July 12, 2016

What's the Buzz? Artists in the 2017 Rock Hall Conversation

Who's polling high? As the year-round conversation around the Rock Hall rages on, some acts are cropping up repeatedly as potential nominees for the Class of 2017. Let's identify a few of them.

These are not official predictions, nor comprehensive by any means. And no Rock Hall list is immune from spirited debate/the occasional eyeroll. This is just a group of artists with some degree of buzz behind them. Who knows, given the unpredictable nature of the Hall, they might just end up as one of the 15 official nominees this October. In no particular order:

The Monkees - Hey, hey! Not as fictional as their many detractors would like you to believe, '60s TV stars-turned-real-band the Monkees are riding a terrific wave right now with a strongly-reviewed new album, Good Times, and an imminent tour. Rock Hall recognition isn't out of the question. Is wanting to be the Beatles such a bad thing? 25 years eligible, no nominations.

The Cure
 The Cure - What's a fan of British "mope-rock" to do? The Smiths have had no luck getting inducted the past two years despite consecutive nominations. It's not a stretch to think the Nomination Committee might skip a third nomination and pivot back to one-time nominees the Cure. It's rather easy to envision them performing at the induction ceremony.  Eligible as of 2003, nominated in 2012. 

Judas Priest - If you think that Judas Priest won't be one of the next metal acts to get into the Rock Hall, you've got another thing coming. Guided by Rob Halford's operatic voice/shriek, they released several classic albums in the the '70s, but their major successes came in the Reagan era with British Steel (1980) and especially Screaming for Vengeance (1982). Meanwhile, MTV videos helped fill the heavy metal parking lots. Consistently mentioned alongside of Iron Maiden as a Rock Hall snub, but they probably get in first, if they get in. There's a slight chance they have a Rock Hall Nomination Committee advocate in Questlove. Eligible for 17 years, no nominations.

Kick Out the Jams: MC5
MC5 - One of the foundational outfits of punk rock, Detroit, Michigan's confrontational MC5 is the type of act one would think the Rock Hall would go out of their way to honor, at least in a perfect world. However, the explosive crew may have an advocate in Tom Morello, who has given them props repeatedly. Eligible for 25 years, nominated in 2003.

Nina Simone - Poet, warrior, pianist, chanteuse... there aren't enough words to describe the late, great Nina Simone. With a profound depth of influence and a sterling, socially conscious songbook, not to mention an acclaimed recent documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, the Rock Hall may finally get her on the ballot. Eligible for 33 years, never nominated.

A Tribe Called Quest - Among the most revered of hip-hop groups, the Queens, NY trio took a road less traveled by their contemporaries, opting for message over braggodocio, and jazz textures vs. James Brown samples.  Q-Tip, MC Phife Dawg (who sadly died just this past March) and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad are considered cerebral trailblazers in their genre, and their second album, 1991's The Low End Theory, is broadly hailed as a hip-hop masterpiece. Eligible since last year, their flow was smooth, their impact was deep, and they even enjoyed crossover success, winning a slot on the 1994 Lollapalooza tour. And, speaking of Lollapalooza...

Jane's Addiction
Jane's Addiction - It's hard to understate the impact that Jane's Addiction had on '90s modern rock, i.e. what became known, for better or worse, as "alternative music." Singer Perry Farrell founded Lollapalooza, of course, and the band dropped two indisputably classic albums in a row with Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. Melding funk, metal and psychedelia with tribal rhythms, they're one of the more singular, exotic acts of their era. And while you could justifiably argue diminishing returns with their later output, Jane's Addiction accomplished much, and influenced scores of bands that emerged in their wake. Eligible in 2012, not yet nominated. 

Journey - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation CEO Joel Peresman, during an interview with Den of Geek this past April, was asked about bands he was surprised weren't yet inducted, and he mentioned Journey. Commercially successful, and quite a few hits, but Journey may still be a RRHOF question mark, as populist arena rock of this ilk has been snubbed by the institution up until recently.  Eligible for 16 years now, but never nominated.

Little Feat - The late Lowell George's dynamic collective, which which wove a tapestry of blues, country, R&B, funk and more, is still a touring concern. Additionally, they're beloved enough by fans to land at #2 on Rolling Stone's recent readers' poll of who should be inducted in 2017. So Little Feat may very well be on the Rock Hall radar. Eligible as of 1996, never nominated.

July 6, 2016

Women That Should Be in the Rock Hall, Part 3: Kate Bush, Annie Lennox (Eurythmics), Sinead O'Connor

Time to move overseas! In the latest installment of this series on women that should be inducted into the Rock Hall, the focus turns to three magnificent, enigmatic voices from England, Scotland, and Ireland, respectively: Kate Bush, Annie Lennox (via Eurythmics), and Sinead O'Connor.

Kate Bush
A case study for the now-abandoned concept of "artist development," the preternaturally gifted Catherine Bush was signed to EMI at age 16, with an assist from Pink Floyd 's David Gilmour. She didn't release her debut The Kick Inside until she was 19, and that album's hit "Wuthering Heights" launched her into the stratosphere of popular consciousness in England, if not stateside. But it was just a matter of time. 

Literate, ethereal and wielding an unearthly voice, Bush released three more records with varying success, but there was no denying her vision and intellect. She eventually broke through in the U.S. with the mesmerizing track "Running Up That Hill" from the 1985 album Hounds of Love; it was also a major success in her homeland, even displacing Madonna's "Like a Virgin" off the top of the pop charts there. International recognition also came via her emotional duet with Peter Gabriel, 1986's "Don't Give Up." Bush went on to release such acclaimed efforts as The Sensual World (featuring the single "This Woman's Work"), The Red Shoes, and Aerial. In 2014, the reclusive legend sold out a 22-show residency in London, and in late-breaking news, she is being honored with an entire festival in Scotland this September called "Running Up That Hill – A Celebration Of The Work Of Kate Bush." With disciples ranging from Bj√∂rk to Tori Amos to Radiohead, hers is the type of peerless, critically-acclaimed career that the Rock Hall should ideally be honoring. Here's hoping they wake up and recognize one of the most significant art rock voices to have ever drifted into our orbit. 
Annie Lennox (Eurythmics)
The vocal half of new wave/synthpop icons Eurythmics, Annie Lennox would be a welcome addition to the Rock Hall via the act's induction. In 1980, the visually-savvy duo rose from the ashes of the band the Tourists, later becaming mainstays of both the charts and MTV. It all started with the harrowing single "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," and continued with such high-charting singles as "Who's That Girl, "Here Comes The Rain Again" and the boisterous "Would I Lie to You." 

Alongside her guitar-playing foil Dave Stewart, Lennox deployed an exquisite voice that continues to seduce, chill, and burn. And who could forget "Sisters Are Doin' it for Themselves," her duet with Aretha Franklin? Conveying a wide spectrum of human emotion whenever she takes the mic, Lennox is that rare, striking talent with just the right amount of commercial and critical success to merit her and Stewart serious consideration for the Hall. Her laudable, Oscar and Grammy-winning solo career and soundtrack work could also help the case for a Eurythmics induction. 

Sinead O'Connor
Arriving as passionate as she was serious, Irish wailer Sinead O'Connor rejected and revolutionized the music industry's notions of what a female pop star should look like, act like, or behave like. She entered the global frame in 1987 with her head-turning debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, which contained the college rock/pre-"alternative"-era hits "Mandinka" and "(I Want Your) Hands on Me." In one early career highlight, she performed "Mandinka" on the 1989 Grammys in a startling breakthrough performance. Of course, the zenith of O'Connor's career is I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got's "Nothing Compares 2 U," a timeless global hit penned by Prince and propagated by a bracingly intimate music video. Her discography continued in the decades to come with mixed success, though she received warm critical notices for 2014's I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss and especially 2012's How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? 

Let's be real: O'Connor is a polarizing figure; she's agitated everyone from Catholics to Miley Cyrus. But what has to be acknowledged is her powerhouse voice and warrior's resolve, as well as her influence on so many artists that followed her lead (see: any female "alternative" star of the '90s and beyond, and more than a few acts on the Lilith Fair roster). In spite of all the tabloid press and social media dust-ups that have tarnished her public perception over the years, O'Connor's contributions are cemented, and she absolutely shouldn't be undervalued. She burned so brightly, and has continued to release significant music. It would be unfortunate if her well-documented troubles hurt her Rock Hall chances, as she clearly meets the induction criteria of musical excellence and influence. She probably wouldn't show up to the ceremony—and might even have a few choice words for the institution—but she should still be given her due.