June 2, 2015

Rock Hall First-Ballot Predictions 2016-2029

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).

2019/2020Oasis 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).

2020/2021Foo 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:

2021/2022Eminem He's not Vanilla Ice. 

2024/2025The 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. 

2028/2029Arcade 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.


  1. I think these are all pretty solid, though as we bantered about at home, there are other bands that I think have just as good of a first ballot shot that I would personally add. I still maintain that Sublime should be looked at for 2017/2018, Outkast for 2019/2020, and Amy Winehouse for 2028/2029. Pearl Jam and the Foos are definitely 100% 1st balloters! Great list!!

  2. Solid selections. I'd add PJ Harvey as a first ballot when she's eligible.

    1. Induct Janet, thanks! PJ Harvey is a tremendous talent, and she's eligible in 2016 like Pearl Jam. I could see her getting into the nomination pool, but my personal feeling is it might take her a bit longer to get in, as Kate Bush and Bjork still need to get into the Hall. However, we've seen plenty of other artists leap into the HOF ahead of bands that have influenced them (Metallica before Deep Purple or Motorhead, for instance), so PJ can't be totally ruled out.

  3. I agree with all except for the 2019/2020 part. Oasis, while they've had a few hit songs here in the states, are mostly regarded in their homeland. They're like gods in England, but they have since faded back in 1998. I'm not so sure about Jeff Buckley either. There's a lot of influential 90s acts that could be first-balloters like Alanis Morissette, but in reality, the RRHOF wouldn't do such thing. Otherwise, great piece.

    1. Jason, thanks. 2019/20 is a tricky year to predict. After I wrote about Oasis, I did start contemplating the fact that Outkast, Daft Punk, and Notorious B.I.G. are all eligible that year too, so lots of competition. Do any of those go first-ballot, though? So tough to say. Oasis does have one thing going for them that the Rock Hall tends to gravitate to: drama and controversy, as seen with Guns N' Roses and KISS (will they reunite? will they be civil?). As far as Buckley, my hunch is that there is enough adoration to get him in right away, though other tragic singer-songwriter types (Gram Parsons, Harry Nilsson) have certainly had to wait.