rock hall 2020

2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises

The full list of inductees for the Class of 2020 is Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, Notorious B.I.G., and T. Rex. Photo: Getty Images

Ahh, remember two days ago? The Academy Award nominations had just been announced, providing us all with the perfect opportunity to get upset. Some people huffed. Others puffed! It was a glorious time, but the news cycle moves quickly, and so the outrage subsided. Until now! Enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, another institution of questionable meaning whose decisions are also consistently stoking the fires of disappointment and rage. Today, they announced their list of inductees for the Class of 2020. Let’s take a look at the biggest snubs and surprises.

Pat Benatar is nowhere to be found

This seemed like the easiest-to-predict, biggest layup of the whole ballot. On one hand, Hall voters already tend to gravitate toward classic-rock acts, and there’s no question that Benatar’s catalogue gets round-the-clock play on that format’s radio stations. On the other, the Hall has struggled with having significant female representation. Of the ballot’s 16 nominated acts this year, only three had female members. So a vote for Benatar is a step toward correcting that issue. To boot, she has major name recognition, which also typically indicates likely success with the voters. It seemed like she had everything going for her, so what happened? The Hall will of course deny any claims of sexism, but snubbing a surefire artist like Benatar definitely raises some ears.

The Fan Vote is officially meaningless

The Hall’s Fan Vote was introduced for the 2013 ballot as a way to finally give a voice to the general public. The idea is that the top five vote-getters comprise one ballot to be counted among the 1,000 or so others. Hardly a drop in the bucket, but since its inception, the Fan Vote has always produced a ballot where the majority of artists also make the official class of inductees. And the winner has been inducted every single time. The correlation is strong enough that it’s prompted some to wonder if the Fan Vote has more significance than the Hall lets on. After this year, we know the answer is a definitive no. Despite mobilizing their fans to vote them to the top of the poll, the Dave Matthews Band missed out on induction. In fact, only one artist that made this year’s top five is actually being inducted: the Doobie Brothers.

Electronic music shows up

Kraftwerk can’t catch a break. Even though the electronic-music godfathers are among the most influential bands of all time, they missed out on induction again after their sixth nomination. In years past, you could argue that maybe the voters have an aversion to the genre, but this year’s inductees put that notion to rest. Both on their third nominations, Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails finally made the cut this year. Now that electronic music has broken through, it’s going to get increasingly ridiculous every year that Kraftwerk is not inducted. Maybe the voters will see that and vote them in. Or as is usual for the Hall, things will continue to stay ridiculous.

The Hall accidentally leaks their own list

The day before the inductees were announced, a savvy user named “Freddie” on the essential (and unofficial) Rock Hall fan site Future Rock Legends discovered something peculiar about the individual nominee pages. It’s common for them to disappear from the Hall’s site, as they prepare the special inductee pages. However, it became apparent that some of the nominees’ pages were being eliminated, while others were staying up but denying user access. You could determine this by manually typing in the nominee’s page URL into your browser. If the page “could not be found,” they’re not an inductee. If the page was still there but “you are not authorized to access this page,” then you’ve found an inductee. A careless error for the Hall to make, but funnily enough, pretty much this exact same thing happened last year.

Heavy metal will have to wait … again

The Hall has a less-than-stellar relationship with heavy-metal artists. Black Sabbath waited ten years after becoming eligible and were nominated eight times before induction. Deep Purple had to wait 22 years! If there’s a group that hates the Hall the most, it might be heavy-metal fans. And yet, this year’s ballot could have been interpreted as an olive branch to the community. Judas Priest returned for a second nomination after missing out on the ballot last year. Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, and Soundgarden all made the ballot for the very first time. Ironically though, this amount of representation may have screwed the genre’s chances this year. Without one act to coalesce around, there was likely vote-splitting, which meant none of them made the list.

Whitney leapfrogs Chaka Khan

If you follow the Hall and have already experienced its constant defiance of logic, this won’t come as much of a surprise to you. Chaka Khan has been nominated six times — twice as a solo artist and four times (including this year) with her band Rufus. For whatever reason (perhaps Rufus’ lack of name recognition,) she’s perennially overlooked. Whitney Houston, on the other hand, is one of the most famous, best-selling artists of all time and made her first appearance on the ballot this year. To many, there was no way she wasn’t getting in this year. But if you know your music history, you know there’s no Whitney without Chaka. Not only did Chaka bridge the diva eras from Aretha to Whitney, but one of Whitney’s first gigs was singing backup for her. And of course in 1993, Whitney had a gigantic hit with her cover of Chaka’s “I’m Every Woman.”

The full list of inductees for the Class of 2020 is Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, Notorious B.I.G., and T. Rex.

Comedian Joe Kwaczala is the co-host of the podcast Who Cares About the Rock Hall?, along with comedian Kristen Studard.

2020 Rock Hall Inductees: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises