The nominees for this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class were announced on Wednesday (Feb. 1) — and unlike last year’s group, which featured mostly previously nominated acts, eight out of the 14 artists featured in the 2023 crop are first-timers, including two in their first year of eligibility.
As has been the increasingly common trend over the last 10 years, the “rock” qualifications of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are becoming increasingly flexible — this year, encompassing rap legends, pop superstars, country icons, R&B hitmakers and artists who are not easily classified under any one specific genre. There are still a handful of more traditionally rock-based acts recognized as well, but none of the Baby Boomer bands that have essentially comprised the Rock Hall’s foundation for most of its 35-plus-year existence.
The artists voted into the Rock Hall last year further suggested that a singular sound and legacy was more critical to induction than down-the-middle rock credentials. Dolly Parton, Eminem, Lionel Richie, Carly Simon and Eurythmics were all granted Rock Hall entry, despite none of them hailing from any traditional rock background. (Even the two most “rock” of the inductees — Duran Duran and Pat Benatar — were early MTV-era stars whose induction would’ve been unimaginable for most of the Rock Hall’s lifetime, as they were afforded little respect from the traditional rock media during their commercial peaks.)
Will the nominees from this year follow a similar path? Let’s break the 14 artists down, from our picks for least likely to most likely to get inducted later this year.
One of the most accomplished groups of ’70s soul, thanks to enduring singles like “I’ll Be Around,” “Then Came You” (a collab with Dionne Warwick, who was a Rock Hall nominee last year) and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” all produced by the late great Thom Bell. The songs hold up, but the group itself likely remains a little too anonymous for inclusion — even on its fourth nomination.
Odds: 12 to 1
Maiden remains one of the most storied and legendary groups in heavy metal history — but it’ll still take a concentrated push to get them into the Rock Hall, considering their relatively limited appeal to non-metal fans (particularly stateside). Perhaps someday, but unlikely that it’ll come on their second nomination.
Odds: 10 to 1
Joy Division / New Order
Though they’re often thought of as separate entities, it makes sense that post-punk greats Joy Division and synth-pop legends New Order would receive their first nomination collectively — since they’re essentially the same group, just before and after the tragic suicide of frontman Ian Curtis. Both incarnations of the band have their own rich legacies, but both are probably a little too British (and disconnected from the type of new wave-era bands recently acknowledged by the Rock Hall) for American audiences to reward them on their first nomination.
Odds: 10 to 1
One of the great pop stars of the mid-’80s, Cyndi Lauper has been hurt historically by her relatively short peak (mostly concentrated to 1983 full-length She’s So Unusual and 1986 follow-up True Colors) and general lack of critical attention during her biggest years. She’s helped by her singular MTV-era image and biggest hits both enduring — there’s always a new “Time After Time” cover floating around — but she’s still probably a little left-of-center for Rock Hall induction on her first try.
Odds: 8 to 1
The closest thing to a traditional classic rocker on this list (and still not that close), the late Warren Zevon has both a cult reputation as a respected singer-songwriter and a couple of radio perennials in “Excitable Boy” and “Werewolves of London.” What he doesn’t quite have is a long run of mainstream commercial success or a widely recognizable image and legacy, which still leaves him a bit of an outside shot for induction on his first nomination — though if Billy Joel is willing to stump for him, perhaps he’s closer to the inside track than we think.
Odds: 5 to 1
A Tribe Called Quest
Still easily one of the most acclaimed, enduring and influential rap groups of all time — though perhaps a little bit lacking in the contemporary urgency that would help their case amidst the rest of this year’s nominees. You have to figure Tribe are too important to not get in eventually, but there may never be a year in which they’re one of the four or five most likely inductees.
Odds: 5 to 1
Rage Against the Machine
When they were first nominated in 2018, Rage Against the Machine’s induction felt inevitable: a legitimately game-changing rap-rock group with critical respect, popular endurance and contemporary relevance. Nothing much has changed about that in the half-decade since — but this is the group’s fifth nomination now, and it’s hard to say what makes them more inductable now than they were the first four times around. Hard to imagine the Rock Hall keeping them out forever, but…
Odds: 4 to 1
It’s hard to gauge Missy’s Rock Hall chances, because no one like her has ever been inducted before — but you could also say that there was simply no major artist like her before, period. Her singular artistry and career and obviously enduring influence will certainly make a compelling case for induction on her first nomination, but will she appeal to enough Rock Hall voters as a rapper-singer with no real rock cred or mythology to get there? If so, hip-hop may end up absolutely dominating the next decade of nominations — but it wouldn’t be shocking if it takes another year or two for her.
Odds: 3 to 1
They may or may not be that much more likely than Rage Against the Machine to be inducted, but they maybe cast a bit longer a shadow — partly because of their earlier start (as the first real sensations of the grunge era) and partly because of the specter of late frontman Chris Cornell, one of the most inimitable rock frontmen of the last 40 years. They’re hurt a little by their relative paucity of peak output, breaking up (for the first time) after 1996’s Down on the Upside, but they’re unquestionably Hall-worthy, and should be recognized in due time.
Odds: 3 to 1
Are Rock Hall voters ready to take George Michael seriously as a rock icon? That’s the question, though in a world where fellow ’80s pop megastars Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Madonna are all Rock Hall inductees, it perhaps feels silly to keep Michael — who has some rock roots, and wrote and produced all his biggest hits, like Prince — on the outside. It may still take another nomination or two, but if voters just wanted to fast-track him, it’d save everyone a lot of time.
Odds: 2 to 1
The singular artistry and enduring influence of Kate Bush was never in question over the course of her first three Rock Hall nominations; it was just a matter of whether she had enough of a U.S. pop legacy to support her being voted in. But after a 2022 that included her classic “Running Up That Hill” not just being revived (via a Stranger Things synch), but becoming one of the year’s biggest Hot 100 hits of any kind, it’s fair to call her a frontrunner for induction in 2023 — and to say that if she doesn’t get in this time, it’s hard to imagine what else it would take.
Odds: 3 to 2
Continually impactful and forever iconic, country legend Willie Nelson is the closest thing in this year’s nominations to what Dolly Parton was last year — someone who’s not quite transparently Rock and Roll, but once they’re recognized as such, seems close to impossible to keep out of the Hall of Fame. While Nelson remains about as relevant to contemporary music as any of the other nominees, he’s also easily the oldest (at age 89) of the living nominees, which might further motivate voters to recognize him before it’s too late to properly do so.
Odds: 3 to 2
Though she’s been eligible for a few years already, Sheryl Crow was always going to be a frontrunner for Rock Hall induction once she received her first nomination — she’s a bastion of modern rock n’ roll, she’s widely beloved within the industry, and she has hits and general commercial success to rival any of her ’90s and ’00s rock peers. Recent biographical documentary Sheryl made the case that she should be Rock Hall bound, and it’s pretty hard to imagine the voting bloc not complying.
Odds: Even money
The White Stripes
They might not have lasted as long or been as impactful as some of the other nominees, but none scream rock n’ roll quite like Jack and Meg White. One of the biggest and most beloved rock acts of the 21st century, the White Stripes’ case is also helped by the fact that Jack White has acted as much as an ambassador for rock in general over the past 20 years as any major contemporary figure outside of Dave Grohl. If there’s any amount of Rock and Roll left at the core of this Hall of Fame, the White Stripes should have no problem getting in on their first nomination.
Odds: Even money