A Way-Too-Early Look at Who Might be Nominated for the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Over this past weekend, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies for the Class of 2021 aired on HBO. It was a fine program, with just a few flaws (the Tina Turner tribute fell flat and Drew Barrymore’s drooling over the induction of The Go-Go’s was a bit much), and it seemed that the sellout crowd in attendance at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland had a damn good time. Even before the ceremonies had closed, however, speculation had already begun as to who will be nominated for the Class of 2022.

Considering the fact that this class will not be chosen until late January at the earliest, the speculation seems to be a bit premature. It is human nature, however, to always be looking towards the future. It is also human nature to try to “right wrongs,” as in those that had been nominated in 2021 but failed to get in. The problem with this theory is that those that have been nominated and failed to get in have a much more challenging time as their nominations (and subsequent rejections for induction) mount up – ask eleven-time nominees Chic or Rufus and Chaka Khan about multiple nominations and how that went.

But let us entertain the thought. Here are some of those that were nominated in 2021 and an honest look at their chances to come back to the ballot in 2022.

First off, we can immediately discount four of the 2021 nominees and they are all women, unfortunately. Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick will not be back on the ballot in 2022 for a variety of reasons. For Blige, you only have to look at LL Cool J. “Ladies Love Cool James” had to be inducted by receiving the Award for Musical Excellence and he has had a career that was VASTLY superior to Blige. If there were someone who might have a chance to use the AME like that, it would be Khan, who has been nominated several times as both a solo artist and with the band Rufus. But neither of these ladies will be on the ballot come 2022.

For Bush, it is simply a matter that her incredible talents are more respected in Europe and, in particular, the United Kingdom than they are in the States. If the Rock Hall were in London, she would have been a first year eligible (FYE) induction. Alas, the Rock Hall is on the shores of Lake Erie, thus she will probably never get another chance. Warwick must have been some sort of cosmic joke to be nominated for the Rock Hall…she is not getting another chance.

Noting the longstanding prejudice of the Rock Hall against hard rock and metal, this is arguably the last time you will see Iron Maiden or Rage Against the Machine on the ballot (as you will see, though…that does not stop me from putting some harder edged bands on my choices for 2022). It seems that neither of the bands were able to garner much support for induction, so they might end up like Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Thin Lizzy, eternally on the “outside looking in” at Rock Hall membership, even though ALL of them deserve it.

That leaves three nominees from 2021 that all have a chance to be inducted – Devo, New York Dolls, and Fela Kuti.

These three are going to go in at some point in the mix. Kuti will be inducted, it is simply a question of whether he is elected as a performer or he takes the Early Influence or AME route. Devo is a selection that the Rock Hall Nominating Committee will hold in their hip pocket for an induction ceremony back in Cleveland. Inducting a band created in Akron, OH, would excite the local fans and draw a great deal of media coverage. That also goes for the Dolls, whose induction during a New York ceremony would be massive, not to mention that the Rock Hall may need another 70s relic to induct on some occasion – New York Dolls would cover both bases.

Now that we have covered the 2021 nominees and their chances at getting back on the ballot in 2022, we can move on. Here are the bands that I believe, in this way-too-early selection list, will be the nominations for the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The ONLY guarantee for 2022 is Eminem, and he is also a shoo-in as an FYE induction. The former Marshall Mathers is recognized as one of the greatest rappers in the history of the genre and has expanded the scope of the genre into pop and rock effortlessly. The Rock Hall has recognized nine rap acts for induction, and Eminem will be the tenth to take a chair in rock’s Parthenon.

Duran Duran was one of the seminal 80s acts, and they have surprisingly NEVER been nominated for induction into the Rock Hall. That should change this year, especially with John Sykes, the new Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, now firmly in charge. Sykes made an impact with his first Rock Hall class in 2021 and now, with his history as one of the founders of MTV, will push hard for the inclusion of more of those 80s acts that have been overlooked for far too long. You could also slip Eurythmics or Joy Division/New Order into this slot.

Even though I said it would not happen, I would love to see the Rock Hall give both Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy one final shot. The Rock Hall has made some missteps over the years and, for at least the selection of Judas Priest, they could rectify it with their induction. Motorhead or Iron Maiden might be other selections if you want to have two hard rock/metal acts to choose from (but which in the past may have served as a detriment in dividing the hard rock/metal vote).

There are two acts from the 1970s that are worthy of consideration – War and the J. Geils Band. Both were outstanding acts in the 70s that garnered huge followings, and both had an impact on the development of rock in the decade. I used to be against both bands being inducted, but I took an honest look and spent some expanded time examining their resumes and…guess what? You can change your mind on some occasions!

If we are going full bore on the 80s – and start considering acts that should have been inducted over a decade ago – the place to start is with Pat Benatar. Nominated in 2019 and somehow passed over for induction, the Rock Hall is trying to make up for the lack of female inductees in the building (note the inductions of Tina Turner, Carole King, and The Go-Go’s in 2021). Personally, I think that Benatar should have been there years ago, but I think she might be the one standing in the way of an induction by insisting on being inducted with her husband, Neil Giraldo. If that is the case, that is unfortunate.

There are two men who merit consideration for induction into the Rock Hall. Sting’s solo career was so vastly different from his time with The Police that he deserves consideration for his work apart from the band. Additionally, it is time that Robert Palmer gets some kudos from the Rock Hall. He could croon a ballad with the best of them, could rock it up when he wanted to (“Bad Case of Loving You” and his work with The Power Station) and look oh, so suave as he did it (I am waiting for those fans of Phil Collinsto quit their wails of disbelief).

Now, if you want to get controversial, our final four choices would do it. Separate out the idiocy of their front man over the past decade or so and only look at the work of The Smiths. You will realize that Morrissey and Company were key to the development of alternative rock through the 80s and into the 90s. If you are going to have The Cure and Depeche Mode in the Rock Hall, then The Smiths deserve to be there, too. Additionally, Jane’s Addiction and, yes, Rage Against the Machine deserve to receive their kudos for their intricate and politically powerful work in the 90s.

Finally, if there is one rock band that is newly eligible in 2022 for induction into the Rock Hall, it would be Slipknot. The band fronted by Corey Taylor has many similarities to 2021 inductee Foo Fighters – carrying the rock and roll banner unapologetically for 25 years, sticking to their sound over the years, providing a linchpin between today’s rockers and past greats, and having an enigmatic focal point in Taylor (Dave Grohl did that for the Foos). I will say right now I do not expect them to be inducted even IF they are nominated, but who knows?

That is a total of 13 selections – but the Nomination Class is normally 15 or 16 artists and groups. I am leaving a few slots open for those “wild cards” that the Rock Hall seems to produce out of the blue (see Kuti, Fela and Warwick, Dionne from 2021). Right now, however, the only thing that is guaranteed is that Eminem will be inducted in 2022 – after that, it is a free-for-all.

Elton John & Bernie Taupin Tribute CDs “Revamp” & “Restoration” Evoke Different Responses

JohnAlbumCovers

Earlier this year, the legendary pianist, vocalist and performer Elton John announced that, after 50 years on the road as a musician, he would be retiring. There’s plenty of reason to believe John when he says this – he’s never even mentioned the idea of quitting prior to 2018 and seems quite happy performing (his residency in Las Vegas was one of the hottest seats in town). The announcement of his retirement disappointed many of his longtime fans and made interest in his concert tour for the remainder of 2018 more special that simply being able to see the virtuoso.

Along with his farewell tour, John has also been feted with not one but two new CDs from artists paying tribute to the songwriting of John and his studio partner, Bernie Taupin. This isn’t the first time that the duo has gotten this treatment; back in 1991, they were the subject of a tribute album called Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin (the title of the CD reflected the fact that John and Taupin often worked separately on songs, with John coming up with the music and Taupin writing the lyrics in…two rooms). The record featured artists as diverse as The Who, Kate Bush, Oleta Adams, The Beach Boys, Wilson Phillips and Bruce Hornsby (his version of “Madman Across the Water” is nearly as good as the original) and their take on some of the classic music from John & Taupin.

JohnTaupin

With John calling an end to his touring days, it seems natural for another trip down memory lane and instead of one CD, fans get two. There’s a reason for this:  one CD, called Revamp, is filled with the top artists from the pop world and their renditions of popular John/Taupin tunes, and the other CD, called Restoration, features the best in current country music taking their shots at saluting John/Taupin. Surprisingly, it is the country side that wins out the “reimaging” (why not just “tribute”) battle between the two CDs.

Revamp kicks off with a snippet of John performing “Bennie and the Jets” before segueing into rapper Logic and P!nk joining forces for a rap/pop version of the tune. The twosome takes the classic song and make it their own, entertaining the listener and offering hopes that the remainder of the CD will be as adventurous. Unfortunately, that doesn’t come to be as pretty much every other song on the disc holds close to the original renditions.

Coldplay’s “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” falls flat, never even coming close to inspiring the listener, but Alessia Cara attempts to redeem that performance with a well-done version of “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues.” Ed Sheeran turns “Candle in the Wind (2018)” into a folksy tune and Florence + the Machine hold serve with “Tiny Dancer.” Mumford & Sons (“Someone Saved My Life Tonight”) shows up for a so-so rendition before the top two performances take the CD.

Mary J. Blige demonstrates some very powerful vocals in tearing into “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” and really does make the song hers. By far the top song on the album is the collaboration between rapper Q-Tip and Demi Lovato, who take the classic tune John performed with Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and stand it on its head. Where the original tune was a piece of pop pablum, Q and Lovato turn it into a reggae/R&B mixed effort that comes off fabulously. Their approach wouldn’t have worked on any other song from the John/Taupin catalog, so it was outstanding that the right performers and song were matched up. Although Miley Cyrus (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”) and Lady Gaga (“Your Song”) cover their respective tunes admirably, the Killers (“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”), Sam Smith (“Daniel”) and Queens of the Stone Age (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” possibly the worst effort on the CD), come up short on their work.

Revamp is devoid of the artists taking their chances at recreating John/Taupin classics. For the most part, they stuck to the material and, while enjoyable, I’d rather see them stretch a bit and attempt something new. This doesn’t make Revamp bad, it’s just it pales in comparison to its companion disc.

LittleBigTown

Surprisingly, it is the country artists that take part in the tribute on Restoration that take the most chances in their interpretations of John & Taupin’s songs. From the start of the CD, with Little Big Town delivering a daring rendition of “Rocket Man,” the country artists seem to be more comfortable with deviating from the originals. The country artists also delve deeper into the John/Taupin catalog than the pop artists did.

Although there is a repeated song – Maren Morris’ OK version of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” – and a repeated artist – Miley Cyrus shows up again to give a so-so performance of “The Bitch is Back” – the other artists take some chances with some deep cuts from the John/Taupin catalog. The Brothers Osborne deliver a stunning rocking version of “Take Me to the Pilot” and country legend Willie Nelson contributes a well-done version of “Border Song,” but other artists stretch their legs.

This isn’t to say they all hit the mark. Don Henley and Vince Gill give up an uninspired version of “Sacrifice” and Lee Ann Womack’s start slow/finish strong version of “Honky Cat” are a bit of a disappointment, but they are more than made up in such choices as Miranda Lambert (“My Father’s Gun”), Chris Stapleton (“I Want Love”) and Kacey Musgraves (“Roy Rogers”). Two duets bear special mention because of their uniqueness, the Rhonda Vincent/Dolly Parton collaboration on “Please” and Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris’ stirring rendition of “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore.”

CashHarris

For its sheer daring and stylistic changes, Restoration comes out as the better CD than Revamp. It could have been for the fact that the pop singers weren’t as well versed in Elton John’s music or that they didn’t feel comfortable taking such songs and making them their “style.” It really seemed that the country artists understood John and Taupin’s works much better, displayed in the chances they took in song choices and the way they were performed. While you can’t go wrong with either one (nor the original Two Rooms…in fact, ownership of all three is well worth having in the catalog), it is clear to see that one is better than the other.