Music News

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters have about a month left to get their ballots in to determine the 2023 induction. With this year’s diverse field of nominees, it’s truly anyone’s guess what the 2023 class could look like.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s voting body comprises various artists, historians, and music industry professionals. Additionally, all previous inductees are voters for future classes after they’re inducted.

To get at least one perspective, I spoke with a Rock Hall voter I’ve known for a number of years and who’s been a voter since the 2018 class. An industry professional for 25 years, they have worked for a variety of brands and outlets. When considering their ballot, they base their voting on what they call the “Tom Morello criteria,” which the Rage Against the Machine guitarist explained when he inducted KISS in 2014.

Impact, influence and awesomeness. ‘Awesomeness’ is obviously subjective,” said the Rock Hall voter. “Influence has always been my biggest factor, and impact figures in as well. But I’m a believer that huge sales are their own reward: just because an artist sold millions of records and played stadiums doesn’t mean they’d get my vote.”

The Rock Hall voter noted, “This is definitely the most difficult ballot I’ve experienced. Every year, there are two or three artists that I easily identify as someone I definitely wouldn’t vote for. This year, there are none of those.”

They added, “I really hope that all of these acts eventually get in. I had to make some really tough choices, including not voting for some of my favorite bands.”

Without further ado, let’s walk through our anonymous Rock Hall voter’s ballot and see why they did and didn’t vote for certain artists.

  • Kate Bush: Yes.

    Erica Banas (EB): Out the gate with a yes!

    Rock Hall Voter (RHV): Had Stranger Things not been delayed due to COVID, I think she might have been voted in last year. “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was being played on top 40 radio last summer. It’s from 1985! And it wasn’t just a random placement. Stranger Things takes place in the ‘80s, right around the time of Kate’s Hounds Of Love album, and it makes total sense that Sadie Sink’s Max Mayfield character would have treated Kate Bush’s music – and not just that song – as a sort of lifeline.

     

    I won’t criticize how top 40 listeners digest their music, but for fans of an artist like Kate Bush, it’s just a deeper connection. And with Kate Bush, it’s all about the music. She barely ever promoted herself, especially here in the U.S. She was never that big here. She never played a single concert in America. I think her only U.S. performance was when she played Saturday Night Live. So she didn’t get promoted too heavily here. I think if the Hall of Fame was based in England, she’d be in.

    She’s not “thirsty”: she’s not worried if you like her or not. We all love getting access to artists, but there’s something noble about how Kate Bush just releases music and says, “I hope you like it.”

    In America, if you knew her, you probably loved her. She was the definition of a “cult” artist. Her music was like Depeche Mode and the Cure and the Smiths, but she was not nearly as well known. But subcultures were created around these artists. If you liked her and you met someone else who liked her, you’d probably be friends.

    By the way, her career stands without “Running Up That Hill”: Hounds of Love and The Kick Inside and The Sensual World are all great albums. She absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I think that if she doesn’t get in this year, after the huge success of “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” and ‘Stranger Things,’ it will never happen. That would be a shame. So, yes, I am voting for her.

  • Sheryl Crow: No.

    EB: Wow! Please explain why you didn’t vote for Sheryl Crow, because I know you’re a big fan of her work.

    RHV:  It’s a tough ballot this year, and I’m not voting for her. This time! This is the first time she has been nominated, but I think that she’ll definitely be nominated again.

    EB: So, you’re hedging your bets on her being nominated again? Is that part of your strategy with your ballot?

    RHV: Yes and no. Like I said, this year’s ballot is the most difficult ballot I’ve experienced. However, I love her. I picked up Tuesday Night Music Club when it first came out. I randomly checked it out while listening to new CDs on a new music kiosk at Tower Records. Remember those?! I bought the album that day and have been hooked since.

     

    I think that in the ‘90s, she got dunked on for being too obviously influenced by the ‘60s and ‘70s. The Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz got the same critique, which I always thought was dumb. Decades later, that critique doesn’t seem to matter and seems silly. Sheryl was pretty upfront about her influences, some of which were considered “cool” (Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones) and some weren’t (the Eagles, James Taylor). But she never tried to pretend that she liked Black Flag or the Clash to appeal to what was considered cool at the time.

    Today, you just look back and listen to Tuesday Night Music Club, Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions and C’mon C’mon and realize that wow, she wrote a ton of great songs. Both the hits and the album tracks.

    It’s been wild to watch her go from sort of being the “kid sister” to the Stones, Dylan and guys like that, to being their peer. She definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

  • Missy Elliott: No.

    EB: This is a tough one, because Missy is undoubtedly brilliant. Of course, then there are those people that can’t get past the semantics of it being called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame despite there being a long history of inducting non-rock acts since its first year in 1986.

    RHV: First off, if you’re complaining about hip-hop being included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we can disagree on that. Public Enemy is more “rock” than a lot of inductees.

    As for Missy Elliott, I think she is amazing, both as a rapper and as a producer. It’s wild to me that she’s the first woman in hip-hop even to be on the ballot. I can’t believe that Queen Latifah has never been nominated: “U.N.I.T.Y.” and “Ladies First” were seminal songs. I hope Latifah is included on the ballot, and soon. I tend to get hung up on people being inducted “out of order.”

    EB: Yes, you do.

    RHV: Like, it was crazy to me that Metallica got in before Judas Priest and Motorhead. But Metallica were so undeniably huge and they led the way for more metal bands to get in. I think it’s weird that Foo Fighters are in, but Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine, and Jane’s Addiction aren’t. That’s just my own issue, I guess!

    If Missy gets in, hopefully, that will lead the way for artists who surely influenced her, like Latifah or Salt-N-Pepa. Missy deserves it too. But I’m not voting for her this year. This is her first year of eligibility, and she is so beloved by critics, I’m sure she will be nominated again in the future.

     

  • Iron Maiden: Yes.

    EB: This is probably the least surprising vote of yours. Like many metalheads, you’ve been critical of the Rock Hall for their lack of metal representation, and rightfully so.

    RHV: If I had just one vote, it would go to Iron Maiden. But like I said before, I get annoyed when artists get inducted “out of order.” It bugs me that Maiden might get in before Motorhead, who predate them by three years and three classic albums – 1977’s Motorhead, 1979’s Overkill and Bomber.

    EB: I agree those are classics, but, once again, you have to get over that.

    RHV: Yes, I know, but Motorhead are like metal’s Velvet Underground: incredibly influential, even though they didn’t sell a ton of albums or headline huge venues. If you can imagine a parallel universe where the Velvet Underground didn’t exist, “alternative music” and even punk rock also wouldn’t exist. Same thing with Motorhead and all of the metal bands that followed them.

    EB: You just had to hit me with a Velvet Underground reference, because you know how much I love them.

    RHV: Yes, I did, but anyway, back to Maiden. They totally deserve it.

     

    As everyone knows, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t have an orthodox view of “rock and roll.” But if you go to the real “rock” festivals this summer – Louder Than Life, Aftershock, Sonic Temple – a lot of the bands on the lineup wouldn’t exist without Maiden.

    It’s hard to imagine what heavy metal would sound like without them. Metal was, and remains, a huge subculture in America and around the world. Of course, there are tons of underground bands, but huge artists like Maiden, Metallica and Ozzy are the beacons that the smaller bands look to. Even if you hate metal, you have to respect Iron Maiden: more than 40 years after their debut, they are headlining arenas and selling them out. In other parts of the world, they sell out football stadiums.

    I’m glad that original members, Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton are being included in the nomination. Even though Maiden got way bigger after they were replaced by Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. The first two albums, Iron Maiden and Killers, are just mindblowing to me. I also have to mention their original drummer, the late Clive Burr, he’s being included too. I wonder if Maiden would perform a song with Paul and Dennis, if they’re inducted. I hope this is their year so we can move on to getting Motorhead (and then Dio and then Slayer) into the Hall of Fame.

  • Joy Division/New Order: No.

    EB: I’m sure Joy Division/New Order was a tough one for you to omit simply based on the “influence” criteria alone.

    RHV: Both bands made a huge impact on what would later be called “alternative rock” and also dance music. If I could have voted for six choices, they would have been my sixth.

    For years, the Rock Hall ignored the entire genre of post-punk. I’m glad they’ve come around to it. Finally! I voted for both the Cure and Depeche Mode. I think it was smart to group Joy Division and New Order together.

    For people who don’t know, Joy Division was a short-lived but incredibly influential band that included singer/guitarist Ian Curtis, guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris. They influenced tons of bands, including the Cure and Depeche Mode. Ian Curtis died by suicide in 1980, right as they were about to kick off their first American tour.

     

    In a way, they were like the Sex Pistols: their influence was massive, even though they didn’t have a long career. And like I was saying about Kate Bush, Joy Division was the type of artist that communities are built around, and identities are formed around.

    After the band ended, Sumner, Hook and Morris formed New Order with keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, and they eventually took things in a completely different direction: they are among the biggest pioneers of electronic dance music. “Blue Monday” just turned 40 and still feels like it came from the future. It’s the best-selling 12” single of all time to this day. But they have so many great songs: “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “True Faith,” “Temptation.” They started out kind of sounding like “Joy Division, Part 2,” but developed into a completely unique group.

  • Cyndi Lauper: Yes.

    EB: Yes! Glad Cyndi got your vote. I feel like in recent years — especially after winning Tony Awards for writing the music for the musical adaptation of the movie Kinky Boots — many critics have realized just how talented she is.

    RHV: She made it cool for a total weirdo to be on the pop charts, and she might have helped some of her fans feel comfortable with being weird. It’s one thing to be an outsider among other outsiders. It’s another to be able to be different in front of everyone, and to be weird, unapologetically.

    Back in the ‘80s, not everyone had access to subcultures like punk or goth or whatever. You might not have heard of Kate Bush or New Order. But you definitely knew who Cyndi Lauper was. Even if your family didn’t have MTV, you knew someone who did. Everyone knew who Cyndi Lauper was. And I think that she surely helped a lot of people to find their identity, and that’s powerful.

     

    She’s So Unusual is a classic album from start to finish. I’m not even just talking about the singles, I love the song “Witness” and her cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine.” It was pretty hip to be covering Prince in 1983.

     

    As a vocalist and a performer, she’s just incredible. She covered Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose,” and it was great. She’s duetted with Tony Bennett, but she also collaborated with the Hives. If you haven’t heard “A Christmas Duel,” check it out. She’s duetted with B.B. King, Emmylou Harris and Henry Rollins (Google their version of Black Flag’s “Rise Above”) and she’s equally credible with all of them. I love Cyndi and respect is due.

  • George Michael: No.

    EB: Like Cyndi, I feel like a lot of people in recent years have really realized just how talented George Michael was. Any particular reason why he didn’t get your vote?

    RHV: It’s a tough ballot! I was glad that Taylor Hawkins mentioned George Michael in his acceptance speech, when the Foo Fighters were inducted into the Hall of  Fame. And yes, I know he’s “pop” and not rock. But pop has always been part of rock’s story and if you don’t believe me, look at the Hall of Fame’s first two induction classes from 1986 and 1987. The Everly Brothers, the Coasters, Ricky Nelson, Jackie Wilson and Roy Orbison are among the first inductees.

    Rock and roll has always encompassed a lot of other forms of music, it has always cast a wide net. George Michael has made a lot of great records. I hope he gets in one day, he deserves it. But he’s not going to be on my ballot this time.

  • Willie Nelson: No.

    EB: Considering Dolly Parton being inducted last year, I had a hunch Willie would get nominated this year. However, I am surprised he didn’t make the cut for you. I know you’re a big fan.

    RHV: Like I said, it’s a really hard ballot. But I’d love to see him get in, and hopefully Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings will follow.

    Kind of like with hip-hop, I’m not against country artists being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If anyone in country deserves it, it’s Willie Nelson. And he’s definitely influenced a lot of rock artists.

    Willie has jammed with Steven Tyler, Elvis Costello and Keith Richards. Short of Johnny Cash, I don’t know if any country artist has influenced as many rockers. His attitude is also inspiring: he has blazed his own path.

    EB: “Blazed.” I see what you did there.

    RHV: That was a happy accident. Anyway, he’s one of the guys who kicked off the “outlaw” country movement, which was a more rebellious strain of country. It had way more appeal to rock fans. It’s also admirable that a guy who started his career in the 1950s is still making records, and great ones at that. He put out A Beautiful Time in 2022, and it’s awesome.

    I know a lot of people would love to see him get in. This is his first time being nominated, and he turns 90 this year. I’d love to see it too, but – and this is hard to say – I’m not voting for him. I can see him being voted in for all these reasons, but if it doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the Award for Musical Excellence, which is how Ringo Starr and Judas Priest were inducted, after not being voted in.

  • Rage Against The Machine: No.

    EB: Okay, I know not voting for Rage must have really hurt. I know I’m being repetitive with this thought, but I know how big of a fan you are of the band.

    RHV: They are one of my favorite bands. And, yet, I’m not voting for them this time. I know they will be nominated again (and not just because Tom Morello is on the nominating committee). So I know I’ll have another chance to vote for them.

    I remember seeing them at a club opening for House of Pain and thinking that this band was going to be huge. I had no idea how huge. They’re one of the best, most impactful and most enduring bands of the 1990s, which was an amazing era for rock music.

     

    I can’t believe that they’re not in already, and I’ve voted for them in the past. With all due respect, I think they should have been in before the Foo Fighters and Radiohead; they were around before either of them.

    EB: Here we go again…

    RHV: If you can be repetitive, so can I.

    EB: Fair point. Anything else?

    RHV: Anyone who saw their reunion concerts knows how powerful they are. Even with Zack forced to perform while sitting down, the energy in the arena was just incredible. They have always spoken truth to power, like a lot of other Hall Of Famers: John Lennon, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and the Clash.

  • Soundgarden: Yes.

    RHV: Okay, I’m going back to my gripe about bands being inducted out of order.

    EB: Why wouldn’t you? Please, go on.

    RHV: Soundgarden should have been in before the first “alternative” rock bands like Nirvana, Green Day and Pearl Jam. They were around first – and even if they didn’t sell as many records as those three, their first single, “Hunted Down,” was released in June of 1987, so they’ve been eligible since 2012.

    The band’s progression was incredible. Their early stuff was amazing, but listening to the Screaming Life and FOPP EPs and the Ultramega OK album, you would never have thought that this band was going to make an impact on the mainstream, much less sell millions of albums. They’re one of the few bands actually to get better once they signed to a major label, and they got better still and kept evolving with every album through Superunknown. (I love Down on the Upside and King Animal, but Superunknown was the peak.) Listening to “Hunted Down” and “Entering,” you would never have predicted songs like “Fell On Black Days” or “Burden In My Hand,” much less a straight up ballad like “Black Hole Sun.”

     

    They broke up in the ‘90s when they were on top. And when they reunited, I thought that their shows were better than ever (and I had seen them since they were opening for Voivod in 1990, so I have a lot to base that on).

    EB: Nice humble brag there. In 1990, I was four!

    RHV: Just speaking truth to power! Anyway, they cleared the path for so many other bands who loved metal and punk and combined them in a way that kept the best aspects of both without falling to the lame tropes of either. Their catalog holds up to anyone from their generation. They absolutely deserve it and this is way overdue. They should have been in ten years ago.

  • The Spinners: No.

    RHV: I’m surprised that they haven’t been inducted already. They’ve been eligible since 1987. In the early days of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a lot of R&B and soul acts were voted in.

    EB: When they were nominated, it blew my mind because I could’ve sworn The Spinners were already in. They have a great song catalog!

    RHV: “Ghetto Child,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “One Of A Kind (Love Affair),” “It’s A Shame.” Of course, “The Rubberband Man.” It’s hard to argue against them, but I am not voting for them. They’re another artist I can see getting the Award for Musical Excellence. 

  • A Tribe Called Quest: Yes.

    EB: You’re going to piss off the semantics police for this one…

    RHV: Again, if you don’t think hip-hop belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we can just disagree on that one. It’s my ballot! A Tribe Called Quest’s first three albums were as good as anything in any genre in the early ‘90s. I voted for them last year. The way hip-hop’s story has been told by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you’d think that there weren’t any weirdos in hip-hop (other than Flavor Flav).

    EB: Obviously. You can’t have that many VH1 reality shows and not be a little different, never mind the Viking helmet and the clock. Anyway, you were saying…

    RHV: They created a space in hip-hop for a different type of rapper. They paved the way for artists like Pharrell, the Roots and Kanye West. Q-Tip is one of the best MCs to ever pick up the mic. Phife was also great, and he was really underrated. Ali Shaheed Muhammed is an incredible producer.

     

    They didn’t have the commercial success of Tupac or Notorious B.I.G. or Enimem, and they also weren’t very controversial. I think the industry had a harder time selling a group who were a bit more cerebral. But their records are still incredible.

    Like Kate Bush, I feel like if they don’t get in this year, the nominating committee will move on and they’ll have lost their chance.

  • The White Stripes: No.

    EB: To me, The White Stripes feel like a lock as a first-ballot inductee. I know you’re a fan. How come they don’t have your vote?

    RHV: I know that they will be nominated until they are finally voted in.

    Even though they debuted in 1998 with their “Let’s Shake Hands” single, I think of them as a 2000’s band. To me, they’re the best band of the 2000s. Yes, I know that there are bands with far more radio singles. But the White Stripes were one of the last bands that were able to combine critical respect with mass appeal.

    When they started headlining arenas, it felt like when Metallica or Guns N’ Roses or Pearl Jam moved to arenas.

    Today, there are still new-ish bands that play arenas or amphitheaters. But no one outside of the “rock” world knows who they are. Everyone knew the White Stripes. Even if you didn’t like rock music, you knew “Seven Nation Army,” “Fell In Love With A Girl” and maybe a few others. That doesn’t happen very often with rock bands anymore.

    Jack and Meg were such an amazing combination. There was probably a lot of tension because they were a divorced couple, but whatever it was, it worked.  I’ve seen Jack with the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather and his solo bands – he’s always brilliant. Jack’s current drummer, Daru Jones, is amazing. But nothing can replace the chemistry between Jack and Meg. It was such a bummer when they broke up, but there’s something to be said for breaking up when you’re still on top.

    I wish Meg still made music. I’m a huge fan of everything that Jack does – I’m a member of his Third Man Record club, where you pay for limited edition stuff before you find out what it actually is. That’s how big of a fan I am. And that’s how tough this ballot is for me.

  • Warren Zevon: No.

    EB: Warren Zevon is another artist where it’s so surprising he’s not in the Rock Hall by now. It’s actually shocking this is his first nomination this year!

    RHV: I’m shocked that he didn’t get into the Hall of Fame during the era that Jann Wenner or Jon Landau were running the nominating committee. I feel like, if he didn’t get in back then, it’s a much tougher deal to get him in now. I hope he gets in. But, like I said, it’s a tough ballot.

    There’s a scene in the doc that VH1 did on Warren Zevon during the final months of his life, Keep Me In Your Heart. He had terminal cancer and was working on his final album. He’s sitting in the car and his publicist tells him that some magazine wants to do a feature on him. He just says, dryly, “Too late.” That’s dark.

    I worked at VH1 at the time that the doc was being worked on. It was an era where the channel was really moving away from that kind of music: they weren’t supporting people like Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Tom Petty anymore. That was Zevon’s whole scene. I was surprised that we were doing the doc, but I guess they realized what a compelling story it was.

    Someone told me to check out his music so I picked up a greatest hits CD and was blown away. And his final album, The Wind, stares down death and doesn’t flinch. That was quite an exit. I became a huge fan during that time.

    Yes, “Werewolves of London” is the big hit and it’s great, but the dude wrote so many great songs. In “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” he’s kind of dunking on Jackson Browne, who was one of his biggest supporters! He has so many great jams.

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