The nominations for the upcoming 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class were revealed on Tuesday morning (Oct. 9), and with them, and as usual, it’s tough to see a single coherent direction towards the hall’s future from the names selected.
Perhaps tellingly, not a single one of the 15 acts nominated were acts eligible for the first time, despite such major names as Beck, Sheryl Crow and OutKast all being newly up for induction. Instead the list is largely a combination of retreads, both newer (Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine) and older (MC5, The Zombies), as well as a handful of older artists nominated for the first time despite having qualified for over a decade already (Def Leppard, Devo, Stevie Nicks).
The lack of no-doubt new contenders — if such an artist still exists for the Rock Hall in 2019, given the shocking snub of Radiohead among the 2018 class of inductees — once again presents this year’s voting body with a choice. They can use this opportunity to either continue clearing the decks of older, more conventional rock acts overshadowed by bigger names in year’s past, or they can work to diversify the Hall by expanding the definition of what “Rock and Roll” can encompass to include major artists in a less-traditional rock mold.
Judging by recent history — which earlier this year, included classical prog-rockers the Moody Blues, AOR favorites Dire Straits and arena-rock perennials Bon Jovi being inducted — the former option remains the safer bet. However, every year represents a new possibility for voters to begin gravitating towards the latter, and with the classic rock names available getting smaller and smaller while bigger names from other genres remain on the docket, 2019 could end up being an transition year for the Rock Hall.
Here’s how we at Billboard break down the odds for each of the 15 artists nominated, ranked from least to most likely.
RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN
A three-time Rock Hall nominee — first in 2012, then 2018 and again this year — Rufus & Chaka Khan are sadly illustrative of the level of esteemed not-quite-Rock nominee that has the resume and renown to get nominated, but not the larger-than-life iconicity to get inducted. Disco-funk greats Chic found themselves in a similar situation, getting nominated so many times (11 in all) without being voted in that the Rock Hall eventually grandfathered in band co-founder Nile Rodgers as a “Musical Excellence” induction; it wouldn’t be shocking to see a similar fate eventually befall Rufus and/or Chaka here.
Odds: 10 to 1
The fact that the pioneering art-rock band is only seeing its first nomination in 2018 reflects how the Rock Hall is naturally predisposed against British bands without strong footing in American pop culture (or American rock radio); if the Hall was U.K.-based, Roxy Music would’ve gotten in decades ago. In a year without many obvious rock favorites, they’ll at least have a shot — the fact that ambient icon Brian Eno, an early member, is also a long-time snub might help their case — but even more traditional Hall voters might dub them too weird for consideration.
Odds: 10 to 1
There’s a sizable enduring cult of support for country-folk singer-songwriter Prine — as evidenced by the No. 5 debut for his The Tree of Forgiveness on the Billboard 200 Albums chart earlier this year — which may mean the acclaimed ’70s survivor’s first-ever nomination be coming at just the right time. But the fact that Forgiveness marked by far the best such chart placement of Prine’s career underlines his relative obscurity, even in his prime: Many casual Rock Hall voters will be unable to name more than a song or two of his, which may make him a tough sell for the increasingly populist-oriented voting body.
Odds: 8 to 1
After dropping off the ballot last year, Kraftwerk are back this year for the fifth time — a nomination span that reaches all the way back to 2003. Hard to tell if they have any better chance now than they did 15 years ago; no matter how influential they were, there’s still no obvious precedent for a German electronic quartet with only minimal U.S. crossover success triumphing over the Chicagos and Steve Miller Bands of the Rock Hall universe. They’re certainly worthy, but they may be another case where an honorary award is their most likely path to actual induction.
Odds: 8 to 1
On the surface at least, Devo are similarly marginalized by Rock Hall standards as Kraftwerk and Roxy Music; a bunch of high-concept new wave weirdos more beloved by critics than radio. But Devo, first-time nominees for 2018, do have a couple advantages: a middle-America base in Akron, Ohio, one enduring crossover hit (“Whip It”) that even non-fans will be eminently familiar with, and the enduring industry presence of lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh, now one of Hollywood’s most successful film composers. They’re relative longshots, but their induction wouldn’t be a total shock.
Odds: 6 to 1
LL COOL J
As an early rap titan and major star with enough rock visibility to not be unfamiliar to that world, LL makes pretty logical sense as an eventual Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. But it’s hard to overlook the fact that he’s gone 0-4 in his four nominations already, and it’s similarly hard to argue the Rock Hall has gotten more hospitable to rappers in the years since — the only two rap acts in the last half decade to be inducted have been 2Pac and N.W.A, both of whom make a stark contrast to LL’s graceful aging into middle-aged cross-platform accessibility. It should happen someday, but will this be the year?
Odds: 5 to 1
On some level, it’s surprising the art-rock wizard isn’t already in the Rock Hall; aside from considerable acclaim during his ’70s peak, he’s also been a name producer for blockbusters by Meat Loaf (Bat Out of Hell) and critical favorites by XTC (Skylarking), while even maintaining a decent classic rock foothold through enduring radio hits like “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me.” But Rundgren’s enigmatic persona and occasionally impenetrably experimental albums may still make him feel more like a fringe artist than the stats would suggest, and it’s sort of tough to know what to make of his Rock Hall case in 2018, decades after he first became eligible.
Odds: 5 to 1
One of the most successful and influential bands of the last 40 years, The Cure have several universally beloved hits, an instantly recognizable sound and image, and are still touring arenas and headlining festivals internationally. But they’ve only been nominated twice in their 15 years of being Rock Hall-eligible, mostly because the voting body has never taken British post-punk bands all that seriously — and particularly not goth forefathers like frontman Robert Smith, who was long treated as a punchline in the face of more credible rock icons. The Rock Hall pretty much has to break the seal on bands like The Cure at some point, but until it actually happens…
Odds: 4 to 1
Three-time nominees — including each of the last two years — MC5 might not suffer from the same exhaustion as other Rock Hall ballot regulars, simply because they feel like such a traditional Rock Hall band: righteous rockers with punk cred and firmly American roots, and at least one album and song that everyone knows, if only for its iconic shared title. The timing may finally be right for the band’s induction; frontman Wayne Kramer is currently in the midst of a star-studded MC5 50th anniversary tour, which in conjunction with his just-released memoir has the group more in the public eye than they’ve been since Jennifer Aniston wore their T-shirt on Friends.
Odds: 3 to 1
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Rage’s second nomination in their second year of eligibility feels like a pretty strong indicator they’ll be Hall of Famers eventually, but when remains to be seen: It’s hard to gauge the urgency to induct a band that’s been on hiatus for the great majority of the 21st century, only released three albums in their lifetime, and has seen their once-considerable musical influence largely scrubbed from the mainstream. They might benefit from fewer Rock Hall-friendly ’60s and ’70s acts as competition this time, but may still have to wait until there are even fewer in years to come.
Odds: 3 to 1
It seems like we have to say this once a year every year now: “Two decades ago, it would’ve been crazy to even be considering these guys for the Rock Hall, but…” Two years ago it was Journey, last year it was Bon Jovi, and this year it’s U.K. stadium-rockers Def Leppard, one of the most continually crowd-pleasing rock acts of the last 40 years, and one entirely out of vogue with critics for at least half of that period. Lep’s case is slightly hurt by being from overseas, meaning the might not have the same core fan support stateside that propelled Journey and Jovi to their inductions — but they were also never totally vilified in the U.S. media, and the group’s studio mastery and gleaming, unapologetic pop influences even make them seem somewhat ahead of their time by ’80s hard rock standards.
Odds: 5 to 2
It may finally be the time of the season for the Zombies, who’ve been nominated three times before, but are now the Rock Hall’s last men standing, as well-liked ’60s pop-rock stars still on the outside looking in. They might not quite have the devoted fanbase of the Moody Blues, but they have the hits, the acclaim, and the endurance to make a semi-plausible case for entry, and for 2019, that might be all that they need.
Odds: 2 to 1
One of the biggest and best pop stars of the rock era, the Rock Hall’s failure to induct Janet Jackson remains galling, particularly after she inexplicably fell off the ballot altogether last year. (Yes, she’s not traditionally rock; no, that doesn’t excuse her exclusion: Madonna’s in, Donna Summer’s in, Janet should be in.) Will the added bump she got in traditional respectability this year for her acclaimed festival headlining performances — which both made bold statements about the current social and political climate, and reminded fans that Ms. Jackson had done that already in her music for decades — be enough to make her third nomination the charm? Maybe, but not definitely.
Odds: 2 to 1
On some level, the question seems utterly ridiculous: Is Stevie Nicks a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer? Of course she is. She’s one of the most iconic and worshipped rock stars in the history of the genre, a status that only seems to swell with each passing decade, year, month. But, well, is she a Hall of Famer strictly as a solo artist? That’s a little trickier. Nicks has her share of beloved solo hits, but not as many as she had as part of Fleetwood Mac — with whom she’s already been inducted — and she’s had some best-selling albums, but none near the level of Mac’s self-titled or Rumours.
T??aken strictly on its own merits, Nicks’ solo Hall of Fame case would probably look something like that of ’80s peer Pat Benatar, who’s been eligible for 14 years and never nominated. But Nicks’ blinding overall star power may very likely render that distinction irrelevant, and it wouldn’t be the first time; after all, Ringo is in there as a solo artist too.
Odds: 3 to 2
Are we fools for labeling Radiohead as the safest bet for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second year in a row? Not impossible. The U.K. alt-prog group’s snub last year after being near-unanimously dubbed a sure thing remains bizarre, perhaps explained only by a voting body grudge over the band having previously declared their lack of interest in the institution (and their lack of availability for a potential induction). With the famously forward-looking group unlikely to pay public fealty to the Rock Hall anytime soon, whatever kept Radiohead out in 2018 could very well keep them out in 2019 as well.
Still, the resumé is the resumé: They’re the most acclaimed band of their generation, their fanbase is roughly as fervent and as large as ever, and nearly every band that came after them who the Rock Hall would deem worthy of eventual consideration would likely list them as an influence to some degree. Every year they’re nominated and denied hurts the institution’s credibility to such a degree that eventually, it’ll have to either invent a special honorary award just to get them in, or it’ll have to issue them a lifetime ban for some arbitrary reason. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Odds: Even money