might make it:  One thing that a nomination for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will do, and that the Hall does right in this regard, is bring greater awareness to great artists that the general populace is unfamiliar with.  The curiosity of the name has sparked curiosity of the music, and the interest has been sparked in many.

Why he might not:  Aaaanndd there have been many others who have dug in their heels, doubled down on the willful ignorance, insisting being big in the U.S. is the bar to clear.  What percentage of those people are in the voting bloc may be higher than we wish to acknowledge. He just has almost no name recognition in the States.

Whom he'd pave the way for:  A whole continent of musical greatness awaits.  The most likely would probably be Yassou N'Dour, who has worked with a few names well-known to the English-speaking world, like Peter Gabriel.  King Sunny Ade and Sun Ra could get some recognition as well.

Biggest threats:  His own obscurity in the United States.  For the sake of what this heading is supposed to mean, Rage Against The Machine released a lot of political music, and A Tribe Called Quest is probably the next funkiest artist on the ballot.

In the end:  When Fela Kuti returned to the ballot this year, the Hall was probably expecting a lot of the same enthusiasm to be reflected in the fan ballot.  And then the nation of Nigeria rose up on Twitter and gave the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame the middle finger.  "Fool me once, shame on you, Rock Hall," seemed to be the consensus opinion, and the Hall looked pretty bad for it, for their tactics which are business-as-usual in North America, but apparently culturally unacceptable for them.  Especially the spam email they kept getting hit with.  I think there's a real chance that the Hall will induct Fela Kuti in Award For Musical Excellence as a way to extend an olive branch without actually making an apology to fans of Fela from far away.  Just don't tell those fans that Award For Musical Excellence isn't the same as a Performer induction, that it's not the same honor, despite how much John Sykes insists it is and shovels it into the fire.  Afrobeat isn't getting the votes though, so here... Odds of induction:  33.33%


Politically charged nu metal band.  Fourth nomination, seeded #8 for 2018, #11 for 2019, and #13 for 2021.

Why they might make it:  The insider nature of the Hall bodes very well for this band, with guitarist Tom Morello being on the Nominating Committee.  Additionally, the Hall loves politically charged music, and they were that.  They were also innovative in their sound.

Why they might not:  They are a band you know the name of, and may even relate to the ethos of the name itself, but you might not know any of their actual songs.  

Whom they'd pave the way for:  Getting this band in could refocus efforts to other hard bands of the era, particularly grunge, and garner a return nomination for Soundgarden, and maybe a nomination for Alice In Chains.

Biggest threats:  Judas Priest is the most obvious competitor.  Pat Benatar is a hard-edged rocker that could steal votes as well.  And if the voters want politically charged music that comes from a more authentic place, they might throw their votes to Fela Kuti instead.  And don't ignore the potential for early punk rock like the MC5 and New York Dolls.

In the end:  They're starting to become old hat, but it's obvious they're not going away, they're going in.  Just not this time.. Odds of induction: 30%

14. DEVO

Post-punk, art-rock band from Ohio.  Third nomination, seeded dead last at #15 for 2019, and #9 for 2021.

Why they might make it:  The Hall loves to reward artistic creativity, and these guys had it.  Their music was fun but powerful, they had a gimmick, and they are innovators.

Why they might not:  They might be a little too far out there for some, and a one-trick pony to others.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  They might pave the way for an avant-garde act like They Might Be Giants to get inducted.  Their music is fun at parties too, so maybe acts like the B-52's or Violent Femmes.

Biggest threats:  Duran Duran and Eurythmics occupy a similar sonic space, and Kate Bush is also rather high art music, like them.

In the end:  This is one of those acts that, if and when they do get in, it'll be to everyone's surprise.  They're a band that we can point to with what's wrong with the induction process, allowing voters to only vote for five, and only allowing five to seven Performer inductees per year.  Or just point to any "categoried" inductee that could/should be a Performer.  In any event, they're not getting in this time.  Odds of induction:  25%


Early punk-rock band.  Third nomination, unseeded their first nomination, seeded #15 for 2021.

Why they might make it:  They were highly innovative and influential, both in terms of their music and their image, and the critics loved them.

Why they might not:  Outside a few of the big names, punk rock really isn't having an easy time getting into the Hall.  Additionally, they really never had major commercial success, and their circle of influence attenuates sharply the further you get from New York City.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  They were also progenitors of glam in a way, so maybe the Sweet gets looked at?  Or maybe just punk rock acts like the Dead Kennedys.

Biggest threats:  The MC5 are the most obvious and direct competition.  Judas Priest is there for those who'd rather have metal than punk.  Pat Benatar and Rage Against The Machine are also threats to them.

In the end:  This is just the third nomination for the New York Dolls, but their return last year was quite unexpected.  This will be interesting to watch and see how much patience the Hall and certain members of the Nominating Committee actually have.  I think there's a very real shot for them to be inducted in Early Influence this year, despite my despisal for this type of shenanigans.  But with only three nominations, maybe the Hall isn't ready to do that to them yet.  We'll know shortly.  Meanwhile... Odds of induction:  20%


Experimental British musician.  Third nomination, seeded #17 (but not dead last) for 2018, and dead last at #16 for 2021.

Why she might make it:  The Hall loves the artistic, experimental musicians, and Kate is most definitely that and then some.  Additionally, the inductions of Roxy Music and T. Rex show that the Americentric bias in the ranks of the voting bloc is starting to erode and crumble.  Lastly, remembering how the ceremony went last year, they could easily give her the Todd Rundgren treatment, with a pre-recorded acceptance speech from Kate, much like Tina Turner did, and get her induction over quickly and painlessly, thereby freeing up more room.

Why she might not:  There's still a strong Americentric presence in the Hall, and artists who work on their own timeline with no deadlines have trouble staying in the spotlight.  Not that she coveted it, but we're discussing what helps and what hurts getting into the Hall.

Whom she'd pave the way for:  Tori Amos is the most direct descendant of Kate Bush, stylistically, and thus would benefit the most.  Bjork is another artist in that vein who could get some consideration.

Biggest threats:  She's got competition from many directions.  Devo, Eurythmics, Duran Duran, and Pat Benatar all come from the formative days of MTV like Kate; Carly Simon, Dolly Parton, and Dionne Warwick are also strong female presences that could be competition; and Beck is a fellow iconoclast that occupies a similar, albeit not parallel, space as her.

In the end:  Much like Beck, Kate Bush seemed to have fallen out of the discussion for awhile, until she rebounded back into it somehow.  Too little too late though, in my opinion.  Odds of induction:  15%

17. THE MC5

Hard-rocking proto-punk band from Michigan.  Sixth nomination.  Their first nomination for 2003 predates my seeding system, seeded #12 in 2017, #14 for both 2018 and 2019, and #15 for 2020.

Why they might make it:  They're an extremely innovative and influential band, helping to give rise to punk rock as a subgenre of rock and roll.

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, with Kraftwerk having been made an Early Influence inductee, how much more so the MC5?  The ballot fatigue makes it look like this will happen.

Whom they'd pave the way for:  There are some punk or hardcore punk acts that could get nominated, like Black Flag, or nominated again, like Bad Brains.

Biggest threats:  The New York Dolls, Judas Priest, Pat Benatar, and Rage Against The Machine are the most like the MC5 in terms of sound.

In the end:  At this point, y'all know how much I abhor the redefinition so they can jury-rig a solution without addressing the main problem of only allowing voters to vote for five and only inducting five to seven Performer inductees.  Drum beaten, horse dead.  Yadda yadda yadda.  In the current reality that makes me roll my eyes, it's been declared inevitable by those hip to the Rock Hall Ruse that this group will be called an "Early Influence."  Abandon all hope of a Performer induction.  Odds of induction: 10%

And with that, we have sown the seeds, but not sewn up the discussion.  My predictions run pretty much the same as Nick Bambach's, which shouldn't be too surprising, since I believe both of us nailed all six Performer inductees last year.  Anyway, this is just a prediction and not a preference.  I'd honestly be just as happy to be wrong as I would to be right, happier in fact.  Sadly, with a White rapper on the ballot, I think that may allow the Rock Hall voters to represent music predominantly made by African-American artists without actually voting for any African-American artists.  It's a thready, tenuous trend I've been noticing, and one that I can only articulate very clumsily, so I won't try to expound on it.  But the result is, I'm predicting no People Of Color to get in this year as a Performer.  

As for the other categories, the Non-Performer category is anyone's guess, but if used, it'll be someone with their hooks in the Hall in some way, shape, form, or fashion.  Years ago,  Roger Friedman at Fox News claimed to have uncovered a collusion of sorts to induct one person one year (I think it was David Geffen in 2010), and then Doug Morris the next year.  The first one he predicted did get in, but Doug Morris still hasn't.  It wouldn't be a surprise if he did at some point, especially after Clarence Avant got in.  But as for the other two categories, we could see them used to remove a few more names off this year's ballot that don't get the votes  As mentioned above, I think there's a strong possibility for the MC5 and New York Dolls to get the Early Influence treatment.  I really hope not, but at this point, it feels like holding back the tide with a broom.  And in the Award For Musical Excellence category, there's a good chance we could see Dolly Parton inducted there, after all the hubbub and confusion her attempt to withdraw caused.  And as mentioned before, I also think it's possible for Fela Kuti to get in this way this year as a half-hearted and half-assed peace offering to the nation of Nigeria after last year's disappointment, which honestly is little more than a failure to communicate the reality as opposed to what they believed.  And to bring up a name that we quickly noticed wasn't nominated, agreed would get an Award For Musical Excellence induction this time, and stopped talking about for the past three months, I also suspect we will see Chaka Khan inducted this year in this category.  Pat Benatar is the one name from the list of inductee hopefuls that I created back in 2004 who is on the ballot this year, but if Chaka gets in, her name was on that list as well, so hopefully one of those two will extend my streak.  We'll know soon enough.