Rock & Roll Hall of Fame strikes a balance with 2023 nominees

More times than not since it was established in 1983, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has come under fire from fans and critics for failing to get it right when it comes to putting the right people into the musical institution. This week the Hall announced its Class of 2023 nominees and, while there certainly have been naysayers, if looked at it through the proper lens, an argument can be made that the nominating committee really stuck the proverbial landing.

“The proper lens” means understanding the “rock & roll” in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame casts a very wide net. Despite some high-profile blowhards who won’t let it go, that means there’s a place for hip-hop, R&B, singer/songwriters, art rock, pop, country and every other music genre under the sun. It also means accepting that not everyone who should be in the Hall will be inducted in any given year. Even if 300 artists were inducted, there’s bound to be someone who would whine about how so and so still wasn’t being recognized.

All that said, the list of inductees for the Class of 2023 is varied, current, nostalgic, pays homage to the influencers and recognizes the trailblazers. Fifteen artists were included in the 14 nominations. The official list is Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, Iron Maiden, Joy Division coupled with 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.

“This remarkable list of Nominees reflects the diverse artists and music that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honors and celebrates,” said John Sykes, Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, in a statement. “These artists have created their own sounds that have impacted generations and influenced countless others that have followed in their footsteps.”

To be eligible for induction, an artist must have released their first recording at least 25 years prior. This makes for some interesting stats for this year’s inductees. Only nine of the 15 are still active. Six are dead or have key members who have passed away. Nine of the acts are being nominated for the first time while two, The White Stripes and Missy Elliott, are in their first year of eligibility.

One major anomaly on the list is post-punk icons Joy Division, who broke up with only one studio album on shelves – and another ready to be released – following the death by suicide of frontman Ian Curtis in May 1980. The surviving members added a keyboardist and soldiered on as the synthpop unit New Order, finding major success in the coming years. Though the music between the two groups is wildly different, the fact that the latter spun off out of the ashes of the former is enough for the Rock Hall to combine them.

It’s undetermined how many artists will be inducted into this year’s class. Next up, the nominee ballots will be sent to an international voting body of more than 1,000 artists, historians and members of the music industry. An artist’s musical impact and influence on other artists, length and depth of career and body of work, as well as innovation and superiority in style and technique, are all taken into consideration.

Come May, the inductees will be revealed, with the induction ceremony slated for the fall. Fans around the world participate in the induction selection process via a special fan vote. Through April 28, fans can vote online every day at or in person at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. The top five artists selected by the public will comprise a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied along with the other ballots to determine the 2023 inductees.

A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title Rock Hall of Fame strikes a balance with 2023 nominees.”

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