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Handicapping the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees 

click to enlarge The Cure joins 14 other bands and musicians on the nominee short list.
  • The Cure joins 14 other bands and musicians on the nominee short list.
Many are called, few will be chosen.

Two weeks ago, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its “short list” of 2019 nominees, and they are: Def Leppard, Devo, Janet Jackson, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, The Cure, Todd Rundgren, Rufus & Chaka Khan and The Zombies.

Given the music industry’s prevailing gender and complexion, it’s perhaps not surprising that, of these 15 nominees, only three are women, and only four are black. Exactly how many of those artists will actually make it to the final induction ceremony, which will be held March 29 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, is anyone’s guess.

So who will be going, you may ask.

Compared to the Grammy Awards and American Music Awards, the Hall of Fame inductees aren’t so easy to second-guess. Since there are no musical or historical boundaries, we end up with the kind of free-for-all that this year pits John Prine against Kraftwerk.

By contrast, AMA nominations are based on sales, airplay and online presence, so the results will closely mirror an artist’s commercial success.

Grammy nominees, meanwhile, are chosen by voting members of the Recording Academy, an organization of artists, producers and other record industry professionals. For them, music industry buzz definitely comes into play, as does a lingering sense of guilt about legendary artists who’ve been passed over for decades.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame employs an algorithm that’s similar to the Grammys’. According to its website, ballots are sent to “more than 1,000 historians, members of the music industry and artists — including every living Rock Hall inductee.” Potential inductees don’t become eligible until 25 years after the release of their first record.

The Hall of Fame organization also encourages the public to vote for their own five favorites; the cumulative result will be counted as a single ballot. While the impact of that may seem negligible, organizers say these online fan votes are a strong indicator of who the experts will ultimately choose.

All of which means that, based on the ongoing popular vote, we can make an educated guess about who the 2019 inductees will be. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the current five leaders, along with past inductees who’ve explored similar musical terrain.

The Zombies

Hall of Fame precedents: The Moody Blues, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five, Bee Gees

Mention The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper or The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and even the most casual music fan is likely to show at least some glimmer of recognition. Mention The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle, and you’ll more likely be met with a blank stare, even though British Invasion devotees view this 1968 concept album as a masterpiece of the same order. The album did score one hit with “Time of the Season,” which, combined with previous singles like “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No,” may be enough to win over Hall of Fame voters’ hearts.

Def Leppard

Hall of Fame precedents: Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Metallica

An overwhelming majority of Hall of Fame voters have fond memories of drunken nights in karaoke bars singing painfully off-key renditions of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” This vote will reflect that.

Stevie Nicks

Hall of Fame precedents: Fleetwood Mac, Dusty Springfield, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Whether onstage with Fleetwood Mac or on her own, Nicks’ combination of ethereal songs, witchy wardrobe and swirling stage moves suggests that acid was just as prevalent as pot back in her Laurel Canyon days. Still, there’s no denying the fact that songs like “Landslide” and “Rhiannon” are unassailable pop gems, which is why they’re revered by an ever-growing legion of indie artists you thought were too cool to like her.

Todd Rundgren

Hall of Fame precedents: Laura Nyro, Hall & Oates, Al Green, The O’Jays

With hits like “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light” and “We Gotta Get You a Woman,” Rundgren proved his ability to fuse sentimental Philly soul, catchy electronic pop and lots of shiny rock guitar riffs — years before Bowie would adopt a similar approach on his Young Americans album. Plus, he’s produced hit albums for the weirdest variety of artists, including Patti Smith, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates and Meatloaf.

The Cure

Hall of Fame precedents: Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground

If The Cure somehow pull this off, Robert Smith will be the most heavily mascaraed Hall of Fame inductee since Alice Cooper. He’ll also be opening the door for other goth crossover acts to follow in his wake. Can Virgin Prunes and Alien Sex Fiend be far behind?

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