D’Astolfo: 2020 Rock Hall Nominees

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — It’s a pretty solid group of nominees that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled this week.

You could pick any handful of the Class of 2020 nominees and it would be OK. An argument could be made for every act. Five of the 16 nominees will be selected and then inducted in a May 2 ceremony at Public Hall in Cleveland.

That means there should be a little extra interest in Ohio this year. The ceremony usually takes place in New York but comes to Cleveland – where the Rock Hall is located – every three years or so.

The 2020 nominees are Dave Matthews Band, Pat Benatar, Thin Lizzy, the Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, T Rex, Whitney Houston, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, MC5, Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Motorhead and Todd Rundgren.

The main criteria most people use in weighing each act’s claim for rock immortality are (1) how influential or pioneering the band was, and (2) how huge they were in terms of songs and sales.

The first criteria carries much more weight. Statistics are not so important to Rock Hall voters, but sales are always a measure of success.

Four acts stand out and they should be on everyone’s list: Dave Matthews Band, the Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest and Notorious B.I.G.

After that, it gets a bit more subjective.

Pat Benatar led the way for tough-as-nails female rockers but it might have been her vulnerable side that made her such a star.

Pop star Whitney Houston had a massive voice, was a big as they come in terms of star power and led a rock ’n’ roll life.

Nine Inch Nails, led by Mercer, Pa., native Trent Reznor – who started his music career in Cleveland – hit many people like a ton of bricks with his first album, “Pretty Hate Machine,” released October 1989. Reznor resonated with many who felt left out of society by laying down the throbbing and dehumanizing rhythms of a factory, and screaming in rage over them at the same time.

Thin Lizzy was much bigger in Europe than North America. Soundgarden was a major player in the tidal wave of grunge that rolled out of Seattle.

MC5 will always be the fiercest garage rockers on the planet. This is the fifth time they’ve been nominated, and I say let it ride until they get in.

Say what you will about the mopey and moody Depeche Mode, but they have staying power.

Kraftwerk was robotic and electronic and catchy but strange. This is the sixth time the German trio has gotten a Rock Hall nomination, and I don’t think it’s looking good.

In the interest of variety – which is a valid consideration – Motorhead can’t get in the same year as Judas Priest.

Rundgren is such a great songwriter, and T Rex and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan had their moments.

So what’s my pick for the fifth and final spot? Pat Benatar. Or, just maybe, Whitney Houston. 

By the way, the process works like this:

The Rock Hall nominating committee selects a group every year. It’s not the same number every year, but it’s usually at least 15. Ballots are then sent to more than 1,000 historians, members of the music industry and artists (including every living Rock Hall inductee), and the five performers receiving the most votes become that year’s induction class. 

A fan-voted element was added in 2012. The top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots. 

Pictured: Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails. (Image: Rob Sheriden/Nine Inch Nails from Los Angeles, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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