OK, here we go: the nominees for the Class of 2018 have been announced. This being the Hall, it didn’t go off without a hitch, with the ballot leaking about eight hours before the scheduled time and apparently scuttling a planned Sirius XM announcement event. It’s not on an Equifax level or anything, but jeez, guys. Good thing I have a bad habit of waking in the night and checking my phone.
Anyway, we have ourselves a ballot, and an excellent but odd one it is, with lots of cause for elation and consternation. As my partner would tell you, this was the case for me, with maybe even an emphasis on the latter.
The Hall sometimes telegraphs its intentions, and although my ears pricked up a couple of months ago hearing Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris offhandedly mention Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the “It’s a Good Life, Babe” podcast, I didn’t expect to see her on the performer ballot.
I’m both thrilled and exasperated, and I’m not the only one: one of the Hall’s most noted oversights is finally being corrected, but she’s clearly an Early Influence, so why the NomCom used a ballot slot to subject her to a vote instead of using its power for good by installing her in a non-voting category is prime Hall weirdness. Her official bio says no one deserves to be in the Hall more than she–so it makes no mention of her for its first 30-odd years and then puts up the hurdle of a vote before likely simply putting her in as they should and managing to make it look like a consolation prize. (Also known as “the Nile Rodgers effect”).
I am the only one on this next point, but OK, here goes: I think a few of the female performers put forth over the past year as slights–all of them undeniable icons–have been more due to being female than genuinely belonging in the Rock Hall. This includes Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton…and Nina Simone. I am not a rawkist. Hearing Simone for the first time literally transfixed me. She should without doubt be honored, but as a Musical Excellence choice or possibly Early Influence. There are deserving female rock and R&B performers who belong in this space: Janet, Tina, Stevie, Pat, Mary, PJ, Carole, Melissa, Annie and others.
Speaking of Janet…what happened there? Didn’t want too MUCH firepower at the ceremony?
And that brings me to Bon Jovi. I LIKE Bon Jovi. But they’re a very, very good bar band who are very, very good at what they do: No less, but no more. They’re here because hits. (And yes, I’m aware of the Songwriter HOF thing. My response: “I’ll Be There for You.”)
Random thoughts: As has been remarked elsewhere, the ballot is light on R&B, and while Rufus and the Meters both richly deserve induction, it looks like they’ll again be lost in the shuffle, which may also happen with LL Cool J. It’ll be interesting to see if this makes for a different look to the ballot next year. However, metal is part of the picture with a long-awaited and much deserved nod for Judas Priest. I didn’t put Eurythmics on my list, but I’m pleased and not surprised to see them. Kate Bush is a brilliant choice, and while I think she faces long odds here, I hope she appears again. Right now, the surprise on the fan ballot may be the strong showing by Dire Straits, who are as of this moment are in second place, and while they might be overtaken by the Moodies sooner rather than later, there wasn’t a lot suggesting that they were that high on fan wish lists.
A few names that might have been expected this time around are again missing, including Soundgarden, NIN and Warren Zevon. I’m looking for both names to come up next year, along with Motorhead and Def Leppard.
And this process wouldn’t be complete without some controversy over the Hall’s determination of which band members are included. The Hall needs to show some transparency about why, not just who.
So voting is underway (kudos to the Hall’s web designers for the excellent interface this year). Four of the hopefully six names (you don’t honestly expect seven, do you?) will be Bon Jovi with a runaway fan vote win, The Moody Blues, Radiohead and Nina Simone. The other one or two could be almost anyone else on the ballot. And that’s why it’s such a strong one: virtually every candidate is deserving and most are genuine contenders. HBO and the Museum will definitely be ecstatic.
For me personally, it’s got some definite high points but also the makings of a nightmare scenario: I’ve actually said, out loud and long before this, that there are a few acts that if they go in before the Cars, things will not be pretty. This ballot has two of them. It will be a relief to read diatribes about someone other than those two being snubbed, so there’s that.
December 5th seems a long way away right now–here’s to an exciting result.