Rest assured music fans, at least one Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voter is paying attention to the results of the fan poll when casting his ballot.
The Rock Hall announced Wednesday morning the 14 nominees who will be considered for the class of 2023. Five traditionally are chosen, although in some cases, nominees not chosen as performers are selected in other categories like early influences (Kraftwerk in 2021) or musical excellence (Nile Rodgers and Judas Priest in 2022), which could expand the field.
It’s a diverse lineup, spanning multiple genres — Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Iron Maiden, Joy Division / New Order, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, The White Stripes and Warren Zevon.
With a country legend like Nelson and hip hop icons Elliott and A Tribe Called Quest, it’s sure to spark the annual round of social media outbursts, “How can (fill in hip hop, pop or country artist) get in the ROCK!!! Hall before (fill in passed-over two-guitars-bass-and-drum rock band)???” I’ll admit to being guilty of this on occasion.
The Rock Hall decided to diffuse some of the annual whining by releasing a new mission statement for the institution — “Born from the collision of rhythm & blues, country and gospel, rock & roll is a spirit that is inclusive and ever-changing. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates the sound of youth culture and honors the artists whose music connects us all.”
Argue all you want about who is “rock,” but Jay-Z, Madonna and Dolly Parton all fit that definition.
Jason Hanley, the Rock Hall’s vice president of education and visitor engagement agrees.
“The mission statement really tries to get at this idea that we as an institution continue to grow and evolve,” he said. “Rock ‘n’ roll is this ever-changing spirit. It was never one thing and it never will be.”
Eight of the acts made the ballot for the first time — Crow, Joy Division / New Order, Lauper, Michael, Nelson, Zevon and first-year eligible acts Elliott and White Stripes.
Hanley said he believes some of those nominations reflect a continued re-evaluation of the music of the 1980s.
“I think a really cool reassessment of the 1980s and the late ’70s is happening in popular culture,” he said. “We previously thought of it as an era of greed and excess and overproduced records. All these years later, we realize there was some fantastic music and writing in that period that cut incredibly exciting and new pathways.”
Goth / punk pioneers Joy Division and the innovative electronic dance pop band New Order, formed by the surviving members of Joy Division after lead singer Ian Curtis died by suicide, are an example of that, Hanley said. And with Faces / Small Faces and George Clinton’s musical collectives Parliament and Funkadelic both inducted as singular entities, there’s precedence for a joint nomination of Joy Division and New Order.
“The decision came out of the nominating committee, but that’s one we’ve talked about within the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for many years,” Hanley said. “This is not to say they are not worthy individually, but as a combined history they are incredible for what they accomplished.”
In some cases, veteran acts passed over before can get a renewed chance after a commercial resurgence or because younger acts began touting them as influences. Hanley said the popularity of Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” prominently featured on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” undoubtedly help her return to the nominee list.
“It used to be, ‘Why is Kate Bush on the ballot?’ Now it’s ‘Why isn’t Kate Bush in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?’” Hanley said.
Fans pick their favorites among the nominees everyday until April 28 at vote.rockhall.com. The class of 2023 will be announced in May along with where the 2023 ceremony will take place. The event was held in Los Angeles last year and Cleveland in 2021.
The cumulative fan vote will count as one vote among a group of about 500 industry professionals who get to pick the inductees. Hanley, who has a doctorate in musicology from Stony Brook University, is one of those voters.
He said he definitely will pick at least one personal favorite. He didn’t tip his hand and praised everyone from The Spinners to Joy Division / New Order to Iron Maiden to Nelson during the conversation. He also looks for artists who fill categories and genres that are under-represented in the hall.
But he also pays attention to that online popularity poll.
“I look at the fan vote,” Hanley said. “Who has their fans out there supporting them? It does say something about the power of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at email@example.com.
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