As Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first-ballot inductee Tom Petty once sang, "the waiting... is the hardest part." However, like him, some artists won't have to wait at all to be enshrined into that museum on Lake Erie. Here are some predictions on which artists will enter the hall in their very first year of eligibility. (Note, the format is eligibility year/ceremony year; for example, Pearl Jam is eligible in 2016, and if they are voted in, they would be inducted during the actual ceremony in 2017.)
Just for fun, there is the also the addition of a dream induction speaker for each artist.
2015/2016 - Prediction? Zero first balloters. Smashing Pumpkins will move into the nominee pool but not quite make the cut. There have been first-ballot inductees the last four years in a row (Guns N' Roses, Public Enemy, Nirvana, Green Day), so it wouldn't be surprising if there are no brand new faces in 2016. This should come as good news to you Deep Purple, N.W.A., and Spinners fans, though.
2016/2017 - Pearl Jam You want a no-brainer? This is perhaps the easiest first-ballot prediction on the radar. Arriving fully-formed with their staggering, monolithic debut album Ten in 1991, Pearl Jam has never wavered or looked back. They've held an unrelenting grip on that elusive, all-too-rare thing artists like Neil Young and R.E.M. possess: artistic integrity. They've got the anthems, the rabid followers, and they still sell out arenas. And what a story: They outlasted "grunge," battled Ticketmaster, withstood tragedy, and have forged a contemplative yet triumphant identity that is unique, earning fans from Pete Townshend to your little sister. Spin the black circle, and roll out the red carpet. Dream induction speaker: Pete Townshend.
2017/2018 - Beck and Radiohead O -delay and -K Computer. Any questions? Some pundits also like first-year-eligibles Rage Against the Machine, but despite Rock Hall brass being tight with RATM guitar wizard (and HOF nominating committee member) Tom Morello, his old band will have to wait. On a side note, Green Day performed at the 2012 ceremony and were then inducted in 2015; expect the same for 2015 ceremony performer Beck in 2018. Dream induction speakers: David Byrne (Beck); Roger Waters (Radiohead).
2019/2020 - Oasis and Jeff Buckley There's a temptation to say "Weezer and Elliott Smith" for this class as both are also first-year eligible, but I think the "induce a reunion fever" will once again strike the Rock Hall (remember GNR in 2012?), in hopes the complicated Gallagher brothers will show up and perform. Whatever happens, the instant-classic album (What's the Story) Morning Glory is sufficient to get them in. In the other slot, the angelic-voiced Jeff Buckley is the rock world's James Dean - a blazingly gifted comet of a soul who left us too soon, and tragically. His essential album Grace is a soaring achievement, and contains the best version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" ever recorded. Dream induction speakers: Ryan Adams (Oasis); Thom Yorke (Jeff Buckley).
2020/2021 - Foo Fighters Does anyone see these guys not going in first ballot? Like them or not, the high-energy Foo Fighters are one of the most popular American rock bands of the past few decades, and Dave Grohl is the art form's biggest cheerleader. Allow Grohl this much: He stepped out from behind the drums, and did one hell of a job reinventing himself post-Nirvana. As far as HOF activities are concerned, he's inducted Rush and performed at the galas, most recently with Joan Jett. Debate the Foos' music if you will; some think they're overrated if competent, while others react like Jack Black doing air guitar when they hear "Everlong." That's rock n' roll for you. Dream induction speakers: Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.
And beyond 2021, briefly:
2021/2022 - Eminem He's not Vanilla Ice.
2024/2025 - The White Stripes Because it would take 13 more years to induct Jack White solo. He gets in with this class, with Meg. The Rock Hall probably wishes they could put him in tomorrow.
2028/2029 - Arcade Fire The epitome of a critic's band, they are also an indie-rock juggernaut that could pave the way for a lot of other Pitchfork-approved bands that followed them to start entering the HOF. And like their stateside influencers Talking Heads, they're in first ballot.