CMA Awards 2018
The 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees: Who Will Actually Get In?
Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its list of 19 nominees for the 2017 induction class, and the set is an impressively varied one. Generations-removed punk progenitors Bad Brains and the MC5 share ballot space with electro-pop innovators Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode and soul-funk icons Chaka Khan and Joe Tex. Debates about Hall-worthiness will undoubtedly abound -- particularly for one long-suffering group currently on their 11th nomination -- but here at Billboard, we're attempting to answer the more practical question: Who's actually going to get in this year?
Now, if we learned one thing from last year's induction class, it's this: No matter how many non-traditional "rock" acts have gotten in over the years, those that fit the standard definition are still gonna have a much easier time making the grade. And so despite a shifting commercial and critical landscape that decreasingly venerates radio-approved classic rock as the unquestioned epicenter of the modern American musical canon, the 2015-announced Cleveland class was essentially a '70s FM playlist: Chicago, Steve Miller Band, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick. Gangsta rap forefathers N.W.A were the sole outliers in a year that otherwise proved that the Rock Hall still had a great deal of Baby Boomer stadium noodling to get out of its system.
Will this year's class follow suit in that trend? December will likely tell, but until then, here's our best attempt at handicapping the odds of acceptance for each of this year's RNRHOF nominees -- from least- to most-likely -- absolutely none of whom will be inducted by the Black Keys.
As towering an influence as these these D.C. punk paragons may have had over decades of underground rock, it's a level or two too subterranean for the Rock Hall voters, many of whom are unlikely to be able to name a single Bad Brains song (or member). Dave Grohl is undoubtedly already working on his introductory speech just in case, though.
Odds: 20 to 1
One of the greatest synth-pop bands of all-time -- but a synth-pop band, from an era in U.K. alternative that the Hall has yet to show just about any affection towards whatsoever. (The Smiths and the Cure have been nominated but snubbed, New Order and the Pet Shop Boys can keep dreaming.) They have the resume of hits and influence for consideration someday, hopefully, but clearly not in 2016.
Odds: 18 to 1
While Tex had hits of varying sizes for about a decade and one of funk's most inimitable voices, his rock legacy can be somewhat hard to put a finger on, as he never quite reached the iconic status of Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett as a singer, and only a couple of his better-remembered songs really made the transition to oldies radio. He could make it in as a kind of Last Man Standing among '60s soul greats, but it seems much more likely he finds himself a first-time snub.
Odds: 15 to 1
Certainly a pivotal band in alt-rock history, especially if you were to factor in frontman Perry Farrell's contributions as founder of the epochal Lollapalooza festival in the '90s. But the band only had two albums in their original run, '80s alternative has historically been overlooked by the Hall, and Jane's Addiction's greatest contribution to 21st-century pop culture since reforming is doing the Entourage theme. Hard to see them getting in anytime soon.
Odds: 15 to 1
J. GEILS BAND
A blue-eyed-soul wrecking crew that found sustained live relevance (and eventual crossover success), but not the kind of band any young group is like to cite as an inspiration. That didn't stop much of last year's class from getting inducted, of course, but those bands had the benefit of having the majority of their smashes in the '70s, while too many of the J. Geils Band's best-remembered were MTV-era; there's a reason you didn't see "Abracadabra" or "The Flame" in any of the video montages last year.
Odds: 12 to 1
Journey even sniffing nomination for the Rock Hall -- after 16 years of eligibility -- is probably shocking to a good deal of the Hall's constituents, who were likely among those who turned their nose up at the stadium-rock sheen and vocal histrionics of Journey and their ilk, particularly once they broke out the air synths in the early '80s. But decades of karaoke nights and well-chosen TV syncs have softened hearts to the Bay Area's finest power-balladeers, and now it seems plausible they'll get in eventually, even if a first-time induction is probably asking a lot.
Odds: 10 to 1
This will be an interesting litmus test of just how determined the Hall is to clear out the basement of all remaining classic rock candidates: Like Deep Purple, Steppenwolf responsible for at least two of the genre's all-time jukebox jams, but unlike Deep Purple, they can't claim any consensus classic LPs or early influence over an entire genre (even if they did feature a super-early use of the term "heavy metal" in the lyrics to "Born to Be Wild"). But they did soundtrack that one scene in Easy Rider, so.
Odds: 10 to 1
Despite her mononymic status, Chaka's importance to the worlds of funk, disco, and soul in the '70s and '80s doesn't earn her a whole lot of sway among a voting set who largely thinks "quiet storm" is a Fleetwood Mac song they can't quite place. She's been nominated twice before (once with Rufus, once without) and now is up for induction two years in a row -- good sign, but as one of her fellow 2017 nominees can tell her, no guarantee of satisfaction anytime soon.
Odds: 8 to 1
By nearly anyone's estimation, the fathers of modern electronic music are of such obvious importance that it seems batty they would be kept out of any establishment meant to encapsulate the last 60 years in American popular music, but again, the whole "rock" thing. It's Kraftwerk's fourth nomination but it probably won't be their last, unless the Hall is ready to make a quantum leap forward in their capacity to appreciate scientific robo-funk as being part of the same musical timeline as Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Odds: 6 to 1
Longtime favorites of '60s pop aficionados and relevant enough to modern audiences to still play South By Southwest, The Zombies are among the last respected psych-era hitmakers to still be on the Rock Hall's outside. Doesn't necessarily mean it's the time of the season for The Zombies just yet -- the group only has three major hits to their credit, and despite the critical hosannas they've received over the years, they may still seem a touch too soft for the classic rock bloc. But considering the Dave Clark Five has been in for nearly a decade, it's hard to imagine the Hall will muscle them out forever.
Odds: 5 to 1
When will it end? The disco pioneers extended their 0-fer to double digits last year when they were denied induction on their tenth nomination; despite being nearly as relevant to popular music in 2016 as they were four decades earlier, Nile Rodgers & Co. just can't catch a break with the Rock Hall. Eventually you have to hope that those not swayed by Chic's innumerous musical achievements will be moved by basic human sympathies, but every year until it finally ends, the smart bet is on the streak going one longer.
Odds: 5 to 1
The average music fan probably couldn't name more than a couple Joan Baez songs -- she only ever had two top 40 hits, and lacks the one album to serve as her obvious entry to continuing canonical relevance. But Baez's recorded catalog doesn't bear as much on her induction chances here as the general perception of her: As an outspoken folk icon who played at Woodstock, and as the onetime peer and creative partner of one particular Nobel laureate. If you subscribe to the Know-It-When-I-See-It school of Rock Hall voting, you might check off Baez's name without giving it a second thought.
Odds: 5 to 1
Along with ZZ Top, the arm extended from the Hall-approved classic rock era to the Hall-disavowed new wave era. Eventually, the former will likely win out in the committees' eyes -- long is the list of artists who have been inducted with fewer classics to their credit than exist on The Cars' self-titled debut alone -- and hopefully further Martha Quinn-sponsored rock artists will follow from there. Might still be a couple years away, though.
Odds: 4 to 1
Mostly the same rationale as Joan Baez, with an even better genre fit. The number of punk fans who can ID an MC5 song that doesn't begin with a profanity-laden promise of jam-kicking-out is ever-dwindling, but they still feel Important -- one of the defining names of proto-punk -- and no one would be tremendously surprised to find out they'd been a down-ballot inductee a decade ago without anyone really noticing. The Stooges are already in and the New York Dolls haven't been nominated in 15 years, the MC5 seems like a solid pick here.
Odds: 4 to 1
Influential, self-serious, Labor Day Weekend countdown-endorsed -- it's sort of surprising Yes isn't in already. Best explanation for the band going 0-2 in nominations so far is likely that while the Rock Hall likes their rock acts ambitious, it doesn't necessarily like them difficult: Fellow prog stalwarts King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, for instance, have yet to even be nominated across their two-plus decades of eligibility. But Pink Floyd, Genesis and Rush have already made it past the gates, and if you were to pick one 7/4-time-friendly rock act to round out the quartet of uber-conceptual inductees, Yes fit the bill the best.
Odds: 3 to 1
Madonna and brother Michael both got in with their first nomination, but it looks like Janet is gonna have to work for it a little. Recognized but not chosen last year, Janet Jackson is again up for induction this year, and it's basically a coin flip: No, she's not all that rock ("Black Cat" and the "Scream" video aside), but she is one of the ten greatest pop stars of the rock era, and the Hall has historically tended to make exceptions for such figures. No guarantee of when we can expect that to happen, though.
Odds: 2 to 1
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
Well... why not? Certainly by last year's Dazed and Confused standards, ELO should be a shoo-in: They were a regular chart presence for the majority of the '70s, they're respected album artists, and you can't listen to classic-rock radio for an office round-trip without being smothered by their violins. Hell, auteur Jeff Lynne was in the Traveling Wilburys -- a co-founder! -- the RNRHOF-iest supergroup in the museum's history by an exponential margin. You could say that the lingering (if silly) whiff of novelty about the band might hold them back their first time out -- all the spaceships and indoor sunglasses and whatnot -- but expect Brooklyn audiences to be rolling their "R"s along to "Don't Bring Me Down" at an induction ceremony soon enough.
Odds: 2 to 1
For all of Gene Simmons' belly-aching, rappers of a certain commercial and critical consensus have actually had a pretty clear path to the Rock Hall -- Run DMC and Public Enemy both were even both inducted in their first year of eligibility. There's a chance that Tupac remains too controversial to go 1-for-1 -- N.W.A. needed four cracks at it to get in -- but there might not be a single other rapper who slips into the rock-star mold as seamlessly, and his formidable catalog, enduring influence and tragic demise should be a persuasive enough combination to get him in ASAP. Fire up the hologram.
Yes, the Rock Hall has frowned on '80s alternative mainstays, but the '90s, they seem to be good with: Nirvana and Green Day both got in on their first shots, and Pearl Jam -- the most classic rock of the grunge-era breakout bands -- seem a safe bet to keep the streak going. They're important, they're stadium-ready, they're rock true-believers, they've stuck around with the same lineup, they're not actively disliked by anyone (except millennial rock fans who blame them for Creed going Diamond), they even hated making music videos. They're RNRHOF dreamboats. See 'em soon.