November 21, 2018

Predictions: The Rock Hall Class of 2019 (Plus Rock Hall Singles)

To paraphrase "Spinal Tap," this conversation goes to 11. Rock Hall chatter is louder and more abundant than ever. Social media is abuzz, podcasters are dropping weekly shows, and the public is voting in person and online. Much like the institution itself is changing (i.e., museum CEO Greg Harris noticeably emerging as its public face, vs. Joel Peresman, as well as the increased fan engagement), the conversation around it also transforms.

Rock Hall fever is about to peak with the inductee announcement in mid-December. Ballots from the official voters are due December 10, and fans have been voting since October 5, with Def Leppard and Stevie Nicks lodged firmly in the Fan Vote's top two spots, respectively.

But who gets inducted March 29 in Brooklyn? A preponderance of factors play into that final slate. Official ballots and the fan vote figure in, naturally, but closed-door decision making, internal politics, and the HBO broadcast also hold significant sway.

E-Rockracy predicts the artists below will make up the Rock Hall Class of 2019. There are six choices here; no group of five nominees, in any combination, felt quite sufficient for the genre-diverse extravaganza the Rock Hall needs to mount next year. Hopefully the Hall follows suit, and goes with six or more inductees. 

Def Leppard - Here is your Fan Vote winner, and your Barclays Center ceremony headliner. Fly that Union Jack, and raise your lighters. And look for a possible cover of David Essex's "Rock On" (which appeared on Def Leppard's 2006 album Yeah!) as a potential end of night all-star jam vehicle.

Janet Jackson - Another headliner, and a rather overdue accolade for this pop legend after three nominations. This looks like her year. Few female artists have accomplished what Janet has, from conquering the charts, MTV and radio to bouncing back triumphantly from unjust controversy. Missy Elliott (eligible in 2022!) is a likely induction speaker.

LL Cool J - 
Last year's Kennedy Center honoree and a longtime Grammys host, James Todd Smith gets flak for being a television star, but all that obscures his massive influence and contribution to the world of hip-hop. He's a pioneer, a household name, and further, a five-time nominee. With Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Eminem coming up eligible in the next consecutive three years, in that order, there's no better time to induct this hip-hop luminary.

Stevie Nicks -
Many would have preferred to see the Go-Go's or Pat Benatar take this performer slot (well, they'd have to be nominated first), but the Hall, and fans voting at the "Voice Your Choice" kiosks, are clearly intent in having Nicks be the first doubly inducted female artist in Rock Hall history. Not to detract from Nicks, as she is understandably adored, but legions of worthy female artists are still on the outside looking in. Since this all feels a bit calculated, the Fleetwood Mac star's imminent entry into the Clyde McPhatter Club is a valid reason why there should be at least six inductees this year.

Radiohead - 
Will they send a Sex Pistols letter? Do they actually show up? Does only bassist Colin Greenwood (who told Rolling Stone in 2017, "I’d be grateful if we got in. Look at the other people that have been inducted. I don’t know if everyone else will go though...") attend? These and other mysteries loom over Radiohead, who are perplexed, British, and by no means reliable guests. The band falls under a problematic category of Rock Hall nominees — positively worthy all-timers who don't care. Given their astonishing body of work and prestige, they don't need to. Look for the Hall to just go ahead and exorcise this Radiohead ghost from the machine, while simultaneously canonizing an act that truly belongs in Cleveland. It'll please the critics and balance out the more populist elements in this class. 

The Zombies
Eligible since 1989 and boasting four previous nominations, this British Invasion group with familiar hits but also an uncommonly strong discography will round out the Class of 2019. Odessey and Oracle (1968) is a psychedelic pop masterpiece, and defining singles like "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There" have truly endured. 

Speaking of singles, should Steven Van Zandt stroll out onto the Barclays Center stage and announce that newest of categories, Rock Hall Singles, there are six picks below that are more suggestions than predictions, given how many songs shaped rock and roll.

The selections below attempt to meet the ideal criteria for this honor, which is recognition of a significant song by an artist that has scant chances, at this point, of getting inducted as a performer. (Slotting Link Wray and Chubby Checker songs in this category last year was unfortunate, as both should have been inducted as performers long before.) Still, this new category has potential if carefully curated, as opposed to becoming a tainted "side door induction" for acts not getting over the hump with voters. Here are six singles — turn them up to 11!

  1. The Big Bopper - "Chantilly Lace"
  2. Lesley Gore - "It's My Party"
  3. Don McClean - "American Pie"
  4. Gil Scott-Heron - "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"
  5. The Troggs - "Wild Thing"
  6. Mary Wells - "My Guy"