April 23, 2021

Predictions: The Rock Hall Class of 2021

It never gets any easier. February brought 16 stellar Rock Hall nominees to the table, and close followers of the institution hope the voters check the right boxes. Picking a mere five artists from this ballot is just brutal.

So who gets in? One thing that must be taken into account is the Fan Vote, and whether or not the winner makes the final cut. To date, the Fan Vote winners are 7 for 8: Rush, KISS, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chicago, Journey, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard all earned induction, while last year's victor, Dave Matthews Band, got shut out. The current Fan Vote leader is Tina Turner, though Fela Kuti's engaged fan base has kept him at or near the top throughout the process.

Recent induction history can also provide additional clarity, in terms of the number of actual artists that get in. It's perplexing that the Hall has voters pick just five artists, because quite often, more than five get inducted. Recent induction numbers bear that out: 2020's class had six performers and two Ahmet Erteguns. In 2019, there were seven performers. 2017 saw six performers, plus Nile Rodgers getting the Musical Excellence Award. In 2015, they "super-sized" it all, with seven performers and an Early Influence honoree in the "5" Royales. (This made for a painfully long ceremony, admittedly, and the gala might still be going on... there's no way of knowing if Elvin Bishop is done talking or not.)

With the current ballot, it's impossible to vote for five acts and not make a painful omission. Here's a telling example of that: On April 16, Rock Hall VP of Education and Visitor Engagement Jason Hanley shared on Twitter that he picked Devo over Carole King. To quote Jason's tweet exactly, "Hard decision, so many amazing artists." This must be a widely shared sentiment among the votership. 

Given this remarkable ballot  along with the fact that there was no actual ceremony last year  it's reasonable to expect that the Rock Hall will throw a huge, inductee-heavy party at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this October 30. The prognostication here is a seven-performer class and a Musical Excellence recipient.

The Predictions:

Tina Turner - Quite simply, Tina is overdue, and this honor is richly deserved. Turner is a shining example of having a second act in American life. Her recent documentary on HBO makes it even more pressing and evident that she merits her second induction, independent of her abuser. She's probably winning the Fan Vote, as well.

Carole King One just pictures every Rock Hall voter going, "What? She's not in yet?" and checking that box. The 1971 album Tapestry alone makes King worthy of being in as a performer, in addition to her previous Non-Performer induction with her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. 

LL Cool J - Everyone is so convinced Jay-Z is the rapper getting in this year... maybe rethink that. It seems cruel they'd put LL Cool J on the ballot for a sixth time and snub him again. Sure, it could happen, but with this ballot, it seems the Hall is trying to right some wrongs and improve optics across the board. In 2017, the illustrious Kennedy Center made LL its first hip-hop honoree; the Rock Hall is truly behind the curve with this guy. Inducting this rap superstar would be the right call, and Rock Hall board member Lyor Cohen's recent open letter in Billboard urging LL's induction might finally put James Todd Smith over the top. (Further, Jay-Z doesn't seem to care, is last in the Fan Vote, and next year's induction is in Brooklyn, Jay's hometown... you do the math. And yes, Eminem is eligible next year, but as Cohen insightfully notes in his piece, rap is the top musical form on the planet, as well as "the new rock & roll," so it's possible they could both see induction in 2022.)

The Go-Go's - Hey Belinda Carlisle, time to book a flight from your home in Thailand to join your bandmates Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, and Kathy Valentine in Cleveland. Belinda, whose onetime punk moniker was Dottie Danger, is on track to be honored on the same night as Pat Smear, yet another former member of the Germs, which brings us to...

Foo Fighters - In 1995, on the Foo Fighters' second single, Dave Grohl assured everyone, "I'll Stick Around," and that, ladies and gentlemen, he has. To borrow a line from the Go-Go's, when it comes to the Foos, it doesn't matter what they say  the ceremony requires a headliner, and they fit the bill. Further, the Hall has been dropping unsubtle hints (playing Foo Fighters music during press events, etc.), so this may be since the most predictable induction since Pearl Jam. And finally, it must be asked: What is left for David Eric Grohl now? One might go to the famous, often misattributed quote about Alexander the Great that Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber makes in "Die Hard" (with a key substitution): "And when David saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.

Iron Maiden - The Rock Hall is hopefully wise enough to not enrage metal fans any further, as they've nominated ostensible shoo-ins Judas Priest twice (in 2018 and 2020) and failed to put them in. Imagine them dissing Iron Maiden this year and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown-level hellfire that would ensue. Additionally, various voters displaying their ballots on social media suggest that the box for Iron Maiden is frequently getting checked. Anticipate a Radiohead-like reception from the band upon their induction news, as certain members have been quite dismissive of the Hall in the past. One could easily envision founder/bassist Steve Harris and guitarist Adrian Smith showing up, and no one else, while a band like Mastodon or Baroness is subbed in to play "Run to the Hills" or something. But here's hoping that a change of heart and a good managerial pep talk to the boys is afoot, and Bruce Dickinson flies Ed Force One into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport this October. Their ghoulish mascot Eddie striding across the induction stage would be a most spectacular and welcome sight. Run for your life!  

Devo - It's an important duty to honor eccentrics and outsiders with a clearly defined, resonating worldview and aesthetic (see: the Ramones). Fitting this bill in 2021 is twitchy New Wave/synth-pop act Devo, whose prescient, foundational concept of de-evolution has, sadly, proven timeless. The energy dome hat-wearing Ohio spudboys and their fans would find it ideal to have this induction occur in Cleveland. Presumably, Devo has former MTV executive and new Rock Hall chairman John Sykes in their corner. Sykes co-founded MTV, where these Akronites broke out visually and inspired an audience of fellow misfits to create their own subversive music, including They Might Be Giants, Oingo Boingo, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Nirvana (a John Peel session found them covering "Turn Around"), Soundgarden (who covered "Girl U Want"), and even fellow 2021 nominees Rage Against the Machine, who did "Beautiful World" on their album Renegades. Devo has been eligible for 18 years, this is their second nomination, and it just feels like it may be their time. 

Musical Excellence: Fela Kuti - This Nigerian Afrobeat legend's impact is felt far beyond the borders of Nigeria, and his passionate fan base has kept him at or near the top of the Fan Vote. The call here is that the Hall finds a way to get him in (global attention for the Rock Hall could only be a net positive), and Musical Excellence is likely the path the institution takes. Fela's impact can be heard in artists from Bootsy Collins to Talking Heads to Nigerian-British pop star Burna Boy. The tribute performance potential for Fela is tantalizing, and hopefully could involve his musician sons Femi and Seun.

January 15, 2021

20 Suggestions for the Next Rock Hall Ballot

As Bob Dylan once sang, "... things have changed." The Rock Hall Nominating Committee meets later this month to generate a ballot for the Class of 2021, but it does so against the backdrop of a very different world. 

The entire nomination/induction schedule has shifted, and an attempt will be made at a live Cleveland ceremony this October 30. Still, there are so many variables, from feasibility to content. Will Jann Wenner's stepping down from the Rock Hall Foundation board (and iHeartMedia's John Sykes stepping up) affect this annual ritual? Will the social justice movements of the past year be reflected in the pool of nominees, or will it be business as usual? Clarity around all these things will arrive in February, when the nominee slate is released, to guaranteed cheers and jeers.  

Until then, it's time to break away from the usual predictions. It's an endeavor many already engage in, and there are plenty of prognostications circulating already. Consensus is forming around Dave Grohl's band as well as the artist formerly known as Shawn Carter. Why belabor the point?

Things have changed here, too. Making suggestions felt more appropriate than doing predictions, so below is a curated list of 20 artists worthy of Rock Hall consideration. Official ballots in recent years have had 15 to 19 names, so 20 options seemed viable. Any 15, 16, or 19 of these would comprise an outstanding field. 

If only it were that easy. The names below are cast into the Rock Hall conversation amid a nomination/induction process that is broken, backlogged and maybe too far gone to ever fix. As Future Rock Legends recently noted on Twitter in response to Joe Hardtke's excellent list of 155 deserving Hall candidates, acts basically have to "hit the lottery to get in." If those are the odds, why not expand the horizons of who has a shot?

And hey, no list, ballot or prediction can be comprehensive, nor does an exercise like this please everyone. The repeated criticisms of the Hall around gender, race, and genre are justified, valid and well-trodden. No submitted field of artists, official or otherwise, can cover it all, unless it was like, 200+ artists long. Nick Bambach is currently working through his stellar series of 100 Rock Hall prospects, and that is certainly required reading.

So please sit back, read, and breathe easy in the knowledge that you are not alone in believing that such legends as Big Mama Thornton, Link Wray, Kraftwerk, Tina Turner, Carole King, the Meters, Judas Priest, Kool & the Gang, the Spinners, Pat Benatar, and the Go-Go's deserve to be in – truths that at this point are self-evident. They've all received previous advocacy in this space, and just don't happen to appear on the list below. (On a related note, please check out the "21 for 21 Project" by Mary from Hall Watchers and Iconic Rock Talk Show's Michelle Bourg — a series of institution-rattling arguments for 21 female acts that need to be inducted.)

20 suggestions for the Rock Hall's next ballot, in no particular order:

PJ Harvey
Darkness, jagged blues and desire all churn about in the tempest that is Polly Jean Harvey. Her music turned heads upon her arrival in 1992 with her album Dry, and what a stunning, uncompromising body of work this Somerset, England native has crafted in the years since. It's strange to say that a repertoire of assaultive, haunting compositions has lost nothing with time, and it's almost counterintuitive to say that it's a pleasure to listen to (Ron Swanson's quote "like a banshee on the moors" springs to mind), but there it is. Patti Smith, Dylan, Cohen and Beefheart were among her muses, and they served her well. From 1995's hypnotic knockout To Bring You My Love (listen to the closing track "The Dancer" again, and be devastated anew) to 2004's lauded Uh Huh Her to the Mercury Prize-winning, World War I-themed Let England Shake, Harvey's raging gifts and ambition have set a daunting bar for performers and singer-songwriters everywhere. Her near-universal critical acclaim places her in a lofty echelon, but it's warranted; for Harvey, pure artistic intent has proven to be a shield against backlash. Kurt Cobain loved her music, and the surviving members of Nirvana actually reached out to Harvey to participate in the band's induction performance (sadly she was unavailable, but that would have been amazing). Harvey's aftershocks can be felt in the work of artists such as Sleater-Kinney, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Torres. 

Selena
It's time for Selena Quintanilla to enter the Rock Hall discussion. She may have been tragically taken away at age of 23, but this Mexican-American Tejano icon's voice, style and staggering chart success makes her an exceptional candidate for Cleveland. Selena's 1992 breakthrough album, Entre a Mi Mundo went to number one on the U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart and kept its perch there for nearly five months. That record's follow-up, Amor Prohibido, yielded four Number One Latin singles, among them the title track and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” A major concert attraction, Selena performed three years in a row at the Houston Astrodome, where over 60,000 screaming fans showed up to see their beloved hero. Dreaming of You, her posthumous LP, was released in July 1995 and featured the major hits "I Could Fall In Love" and "Dreaming Of You." Further, her 1990 album Ven Conmigo was archived by the National Recording Registry in 2020. And if you think about it, last year's Super Bowl halftime show with Shakira and J. Lo. may not have happened without Selena helping to light the path. Her massive influence is clear to see (Katy Perry, Marc Anthony, Solange), and the recent "Selena: The Series," which recently arrived on Netflix, has raised the late Quintanilla's profile even higher. It was also just announced that Selena is being given the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award this year. 

Ronnie James Dio
"Between the velvet lies/There's a truth that's hard as steel..." In order to encapsulate and fully honor the unparalleled music career of the late Ronald James Padavona, it may be judicious on the Hall's part to just put this howling icon in on his own. It was totally unjust that he was left out of Black Sabbath's 2006 induction (he took over for a fired Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, resulting in Sabbath's classic Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules LPs, both to be reissued March 5). This man popularized the sign of the horns in metal, and his credits speak for themselves. There's Sabbath, which should have been enough to earn him induction, but there's also Rainbow (a case could be made for this group too), the late-'60s group Elf, and his namesake band Dio (again, a case could be made). Ronnie's soaring voice is heard on a treasure trove of songs, including "Man on the Silver Mountain" (Rainbow), "Neon Nights" (Sabbath), and the Dio favorites "Rainbow in the Dark," "Holy Diver," and "Straight Through the Heart" (check out Halestorm's kick-ass cover of this one on the 2014 RJD tribute album This is Your Life). Metal as we know it is unthinkable without Dio's contributions, and the roll call of reverent peers (Judas Priest's Rob Halford, the Scorpions) and zealots (Metallica, Anthrax, Slipknot's Corey Taylor, Lizzy Hale) is extensive. Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D, also proud Dio disciples, would jump at the chance to do the induction speech for their hero Ronnie. 

The Marvelettes
Formed in Inkster, Michigan in 1960, the Marvelettes can lay claim to Motown's first Number One single, 1961's "Please Mr. Postman." The Supremes were their competitors, yet Smokey Robinson was a crucial mentor, assisting with production and songwriting. Others involved with their musical output include Berry Gordy, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and Marvin Gaye. "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" and "Don't Mess With Bill" are among their other notable singles. The Marvelettes have two previous Rock Hall nominations (in 2013 and 2015), but have yet to be inducted. Nonetheless, they've been honored by the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame. Any induction this delayed means some members of the group are sadly no longer around to enjoy  it. Last September, Georgia Dobbins Davis, co-writers of "Postman" and a founding member of the group, passed away at 78. Gladys Horton her bandmate, left us in 2011,  and Georgeanna Tillman died in 1980. Still, the Marvelettes are owed recognition for their achievements at Motown.

Ice-T 
"6 in the morning, police at my door/Fresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floor/Out my back window I make a escape/Don't even get a chance to grab my old school tape..." Long before Snoop deployed "6 in the mornin'" as a lifestyle-revealing time stamp (as in, the ladies weren't leaving his place until then), the law was at Ice-T's door at that hour. Arguably the father of gangsta rap, Ice-T deserves a place in the Hall alongside inductees N.W.A., an act he set the table for. Of course, the provocative thrash metal side project Body Count (nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy this year) is inextricably linked to the Ice-T legacy due to the 1992 "Cop Killer" song controversy. (The famous Rolling Stone cover of Ice-T dressed as a police officer has been on display at the Rock Hall more than once...very interesting). Lightning rod, TV actor, reality star... that fresh Adidas shoe fits. But above all else, Tracy Marrow, introduced to the world with the single "The Coldest Rap" in 1983, is an iconic and genre-defining figure.

Weezer
"Come sit next to me/Pour yourself some tea," requests Rivers Cuomo on the career rocket launch that "My Name is Jonas," and an entire generation listened. Explosive in that tick-tick-boom/quiet-then-loud '90s way, it was the era's best album opener since Cobain felt stupid and contagious. Weezer's music, for all its peaks and valleys, is the result of three decades of chasing a winning formula. Rivers Cuomo, guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Patrick Wilson, and bassist Matt Sharp (later, bassists Mikey Welsh (RIP) and Scott Shriner) created an arena-shaking leviathan that commands respectA synthesis of power pop hooks, Gen X dread, Beach Boys harmonies and heavy riffs have made Weezer alt-rock legends with a diehard following. They walked so bands like Nada Surf, Jimmy Eat World and Fall Out Boy could run, just as there would be no Weezer without Cuomo talismans Kurt Cobain, Eddie Van Halen, or Ace Frehley. And what a songbook this quartet has: "Buddy Holly" was pure joy with its Spike Jonze-directed, "Happy Days"-referencing video; the detonative "Say It Ain't So," their creative zenith, confronts parental alcoholism's impact on children ("...the son is drowning in the flood"); Pinkerton's  "The Good Life" has one the greatest rock choruses ever (also, the lyrics "...everything I want/Is taken away from me... It's time I got back to the good lifefeel even more relevant in this pandemic era); and 2016's White Album embraced Southern California fun on tracks like "Do You Wanna Get High?" and "Thank God for Girls." In 2018, their cover of Toto's "Africa" became their first Billboard Number One single in a decade. Sober yet whimsical, metallic one moment and easy-breezy the next, Weezer contains multitudes. And 27 years after their debut, they're still going. A surprise new album, OK Human, drops January 29, and May 7, they'll drop their 15th LP Van Weezer, its title a play on Van Halen. Ridiculous, but these guys can get away with it, because their place in the American rock pantheon is cemented already. That hasn't been lost on the Hall: Bassist Shriner played with the Cars for their 2018 induction, and the Rock Hall reportedly had Weezer set up to be the house band for the abandoned live 2020 ceremony. A nomination can't be too far off. To borrow a line from Pinkerton's "Getchoo," this is beginning to be serious.

Patsy Cline
 
One of the greatest country singers ever, Virginia Patterson Hensley left us far too young at age 30 in a 1963 plane crash. Her country and pop crossover legacy, however, is a rich one.  Cline recorded a pile of singles in the later half of the '50s, with "Walkin' After Midnight" emerging as a standout. When the '60s rolled around, and she was free from her earlier contractual shackles, she released the monumental hits "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy" (written by Willie Nelson). Indisputably, Cline built the stage on which so many female singers, regardless of genre, stand today. She was the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, all the way back in 1973. Thus, recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be forthcoming, given her pop chart success and iconic status. Musical excellence? Obviously. Influence? Everyone from Loretta Lynn to Dolly Parton to Linda Ronstadt (inducted) to k.d. lang. The Hall is certainly not averse to honoring country-associated artists (i.e., Hank Williams, Johnny Cash), so Cline just feels like an inevitable selection. She's been eligible since 1982, but has never been nominated. In a world where genres increasingly blend together and myriad digital music platforms find us all consuming a wide variety of sounds, overlooking an artist of Cline's magnitude due to her perceived primary genre is short-sighted. She transcends country, and is worthy of a nomination.

Salt-N-Pepa
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, N.W.A., Tupac and Biggie are all inducted, but there's something missing, isn't there? Queens from Queens and among the most successful female hip-hop acts, Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella would be breaking the Rock Hall's glass ceiling. By any metric, they're deserving, with major, your-mom-even-likes-these-guys hits like "Push It," "Let's Talk About Sex," "Shoop," and "Whatta Man" (featuring En Vogue). This trio blazed a trail for assertive women in hip-hop, and TLC and Missy Elliott definitely took key inspiration from themSalt-N-Pepa's 1993 album Very Necessary is the highest-selling album by a female rap group in history — a Hall of Fame qualifier, no?

Joy Division 
Dark wave post-punk legends that set a sonic and atmospheric template for a legion of artists that came after them, including Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Interpol. (For one clear-cut example of Joy Division's influence, listen to "Atmosphere" and the Cure's "Plainsong" back to back; the shimmering sonics are like a continuation of a DNA strand.) The group shattered upon singer Ian Curtis' death in 1980, then morphed into electronic-pop masters New Order. In the spirit of having an evolved opinion on this, a Joy Division nom, without New Order being included (remember the Small Faces/Faces induction?) is perhaps the right decision. The band is singular enough to stand on its own, and its music is all about being painfully alone, anyway. In honoring Curtis and his surviving bandmates that soldiered on to form that second group, the Hall would at least be in the neighborhood of recognizing New Order, too. Henry Rollins, in a 2019 L.A. Times piece, elegantly summed up Joy Division's music: "The songs are readings of temperature, light and lack of light. They walk silently for hours on city streets and return alone to small rooms with full ashtrays and no messages on the machine."

Boston 
"People livin' in competition/All I want is to have my peace of mind." Now there's a statement anyone allergic to the rat race can get behind. Boston has sold a staggering 75 million records, with their 1976 self-titled debut moving 17 million units. Tom Scholz, a guitar, songwriting and producing mastermind, created dynamic tunes that, when paired with the warm, surging vocals of Brad Delp, dominated the FM airwaves for 46 years (and counting). "More Than a Feeling," "Rock and Roll Band" and "Smokin'" might be the soundtrack to drinking warm beers in the woods on a high school Saturday night, but few would argue that those moments aren't among the best of their lives. Despite all the "too slick, too corporate" criticisms that have been lobbed at these guys, there is something undeniable: For a wide swath of a generation, hearing Boston (and previous inductees Journey, Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, and Steve Miller) transports them back to their formative years, and reminds them of simpler times. It's a kind of magic, and there's something to be said for that. 

Mariah Carey
As the insistent sound of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" fades from our psyche post-holidays, a thought still lingers: Mariah Carey is an all-timer with a worldwide impact that may rival that of Santa Claus. With her five-octave range and an endless stream of hits, this superstar owned the '90s pop/R&B music scene, and has helped define popular music in the decades since like no other. She's had a competition-humbling 19 Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100 (more than any solo artist) and has sold over 200 million records globally. Charts and sales are one thing, but other aspects of this singer's narrative — her longevity and resilience — might be even more important. Those qualities are well-chronicled in her recent biography "The Meaning of Mariah Carey," which recounts her early success and marriage to Columbia Records' Tommy Mottola, the Glitter era, her 2005 comeback The Emancipation of Mimi, and beyond. Still relevant and ubiquitous up to the present day, it's clear that Carey is a survivor, not to mention a triumphant example of what a pop icon can and should be. Her influence on singers that followed, from Christina to Britney to Ariana, is plain to hear. This record-breaker will make it to Cleveland; the only question is when. 

Jaco Pastorius
The Rock Hall, in a perfect world, should be honoring white-hot geniuses that redefined their instrument. The self-taught Jaco Pastorius is one of those talents. The late "Hendrix of bass" is commonly associated with jazz, but despite his stints with Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock and others, some have argued that he wasn't really jazz at all. That makes him, what, rock? Fusion? Progressive jazz? Genre-transcendent? The truth is in there somewhere, but what cannot be taken away is Pastorius' pure gift, so spectacularly demonstrated on the fretless bass. With his fleet fingers, trombone-like tone and a tendency to outshine just about everyone else onstage (a habit Weather Report's Joe Zawinul legendarily detested), Jaco took bass sound and technique to a stratosphere not seen since. Bass players heard his playing and went home to first, have a good cry, and then completely reboot their approach to playing. Joni Mitchell called upon Jaco's electrifying talents (for the studio record Hejira as well as the live album Shadows and Light), while his debut, simply titled Jaco Pastorius, is an audacious landmark of electric bass. His influence is vast — pretty much any bassist that came after him — but players that have sung Jaco's praises include Bootsy Collins, Geddy Lee, Sting, Flea, Stanley Clarke, Christian McBride, and Metallica's Robert Trujillo, who was a producer on the terrific 2015 documentary Jaco. Substance abuse and mental health issues coalesced tragically in Florida one night in 1987, when Pastorius had a run-in with a bouncer, leading to his death at age 35. In the end, this bass legend's legacy is towering, and players across genres have expressed a reverence for him afforded to few. American music giant Miles Davis, a 2006 inductee whose jazz work also impacted rock, once wrote a tribute song to him titled "Mr. Pastorius." All things considered, a Jaco nomination (or Musical Excellence nod) would be a sophisticated, insightful move on the Hall's part.

Sonic Youth
 
New York City's masters of guitar noise and left-field alt-rock hits ("Kool Thing," "Incinerate") exuded a detached, cosmopolitan cool, yet were wholly committed to their punk-inspired craft. They disbanded in 2011 due to the marital breakup of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, but their rulebook-tossing contributions to 20th and 21st century music still reverberate. The experimentally-minded troupe was catnip for the often snobby rock intelligentsia, but the band's appearance on "The Simpsons" demonstrated that the group was capable of shaking off their hipster gravitas at times. Gordon delivered an unforgettable version of Nirvana's "Aneurysm" during the 2014 induction ceremony, which can only help Sonic Youth's chances. Acts from Dinosaur Jr. to Slowdive to Helium can claim them as an influence, as can hundreds of other bands. 

Phish
It's a steep challenge to adequately summarize Phish, but here goes: Improvisational rock legends from Vermont that forever changed music festival culture. The quartet has been at it intermittently since 1988, evolving across 1,700+ shows, curated festivals, and multi-night Halloween and New Year's runs. Their roving fan base is massive, loyal/critical, and currently trapped in a concert-less purgatory. So maybe this is the perfect time to pause and reflect on how exceptional their favorite band is. Humble, collegiate beginnings led to persuasive, high-energy shows at clubs, theaters, and arenas across America, a deal with Elektra, and "the cover of the Rolling Stone." There have been hiatuses, a breakup, and a cautionary drug tale that ended positively. But in the end, Phish's story is told in the live setting. Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon and Page McConnell's achievements onstage defy quantification, but the 2017 "Baker's Dozen" residency at Madison Square Garden stands out. They did 13 shows, never repeated a song, and churned out some of the finest renditions of songs like "Lawn Boy," "It's Ice" and "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing." Make no mistake: These guys will win you over. Naysayers that once scoffed at Phish or "never got it" get dragged to a show, and their viewpoint changes 180 degrees (an instant evaporation of the poisonous "groupthink" that late fan/comedian Harris Wittels once bemoaned). The jolt one feels when Anastasio rips into the heavy riff of "Carini" can convert even the most skeptical. In the painful absence of live gigs, one can only imagine the deafening rapture that will greet Phish when they finally take the stage again in front of an audience (2022?). Suffice to say, this quartet has earned its (presumably inevitable) induction into the Rock Hall. 

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)?  Of course, the elephant in the room is that O'Connor is a polarizing figure; she's stepped into the ring with everyone from Catholics to Miley Cyrus. But what has to be acknowledged is her knockout 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 seems to have recently arrived at a state of grace and clarity, with a critically hailed early-2020 performances. A continuation of her career, that she keeps sharing her gift, is something to hope for.

Captain Beefheart 
Where's the Beefheart? The late, bonkers experimentalist Don Van Vliet has been eligible nearly 30 years, but so far no Rock Hall love for his transgressive yet influential art-rock. A friend and collaborator of Frank Zappa (see: Bongo Fury), Captain Beefheart is a rare bird, and one that fellow outsiders Tom Waits and PJ Harvey have modeled their musical approach after. The admiration has stretched into the 21st century, as Third Man Records, Jack White's label, recently reissued the Beefheart masterpiece Trout Mask Replica. Besides White and certainly Beck Hansen, left-field outfits from Devo to Mr. Bungle to Morphine to Tune-Yards owe a debt to the Captain. His is a daunting, zigzagging catalog of variable accessibility, a demented blues/free-jazz racket that fascinates and clears rooms in equal measure. However, it bears noting that the lyrics "I'm playin' this music/ So the young girls will come out/To meet the monster tonight," from "Tropical Hot Dog Night," are among the most honest a musician could write. 

Outkast
Six Grammys, obvious influence, 25 million records sold... what more does Outkast have to do for a Rock Hall nomination? What will it take to make the ceremony a "Player's Ball?" Besides hits and commercial success, AndrĂ© "3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton have always had the critics on their side. In fact, three of their albums  Aquemini, Stankonia, and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below just made Rolling Stone's recent 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The most visible representatives of the Dirty South, this Atlanta duo's chemistry and lethal rap flow yielded music that was wildly progressive, kinetic, and full of funk and soul. That they evolved so impressively and attained such great commercial heights makes them one of hip-hop's most indisputable success stories. In their words, "... the coolest motherfunkers on the planet." The Rock Hall's flawed, logjammed induction system is epitomized by its failure to even nominate an act like Outkast; this is the caliber of of artist that shouldn't sit on the shelf for two nomination cycles, as they have. 

Iron Maiden 
With Judas Priest balloted twice to no avail, the NomCom could point its devil horns toward Iron Maiden, an act that, until 2020 at least, reliably filled stadiums and arenas around the world. Road warriors Maiden, once scary and parent-repelling with their ghoulish mascot Eddie and sharp-pointed logo, enjoy a massively-embraced, bring-your-kids status that recently got them tagged as "the Grateful Dead of heavy metal." Now a multi-generational rite of passage, these high-octane trailblazers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal go all the way back to 1975. They've seen lineup changes (most significantly from original singer Paul Di'Anno to Bruce Dickinson in 1981), but have never compromised their galloping, operatic sound, one of the most distinctive and galvanizing in their genre. Led by bassist Steve Harris, these London chaps have always aimed for the sky creatively — Maiden's music has dealt with topics including the literature of Gaston Leroux, Icarus, war, tyranny, and madness. Primary songwriter Harris and his co-conspirators Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Nicko McBrain, Janick Gers and Bruce Dickinson should all be included in any induction. However, the Hall must also remember late drummer Clive Burr (featured on Maiden's first three records, a three-shot opening salvo of lechery, murder and flat-out evil that alone would qualify them for the Hall) as well as Di'Anno, whose punky, menacing vocals enlivened the self-titled debut and Killers. Maiden has a remarkable history, distinguished by decades of LPs, tours, live albums, and the facts that Dickinson survived cancer and pilots the band's plane, "Ed Force One," from gig to gig. Name another metal frontman that does that. "Fly as high as the sun!"

Beck
This past September 16, Bruce Springsteen played Beck's ethereal song "Morning" on his "From My Home to Yours" DJ show on SiriusXM. That's one titanic songwriter tipping his hat to another, and provides more evidence that Beck Hansen's ascension into rarefied air is now complete. (For context, Bruce played John Prine right after Beck.) But even without acknowledgment from the Boss, this Generation X hero's stunning,  shape-shifting career trajectory is Hall of Fame-worthy. Since his 1993 debut Golden Feelings, Beck has been a tireless practitioner of Dust Brothers-produced sound collages, Prince-like sex funk (Caligula would have blushed), full-on pop excursions (2017's Colors) and, at key stops along the way, deep-cutting singer-songwriter fare full of midnight confessions. It's this successful toggling between the profane and sacred that sets him apart as a once-in-a-generation artist. Nomination Committee member Amanda Petrusich, who wrote a magnificent New Yorker profile on Hansen last year, could be his potential champion in the room. 

The Shangri-Las 
Producer and songwriter George "Shadow" Morton orchestrated the Shangri-Las' widescreen teenage dramas, but these young ladies imbued the music with a passion and empathy that rocked a generation. Most notable was the death-courting "Leader of the Pack" (honored in the Singles category by the Hall in 2019) as well as the heartbreaking, seagull-accented "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)." The Shangri-Las, in contrast to the more prim and proper girl groups of the era, cultivated a "bad girl" image, complete with boots and leather pants. And the raw feelings heard on both "Leader" and "Remember" potently epitomize the teenage mindset — everything is magnified. The layered music responds in kind, featuring spoken dialogue, hand claps, and finger snaps alongside such sound effects as motorcycles revving, and glass shattering like hearts. Mary Weiss' plaintive lead vocals anchor both of these tracks, as well as other remarkable Shangri-Las songs like "Give Him a Great Big Kiss," "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" (a track especially influential to Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon) and "Out in the Streets." This group (Weiss, her sister Elizabeth ("Betty") and twins Mary Ann and Marge Ganser) paved the way for punk rock and subsequent pop acts alike. Those that have covered and/or sung their praises include Blondie, the Go-Go's, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Amy Winehouse. The Shangri-Las are Singles honorees that richly deserve a Performer induction.