1. The obvious choices: Beatles, Stones, Zep.
2. Artists on the fringe of being classic but are inducted only for nostalgic reasons: Jackson Browne, Del Shannon.
3. Unusual, often forgotten artists whom the voters feel they should induct to fill a quirky quota: The Dave Clark Five.
Thus, certain acts fall through the cracks. Kitsch artists who actually have cred: Neil Diamond, Chicago. British acts who contributed a lot to music but are overlooked in America: The Jam, The Smiths, The Cure. And bands that were great and forgotten — but not quirky enough: The Hollies.
Which brings me to the 1990s. After grunge, the decade’s music was mostly sturdy alt-rock with memorable hooks. It’s arguably my favorite era in music — consistent, tuneful, solid. But aside from Nirvana, its influential gods aren’t as classic or easy to pick out.
So, which Clinton-era acts will the Rock Hall choose to enshrine? Below are our guesses, in chronological order, based on what we think voters will look for.
(Note: Artists have to wait 25 years after the release of their debut album to be eligible.)
A given — they defined a genre, influenced a slew of bands and have become arguably the only classic rock band of the decade.
Grunge’s second banana, but a band with a great catalogue — and one that has stayed together. Call them the Rolling Stones of the ’90s.
Has the quirk factor — and the fact that he’s crafted consistently interesting music for years.
THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
The Rock Hall has started to induct rappers, but the ’90s is where the genre found its footing. So expect more hip-hop artists from that decade to get honored. And this is the best M.C. of them all — one who’s death will give him extra clout.
See previous entry.
A cache of hits and enough critical cred — two things Rock Hall voters love.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Similar to No Doubt — and DMB has a following too big to ignore.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Their mix of rap and rock has the creativity and clout to draw voters’ attentions.
Went from pop-punkers to stadium rockers. Voters will likely see them as the new U2.
Almost a modern-day classic-rock artist: a string of hits, reliable hooks, wide appeal.
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
An underrated act with more hits than you think. Expect them to slip in.
The epitome of nerd rock, with plenty of catchy songs and popularity to get them noticed.
They only had a brief moment of stardom in the U.S., but they are monster stars in Britain and big names of the decade — which, like Elvis Costello and The Sex Pistols, should get them enshrined.
The second-most influential act of the decade — critical cred, big fan base, a plethora of excellent music, countless imitators.
Dave Grohl’s post-Nirvana project has been consistently reliable — a more rocking version of Sheryl Crow.
ON THE FRINGE:
Soundgarden — a grunge great, but will they be seen as a band with only two great songs?
Alanis Morissette — one-album wonder?
Phish — too cultish?
Puff Daddy — created a rap dynasty, but has he become too much of a cartoon?
KORN — will the Rock Hall recognize the ’90s oft-hated nu-metal scene?
[Editorial Insert: A strong case for bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, Mary J. Blige, TLC, Jane’s Addiction, Dr. Dre can be made while there’s slight chances for acts like: Pantera, Wu Tang Clan and Rancid. — Bill Bodkin]