It's that time of the year again. Music's highest honor, induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is about to be handed out to the greatest artists to ever rock the planet. But upon first look, the nominees for the class of 2011 appear weak, to say the least. Every year can't be like 2006, when Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis and the Sex Pistols were inducted, and you know it's a down year when Bon Jovi and Neil Diamond look like sure things. Regardless, somebody's got to make the cut.
Last year, the inductees included names like The Stooges, ABBA and David Geffen, and the number of inductees per year ranges from as many as 11 to as little as five, so there's really no telling how many artists will pass this year's test.
The nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2011 are: Alice Cooper, Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Chic, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Dr. John, J Geils Band, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, Tom Waits and Chuck Willis.
Although it's called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, hip-hop artists have historically been inducted as well, like Run D.M.C. and Grandmaster Flash, and this year's crop of nominees includes two rap-centric acts: The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J.
One can make an argument that the Beastie Boys were one of the most iconic groups of the 1980s and 1990s, but the nomination of LL Cool J is highly questionable. Although LL Cool J was the first to coin the phrase "Don't Call it a Comeback" and has 12 albums, his legacy is most remembered for his hit movies and washboard abs. It's a bit of a technicality that LL Cool J is in contention because all artists considered have to have released music at least 25 years before they are eligible for induction, and Cool J, one of the earlier big hip-hop acts, dropped his first album in 1985. The godfathers of modern rap, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac, didn't start making music until the 1990s. Dr. Dre started making music in 1984, but it will be another five years before bigger hip-hop legends qualify for the Hall of Fame. More likely than not, LL Cool J will be looking from the outside in this year. (Insert "Ladies Love Cool James, but Hall of Fame Voters, Not So Much" ... joke here.)
With these 13 hit-or-miss nominees for the class of 2011, it's fair to assume maybe only five to seven will get inducted. There are only a handful of locks in this group, including Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond, Donovan and, if there's any justice in this world, Tom Waits. All five of these artists have storied recording careers and collectively have had a lasting impact on rock music today.
For all we know, this might be the final group to make the cut, but if anyone could sneak into the lineup, it's probably the Beastie Boys or Chuck WIllis. The Beastie Boys were hit-makers, and the hottest white-rap sensation ever. Their discography is impeccable, while Chuck Willis has an edge with his work in the blues/soul that nourished the early years of rock.