Rock Hall 2016 Nominees Include The Smiths, NIN, N.W.A, Janet Jackson
Someone is getting in this year. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame have announced the nominations for next year’s inductions, and the list has a whole lot of names who have been nominated, sometimes multiple times. There are a few artists who are being nominated for the first time, but there’s no Nirvana/Green Day type, no group who’s obviously going in on their first ballot. So a lot of groups who have been bridesmaids for years — Chic, N.W.A, the Spinners, Deep Purple — have a very good chance of finally getting in. Rolling Stone reported this year’s list of nominees last night, and now let’s list them off, from most likely to get in to least.
• N.W.A! I honestly can’t imagine this being any more of a layup. The Compton gangsta rap legends have now been nominated four times, and they should’ve obviously gotten in already, but the Hall Of Fame has some predictable old-white-guy prejudices. But after the success of the biopic Straight Outta Compton and Dr. Dre’s comeback album Compton, as well as the persistent rumors of a reunion, they have to get in this year, right? Right? In any case, the Hall Of Fame needs a real headliner this year, and you’re not going to find a better one on this year’s ballot.
• Yes. The Hall Of Fame has historically had a profound anti-prog bias, and it took them a long time to finally induct Rush. But in recent years, the Hall Of Fame has introduced a “fan’s ballot,” wherein regular ordinary people can help select which nominees will get in. Populist contests like that tend to be kind to prog groups, whose fanbases are happy to mobilize for some shit like this. (You can vote here, incidentally.)
• Cheap Trick. They’re classic-rock monsters with an estimable catalog of hits, and they had a distinctive look and personality. They managed to flirt with the sounds of punk and new wave without completely assimilating them. Is there anyone who doesn’t like them? Everyone likes them. And they’re still a dependable live act, which will be good for the induction ceremony. They should get in.
• Nine Inch Nails. This one should be a layup, really. Last year was the first time they were nominated, and I thought for sure that they were going in. But when they didn’t get in last year — when they lost out to shit like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band — I started to doubt. They’re still likely to get in (and, like N.W.A, they would make for a good induction-ceremony headliner), but the Hall Of Fame does have a history of missing obvious shoo-ins like them. I see this being a Beastie Boys situation, where they should’ve gotten in on the first attempt but they make it in on their second ballot instead.
• The Cars. Like Cheap Trick, this is their first time getting nominated, and they should get in for a lot of the same reasons that Cheap Trick should get in: Identifiable sound, important in their moment, found ways to translate classic-rock values to new sounds. They have hits for days, and they dominated the first-ever VMAs. That should count for something!
• Chicago. I don’t understand this band’s appeal at all, but Hall Of Fame voters seem to like middling M.O.R. wack shit like this.
• Janet Jackson. This one makes me nervous. Jackson obviously should get in; she has more to do with the sound of music right now than any other nominee (except, arguably, N.W.A), and she’s probably the most famous of this year’s nominees, which always helps. She just released a very good comeback album, so this could be her moment. But the things she did well are so obviously not rock and roll that we could be seeing a whole why was she even nominated? backlash. Fingers crossed for this one. It should happen, but it’s not a gimme.
• Steve Miller. He’s been a classic-rock radio fixture since classic-rock radio became a thing, and he’s right in the baby-boomer sweet spot for the voting demographic. His songs hold up; “The Joker” and “Fly Like An Eagle” are all-time eternal jams. But he’s more a technician than a trailblazer, and he was never shy about saying he was in the game for the money, which could hurt him. Still, this is his first nomination, and his chances are good.
• The J.B.’s. In recent years, backing bands have done well in this weird little race. Inductions for the E Street Band or the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were really just chances to re-induct Springsteen and Dylan on technicalities. But does the Hall Of Fame feel the same about James Brown? Especially if he’s not alive to make the induction speech? I could see this going either way.
• Deep Purple. A massively important hard-rock band who should’ve gotten in a long time ago, and this time there’s no Black Sabbath or Kiss to pull their votes away. Still, the Hall Of Fame never seems eager to honor hesher fare like this.
• Chic. They are the Susan Lucci of this shit. They’ve been nominated 10 fucking times now and haven’t gotten in. Let Chic in. Please. End this. They deserve it. Susan Lucci had to win eventually, right?
• The Smiths. They should be a lot higher on this list, but after the sneering-contrarian year that Morrissey just had, I can’t say I like their chances, especially when an induction obviously won’t lead to a reunion.
• Los Lobos. Great band! Extremely important for Latinos in rock! Will almost certainly be overlooked!
• Chaka Khan. Amazing singer whose work helped define her time in pop music and laid the groundwork for vocal human-bazooka types like Whitney Houston. But the Hall Of Fame is notoriously suspicious of singers with disco-pop pedigrees, and Janet Jackson will probably get most of her votes.
• The Spinners. Mark my words: If Chic finally do get in this year — and I think they have a decent shot — then the Spinners are about to become the new Chic.