Last week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 6 inductees for 2021, out of 16 nominees. While great artists were logically left out, this also opened the door to how the organisation currently operates.


There are a couple of interesting things to say about the 2021 crop of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees:

  1. Starting with the obvious, they don’t feature all of the nominees that were announced back in February. That’s just math: 16 nominees won’t fit in when you only have 6 chairs. The artists being left out (for now) include legends like Dionne Warwick, Fela Kuti and Chaka Khan, as well as growing legends like Mary J. Blige (you will notice there are many female names cited in this article, proof that things are nevertheless going in the right direction…);
  2. Out of the artists honored, you will find Hip Hop’s reigning king Jay-Z, the legend that is Tina Turner (who’d previously been inducted along her late ex-husband) and Carole King (who’d already been inducted as a songwriter, along with her ex-husband). Oh, and the Foo Fighters, with Dave Grohl also getting in a second time after — you guessed it — Nirvana‘s 2014 induction;
  3. Now, for the equally interesting fine prints: 3 other artists received the Early Influence Award, which honors musical pioneers. Charley Patton is one such pioneer, who literally mentored none other than Robert Johnson, the Blues legend usually credited as the main inspiration behind many early Rock and Rollers. Other recipients Gil Scott-Heron and Kraftwerk, while absolutely deserving of recognition, might not stand so far back in music history, but that’s just as well: them being cited here and now is what counts;
  4. Finally, 3 more artists received the Award for Musical Excellence this year, including nominee LL Cool J. What is this award, you may ask? And that would be a fair question: originally the “Sidemen” award, honoring session or live musicians for instance, the category got rebranded a few years back to encompass a broader range of artists, making it a de facto second tier induction group…

While that last distinction may be understandable coming from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame organizers, given the sheer amount of talent being nominated every year — an amount that will only keep growing with time: there are definitely more than 6 world class artists to be found every year — it arguably makes for a slightly less clear yearbook picture. Then again, if more artists are being honored in the process, it’s not all bad…