Criteria: 2023 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees. Names are in alphabetical order.
(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)
Written By: Sampson
List Begun: 2023-02-02
QUALIFICATIONS (on a scale of 1-10)
10 - The Immortals
9 - Deserves To Be A First Ballot Lock
8 - Should Be Guaranteed An Induction
7 - An Eventual Induction Is Likely
6 - Should Be Nominated At Some Point
5 - Worthy Of At Least A Debate For A Nomination
4 - Not Insignificant, But Shouldn't Be Nominated
3 - No Business Being Debated By Committee
2 - No Business Being Even Mentioned
1 - No Business Visiting The Hall Of Fame Without a Ticket
2023 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees
Rock 'n' roll music has existed now for seventy-six years. Incredibly now for more than half its lifespan there has been a Hall Of Fame designed to honor and enshrine the most impactful artists during its tumultuous run as a creative force.
In that time, depending on how you count those nominated who failed to get in via the general election but were squeezed in through a back door, open window or shoved down the chimney, there's around 240 card carrying members of The Hall as Main Performers. Considering how many artists have released a record in the field during the past three quarters of a century that's still fairly exclusive company statistically speaking even if the ranks have been watered down with insider favorites in the past few decades.
This year fourteen more names vie to take their place among them, none completely unworthy of consideration for once, but only two with the kind of credentials that should see their ticket stamped without any hesitation. Naturally this being the Hall, those two not only aren't sure bets to make it, but might actually be long shots to both get in.
But then again, what else would you expect out of them?
THE MAIN PERFORMER NOMINEES
Since artists only can be nominated twenty-five years or more after releasing their first record, a lifetime in the music business, the majority of names don't see their credentials improve after first becoming eligible, but Kate Bush is one of the rare ones who has. A star in England since the 1970's but not on America's radar much until recent years when her biggest, but still minor, American hit from the mid-1980's re-charted and brought her back into vogue which now may make her a frontrunner for election in her fourth ballot appearance.
The most surprising new nominee was a well-respected vocalist backing a litany of major stars whose solo work in the 1990's briefly made her a superstar in her own right. Though she's got a catalog of catchy hits she wasn't at the forefront of any movement and has negligible influence. The Hall, rightly, has taken heat for a lack of female inductees in the past so the reasoning behind this nomination is clear but there are so many of her contemporaries that are way more deserving - Aaliyah, En Vogue, Mariah Carey, Salt-n-Pepa, Mary J. Blige, TLC, Lauryn Hill, and Destiny's Child - that makes this selection the ballot's one head-scratcher.
When looking for the most deserving female candidate… and for that matter the most qualified overall regardless of gender… look no further than Elliott whose eligibility this year was the one guaranteed bright spot on the ballot. Despite only a decade of active recording she's not lacking in hits, scoring some of the most acclaimed songs of the era, while her concurrent songwriting and production work with Timbaland just about equals her own output in terms of impact and influence. Should be a mortal lock.
The Hall was notorious for its longstanding disdain for heavy metal which in recent years has begun to soften, but that also means trailblazing groups like Maiden are now pretty far in the rearview mirror to have their accomplishments properly remembered by most casual observers especially since, like most in the field, their success wasn't measured in hit singles but in consistent album sales and touring over four decades. Their longevity as one of the top acts in metal should help to set them apart, but last year it took behind the scenes shenanigans to get the influential Judas Priest inducted, which may wind up being the route they'll finally make it too.
JOY DIVISION/NEW ORDER
Of all of the convoluted loopholes The Hall has come up with to get people in, the dual group entry is one that actually makes some sense in circumstances like these, in this case when an act who contained mostly the same members but changed their name when carrying on after lead singer Ian Curtis's suicide. A shift in style accompanied that name change but if anything they were more influential under that moniker and though technically they're two groups with separate catalogs, it's similar to what they did with Small Faces/Face and Parliament/Funkedelic and not all that far removed from The Drifters more tangled legacy.
For a few years in the 1980's it was a two way race for female supremacy in rock between Lauper and Madonna and while the latter pulled away and continued her dominant run for another fifteen or more years, what shouldn't be forgotten is how huge Lauper was during her peak when the refreshingly eccentric singer scored eight Top Ten hits in a seven year stretch which should be long enough to override any questions about longevity as so many revered acts of the 1960's had similarly short runs.
When looking at the artists on the ballot how many would immediately guess the most commercially successful act by far would be George Michael, especially if you count his days leading Wham!, as combined he was responsible for ten Number One Pop Hits. His public persona however has varied wildly over time, but he's got impressive stylistic versatility in addition to his popularity. With his artistic credibility perhaps at a high point six years after his death, his chances for induction aren't as remote as they once would have seemed.
How on earth do you begin to assess the credentials – and evaluate the chances – of someone like Willie Nelson, a living legend who has long since transcended country music but whose work has rarely, if ever, ventured close to any form of rock? As with Dolly Parton's election last year, which she insisted was undeserved, the name recognition factor is the key here and it's hard to envision voters not casting their ballot for someone so beloved who will turn 90 just before the votes are counted and is still as vital as ever.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Once again the Hall turns a blind eye to the conflict of interest inherent in having a group's most visible face as a member of the Hall's own nominating committee. This is not a reflection on RATM who remain a decent but not overwhelming candidate, but rather on the credibility of the institution itself. There needs to be rules in place that prevent anyone serving on the committee from even being considered for nomination not just while they're a member, but for at least five years after stepping down. Once more the Hall makes this about themselves rather than the band by their inability to acknowledge the glaring problem staring them in the face.
Their second nomination as they look to become the fifth group who defined the early 90's alt-rock movement to get inducted after Nirvana, Green Day, Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails. By comparison the equally popular hip-hop groups of that era with even deeper influence have only one group being nominated for the second time this year while Wu-Tang Clan, Outkast, De La Soul, Geto Boys, and The Pharcyde have yet to get on a ballot despite better credentials than these guys, showing once where their focus – and that of the voter – remains. Though Soundgarden should eventually earn a spot, it shouldn't be until that shameful imbalance is rectified.
By the time the dominant seventies acts were eligible in the mid-90's it was becoming clear that black artists were not going to retain the same cache with voters as their 60's counterparts had and sure enough we've seen very few get in while any white act of the era who remained upright for ten minutes have gotten the nod. The Spinners – who notched six chart toppers on Atlantic - have at least made a few ballots unlike The Chi-Lites, Kool & The Gang, Barry White, The Dramatics, Sister Sledge, The Stylistics, Joe Simon, Ohio Players, et. all. It's cruelly possible that at last their chances might rise however based solely on the fact they're the one 70's act in front of a voting body who still remembers that era first hand.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
Being the second most qualified candidate on last year's ballot didn't help them get in and since they're obviously the second most qualified candidate this year too we'll see if the voting body might actually recognize it and push them through. It's doubtful because the most qualified also hails from hip-hop and the aging white voters still like to pretend that style is just a temporary fad that will soon fade away. But ATCQ not only defined the early 90's with three all-time classic albums but two decades later made one of the most acclaimed comeback albums ever. A mandatory selection that is nevertheless far from assured.
THE WHITE STRIPES
It's a foregone conclusion that Jack White and ex-wife Meg will make it in on their first try and while their election certainly isn't unwarranted, the fact that they've been lauded for years with only niche audience hits and a throwback sound that prevents them from having substantial influence shows again where the loudest voices are coming from in these debates. While their work is deserving of praise, the attention they got was more for what they represented to a demographic that felt increasingly alienated from the sounds that have dominated the field for the past few decades and as a result The White Stripes provided a convenient stand-in for the diminished reach of the music that so many held dear. Look for them to get rewarded for it without delay.
Though he's been gone for years now, the utterly unique Warren Zevon remains a sentimental favorite thanks to a classic redemption story of a major talent with unrivaled wit whose self-destructive ways threatened to derail his career before a graceful last act reminded people how interesting an artist he really was. While going strictly by his accomplishments there may indeed be five or six artists more deserving of enshrinement this year, but it's hard to see voters not taking advantage of their first opportunity to induct him after so long a wait. Besides, this is the kind of act Halls of Fame seem designed to honor in the first place.