Oh, you thought a little pandemic could disrupt an entire musical institution and shutter Cleveland’s hottest museum? Not on our watch. On Wednesday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the inductees for its 2021 class, with the following six acts set to be lauded for their career-spanning contributions: the Go-Go’s, Jay-Z, Tina Turner, Foo Fighters, Carole King, and Todd Rundgren. It’s a fun and versatile list from the Hall’s voting body, one reminding that, yes, women and non-white performers are equally as worthy of induction. (Crazy concept!) Still, there’s the requisite supply of snubs and surprises that we have to emergency-discuss before securing those flights to Cleveland for the last weekend in October.
The first-year-nominee power is strong.
The timeframe in order to be considered for a Hall induction is simple: You have to wait 25 years after the release of your first record, and, you know, also be very influential, popular, and schmooze when needed. For the first time for any ceremony year, two acts are being inducted during their inaugural year of eligibility, with Jay-Z and Foo Fighters making the cut. One could make the argument that Mary J. Blige, also a first-time nominee in 2021, had a longer and broader career impact than Jay-Z, but we digress.
Tina Turner and Carole King make history …
With their solo inductions, Turner and King are now the second and third female acts to have been inducted into the Hall twice: Turner was previously honored in 1992 with her musical partner Ike, while King was recognized for her songwriting with the Ahmet Ertegun Award in 1990. They now join Stevie Nicks (who got in for her solo work in 2019 and Fleetwood Mac in 1998) in the pantheon of two-time Hall women, in addition to the 24 other performers who have been inducted twice or more.
… and also Dave Grohl.
You really thought we’d forget about him, new King of the Dads? In addition to Turner and King, Grohl is also receiving his second Hall induction thanks to Foo Fighters; he first got the honor in 2014 as a member of Nirvana.
The Fan Vote (sort of) bounces back.
Following last year’s monstrosity of a Fan Vote-to-inductee percentage (one single act, the Doobie Brothers), the correlation for this year is a lot higher, which serves as a nice signifier that the Hall is back to being more aligned with the popular taste of listeners. The Fan Vote’s top winner, Turner, is inducted, as well as third-placers the Go-Go’s and fifth-placers Foo Fighters. Still, the math can be amusing: Jay-Z, who was dead last, earned a spot.
LL Cool J gets in, but at a relegated level …
The rapper and entertainer has long been a perennial figure for induction: Since 2010, he’s been nominated for the Hall six times, never cracking into a glorious spot of his own. Until now, that is. Technically speaking. LL Cool J is one of three recipients (alongside Billy Preston and Randy Rhoads) of the Hall’s 2021 Musical Excellence Award, which honors “originality and influence creating music that has had a dramatic impact on music.” It’s an outlier award, plain and simple, that will make him ineligible for a full-fledged induction in the future. But better than nothing, we guess?
… as does Kraftwerk.
A little more egregious is German industrial virtuosos Kraftwerk, whose ur-influence on electronic music really can’t be overstated. The band, along with Gil Scott Heron and Charley Patton, will be honored with another one of the Hall’s subcategories: the Early Influence Award, as they have “directly influenced and helped inspire and evolve rock and roll and music that has impacted youth culture.” Kraftwerk had six Hall nominations over the past decade, and recently suffered the loss of their founding member, Florian Schneider. We think laying the groundwork for an entire musical genre is worthy of a standalone induction, but whatever.
Heavy metal takes another loss.
As we noted in our piece about 2020’s snubs and surprises, the Hall has, at best, had a tepid relationship with heavy metal: Genre trailblazers Deep Purple and Black Sabbath had to wait 22 and ten years, respectively, to be inducted, while Iron Maiden didn’t prove to be lucky this year despite being included in the Fan Vote. Hell — Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and Soundgarden didn’t even make the 2021 nomination cut.
Finally, more glam.
Despite Todd Rundgren giving absolutely zero shits about the Hall — start taking bets as to if he’ll bother showing up or not — the three-time nominee’s induction is a fabulous pounce in the right direction for glam, non-Kiss makeup-ed, and queer performers, who’ve historically been overlooked by the voting committee. (It took these clowns seven years to induct David Bowie, okay?) Too bad punk-glam legends the New York Dolls couldn’t also be inducted with their inaugural nomination, especially following the death of guitarist Sylvain Sylvain earlier this year.
Fela Kuti’s exclusion exposes the Hall’s global-music problem.
While perhaps not as much of a household name to some in the U.S., the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and Afrobeat legend is one of the most prominent music industry figures in African history, which was reflected in the Fan Vote: Kuti placed second among voters with his very first nomination, ahead of the splashy Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, and Foo Fighters. When the Hall dares to look outside of the Americas and United Kingdom, it’ll find some gems.