Happy New Year, one and all! I was all ready to open with “So it’s been busy lately” and then saw that it’s been nearly three months since my last post. Meanwhile, people have been posting all kinds of insightful Rock Hall commentary, and Eric and Mary at the Hall Watchers podcast have posted brilliant episodes even as they travel to Europe and get ready to move. So yeah…I’m lame.
But since the fan vote is almost sort of about to start getting ready to think about winding down after what, six months now? it’s time to go on record with my predictions for the class of 2020.
It’s been noted how this year’s ballot was met with more or less a collective yawn despite containing some worthy names, and it doesn’t look like excitement has grown since then. However the class shakes out, what’ll be really interesting what the Hall throws out there to create a buzz-worthy induction ceremony.
It looks like this year is a placeholder before the Hall takes its first tentative steps into the Sykes era. In that vein, I’m not predicting any big surprises. Here goes:
- Pat Benatar: She’s deserved it for a long time, and it looks like the stars have aligned to make this her year. For the Hall, she represents a way to add a woman to the ranks, appeal to Boomers/Gen Xers and women and maintain a little rock cred at all the same time. It took a long time for her camp to acknowledge the nomination, so I’m not positive her attendance is a given, but she’ll probably be there, which is something this show is desperately going to need.
- The Doobie Brothers: Again, big appeal for the Boomer crowd and they tick the “rock” box for adventure-phobic voting committee members. And as noted, they’ve got Irving Azoff going to bat for them and they’re gearing up for a 50th-anniversary tour. As Future Rock Legends said, it’s hard not to feel a little cynicism about the neatness of all this as a marketing opportunity — for the band and the Hall both — but they do still sound good together and they’ll be fun at the ceremony. (If they played “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)” I’d be chuffed, but it’s not likely).
- Dave Matthews Band: Listening to the “Who Cares About the Rock Hall” podcast actually made me a little more open to their induction, but Joe Kwaczala is right: this isn’t the time. By most people’s standards, but this is the Rock Hall. There’s conjecture that this is the year that the Fan Vote winner doesn’t go all the way, but I don’t see it happening. The Hall blithely ignores specific criticism, but they’re highly sensitive to factors that affect the bottom line. They won’t completely alienate such a big fan base, backward-ball-cap-wearing frat boys or not. (Like obnoxious fan bases have ever stopped them). They ignored the input from the kiosks this year, so the grab for ratings will be slightly less blatant, but this band made a significant charge to claim the top spot by a huge margin. There’s a noticeable percentage of deceased artists on the ballot and it’s likely more than one will be inducted. The powers that be might have privately thought that inducting Journey was “brutal” but they’ve kept going down the populist road, following them up with Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. The Hall’s more openly impressed with sales numbers now, and this is where it looks like they’re headed. I wouldn’t mind being wrong, but I think the ants will march on in.
- Notorious B.I.G.: It’s been a couple of years since a hip-hop act went in, and he’ll succeed where LL Cool J hasn’t yet been able to.
- Whitney Houston: Given a different ballot, she may not be a sure thing. But she’s undeniably an icon. Clive Davis is no doubt in her corner and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do the honors for her on the big night.
Besides these Performer inductees, I’m going to take Perelsman up on his hint and say that they’ll redefine “Early Influence” on the fly and put Kraftwerk in under that banner. Is this the right way to do it? It’s the Hall, remember?
It’s less likely, but again because of the number of departed potential inductees, we just may get a Musical Excellence pick in Todd Rundgren. He’s signaled that he won’t bother to show, and that could help him here. Hopefully his fan base woiuld rally to convince him otherwise, but his 10th place showing in the fan poll points to them adopting his curmudgeonly attitude.
Eddie Trunk loved the ballot as predicted, but also as predicted, the hard rock acts will likely cancel each other out. If Judas Priest showed so badly just a couple of years ago, why would this try be different?
It’s not ideal, but we’re never going to get ideal. This year, we’re treading water — the real drama starts this summer.