The Mostly New, Hard Rocking, Not at All Gratuitous 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ballot

The long-awaited day has arrived: The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot is upon us. And well…it’s not like socks for Christmas, but it ain’t the official Red Ryder carbine action air rifle either.

It does have a good mix of old (previously nommed Todd Rundgren, Rufus w/Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, MC5, NIN, and Judas Priest) and new names (Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Doobie Brothers, Notorious B.I.G.). There’s something for almost everyone, and some longtime snubs are represented at long last (Soundgarden, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, T. Rex). But that crackle in the air doesn’t seem to be there — I just don’t get the feeling that anyone’s truly jazzed about it when all is said and done.

A few random thoughts:

  • The kiosks didn’t come into play – thank Heaven.
  • It’s less Brit-centric than the past couple of years, with a total of five UK acts.
  • There’s a definite hard rock slant at work. (Won’t stop the rawkist complaining). I know Motorhead, by their own definition, isn’t metal, but I was taken aback to see them on the same ballot as Priest. I was a little surprised to see Priest, to be honest — but damn happy about it.
  • The 70s aren’t dead, but we’re down to one 60s flagbearer in MC5. It’s looking even more dire for acts like Link Wray, Dick Dale, the Shangri-La’s and a host of others.
  • Paul Shaffer’s attempt to get Willie Nelson on the ballot didn’t come to pass this time, and you have to wonder when country will show up again.
  • One interesting thing as I scroll through the tweets I missed earlier today: as noted in Stereogum via FRL, “We’re looking at a Hall of Fame induction class that could potentially honor almost exclusively dead artists and bands with dead frontmen: Notorious B.I.G., Soundgarden, Whitney Houston, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy, Motörhead. ” Now that puts the lie into a truism among Hall watchers: that not being on the mortal coil can be a boon for your career, but a real crimp in your Hall chances. Now, all these acts won’t get in this year, but…hmmm.
  • No singer-songwriter rep this year.
  • The Google voting interface is pathetic. No results in real time? The cynic in me is on alert. Remember the Journey incident?

And one other small thing…

Can you guess what it is?

Wait for it….


Now, I didn’t expect a real uptick for them this year; the Hall’s got a track record of ignoring popular criticism, which I imagine they think makes them look steady and unshaken by trends, but it really reflects a truly remarkable pigheadedness. Unless the protest affects the bottom line, or the makeup of the committee and voting body change, they’re not going to deign to answer. It’s that “might is right; we’ve got the football” mentality. Will the John Sykes era bring change? If so, when? Those answers will be a while in coming.

But a total of three female acts (one in conjunction with a male band) is appalling. We had five in 2018. It’s the same as last year but is a smaller percentage. And what do we get instead? The Dave Matthews Band? Go read the bio – even the Hall can’t come with anything compelling about them. Who pushed this through? Non-scientific poll: Everyone I’ve talked to has said “Why?” “WTF?” or “Eww” when I read their name. But glad to know we’re not being gratuitous or anything.

Allegedly there are discussions about inducting older performers on a separate night (as my cubicle mate said, “the senior PGA tour”). Also hearing that Kraftwerk could get in as an “early influence.” Honestly, it just makes me tired. They didn’t think the system through when they started, they’ve effed things up and now have a massive backlog, with no system for fixing it. This isn’t thinking outside the box, it’s just spit and duct tape.

An artist-by-artist rundown doesn’t seem necessary; almost everyone on the ballot has bona fides and is someone I’d either love or would appreciate to see in. At this moment, I think Notorious B.I.G. (everyone’s bingo “free space” this year), Pat Benatar (stridency notwithstanding), the Doobies, T. Rex and Todd are the frontrunners, but Soundgarden could slide in there too. I hate this “either/or” mentality with women nominees, but I think Whitney’s presence on the ballot could make Chaka a bridesmaid yet again.

So what do you think? Is the Wenner era ending with a bang or a whimper?