The Future is Wide Open: My Guesses for the 2023 Rock Hall Ballot

To tweak a Zombies lyric, it’s just about the time of the season. We should be getting word soon that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee is meeting and shortly after that the ballot will be published and we’re on our way to enshrining the Class of 2023. Rock Hall fans could use some good news: This year hasn’t exactly started auspiciously, with two two-time inductees leaving us just eight days apart. Those “heavenly band” stories are pretty trite, but you can’t help but think of the image, hopefully with a smile. It just underscores how time is of the essence, and you have to wonder if the NomCom will have this in mind.

The predictions are coming on fast now, and I thought I’d give it a try, but first a few quick words about the 2022 ceremony. So many people were saying what I felt, better than I could have, that I didn’t chime in. But for what they’re worth:

  1. Every inductee should have an inductor. If it’s baked into a video package that’s fine, but there needs to be somone who welcomes an act into the Hall. I know Hall reps have heard this so hopefully we’ll never have a Dire Straits/Harry Belafonte/Elizabeth Cotton situation again.
  2. We’re back in Cleveland this year, right guys? You kept saying how you were committed to the city. I know you want to expand your reach and all, but go where you’re the big fish in the pond. “Cleveland alternate years” should mean literally that.
  3. For God’s sake, what was with those horrendous graphics? The yellow and black with the squiggly/vibrat-y “2”s in the middle? Ugly as hell and totally off brand.

Back to the present…

We’re in the first year of the post-Landau era for the Committee, so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out. This isn’t a year with a surefire name like Jay-Z or Eminem were in their years, which isn’t a bad thing — things are wide open and anything could happen. The list of newly eligible artists is also painfully thin, so don’t look for many from there. If you’re keeping track of the predictions out there, it’s all over the map and that’s a lot of fun. I think every potential ballot I’ve seen would be fantastic – they’d all be hard to slice up into a subpar class. Here’s hoping that plays out in reality.

For the first time ever, I threw this list together pretty quickly without a lot of “strategery.” I don’t know as well as some others who’s in the room and who they tend to advocate for, so it’s a game of darts. I’ll be happy if I get four or five right. Here, in no particular order:

1. Kate Bush: Not going out on a limb here; she’s been on the ballot three times, so she clearly has support. Her “Stranger Things” push came right as the ballot closed last year, but I think her profile is still high. This might be her year.

2. Motley Crue: They’re favorites year after year at the fan kiosks and would do really well in the fan vote. I’m not sure the Hall’s ready to throw in its lot with Iron Maiden or Motorhead right away, although they should go in first.

3. Warren Zevon: A significant snub who would likely go right in once he’s on a ballot.

4. Salt n’ Pepa: As of now, no female hip hop artist has even been nominated, and it’s past time for that to change. Missy Elliott is eligible for the first time this year, and the Committee may give her the nod. There’s no doubt be some backlash if she’s passed up, but Salt n’ Pepa came first. They got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, and despite a breakup, were on hand with Spinderella. I don’t see two female hip hop acts, and I’m going to put my chips on them going in order.

5. Chaka Khan: We were all surprised she didn’t go in under Musical Excellence last year, and maybe that’ll be what they opt for this time around. They want her in, and by rights, she and Patti Labelle should come before Mariah Carey. One way or another, the dam has to break. If they do go the Musical Excellence route, could Mary J. Blige return? She was a standout nominee two years ago who just didn’t have the right ballot.

6. Roberta Flack: She’s been snubbed for far, far too long. She recently announced she has ALS — we’ve lost the chance to see her perform at her own induction, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle here.

7. Cyndi Lauper: She’s one award short of an EGOT and quite simply one of the great talents of our time. You know you want to hear “Girls” as part of an all-star jam.

8. Willie Nelson: The red-headed stranger’s one of the most rock and roll choices you could have on any ballot. Let’s give him his laurels now.

9. B-52s: The Committee really wants Devo in, but it’s been a hard sell. The B-52s have been on a well-received farewell tour, and they’d no doubt light up the ceremony with a performance.

10. Meat Loaf: It’d likely be a hard sell, but I understand John Sykes and Rick Krim are both fans – Sykes worked BOOH in his early days as a label rep and was a longtime friend. The album’s a classic rock icon, and the BOOH musical, and sadly, Meat Loaf’s passing last year, kept his music in the spotlight more than 40 years after its release. One question though: Do you induct him and Jim Steinman as a tandem act? Meat Loaf I think would want it that way, and I’m inclined to agree. Every ballot has that surprise name, and I think this will be one, sooner or later.

11. Outkast: They’ve been a snub for a long time, and you have to think their day is coming. Alternatively, Snoop Dog has become a cultural icon and was just announced as a Songwriters Hall inductee this year. It could be a doubly big year for him.

12. Tears for Fears: I think there’s still a lot of love left at the Hall for the 80s, and Tears for Fears has always been well-regarded. Their “Tipping Point” album and tour were well received by fans and critics alike. More than 10,000 TikTok creators can’t be wrong — they could be bubbling under for a nomination. Another act that could fit here would be Joy Division/New Order, whose exclusion gets more ridiculous every year.

13. Mariah Carey. Her career speaks for itself. No time like the present for a nomination.

14. Luther Vandross: R&B has gotten scant attention from the Hall in recent years; Lionel Richie was a standout last year but had more crossover success. Vandross has been long acknowledged as one of the greatest R&B singers of our era, and was a songwriter and producer who worked with the best of the best in a range of genres: Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Judy Collins, and others. An absolute icon, beloved by fans and respected by the industry. Would also love to see the criminally overdue Spinners or Kool & the Gang in this slot.

15. Phil Collins: If there was a category for drum fills, he’d have been in long ago. If you look up “ubiquitous” in the dictionary, his picture might be there. The fact that he’d be a white-guy-repeat-inductee may play against him, but I honestly think he’s such a sentimental favorite at this point that ultimately it wouldn’t matter. He likely wouldn’t perform, but with the right artists in tribute, everyone in the place would be swaying joyously to every song — whatever they pick — and air-drumming to that fill. Note: Looks like he’s the No. 1 pick on the Goldmine list; I didn’t have that in mind writing this, but it makes sense. Future Rock Legends may disagree, but HBO wouldn’t mind at all.

16. Sheryl Crow: It’s a given that she’ll get in, and her stepping in to perform at last year’s ceremony only raised her profile with the Hall. There’ll be no shortage of high-profile names ready to play and do induct honors.

17. Jethro Tull: Not sure they’ll go with this many nominees again, but they’re high on the list of all-time snubs, and someone on the Comittee may feel it’s time to include some prog. They just dropped a new single this past week with an album to follow and will be touring this summer. They’re in the top 20 on the fan kiosk vote, so fans are keeping the faith. Rage Against the Machine or Soundgarden also have cases.

Here’s to a stellar Rock Hall season — are you ready? I am.

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4 thoughts on “The Future is Wide Open: My Guesses for the 2023 Rock Hall Ballot

  1. Michelle,

    Out of your predictions for the 2023 nominees (The B-52’s, Kate Bush, Mariah Carey, Phil Collins, Sheryl Crow, Roberta Flack, Jethro Tull, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Meat Loaf, Motley Crue, Willie Nelson, OutKast, Salt-N-Pepa, Tears For Fears, Luther Vandross and Warren Zevon). Which ones do you see being inducted (If 7 inductees again)?.

    Like

  2. I didn’t get a chance to read the article with the thoroughness it deserves, but generally speaking I like your list. With the exception of Motley Crue. They don’t deserve shit. If you stuck them on a boat and it sunk, the only thing you’d lose is a boat. And what is EDS problem?

    Like

  3. Michelle,

    Now that the 2023 nominees have been announced, Which ones do you see being inducted (If 7 inductees again) and Which ones do you see as potential spoilers?.

    Like

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