On Wednesday morning, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the seven artists who will be inducted this November in Los Angeles: Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Eminem, Eurythmics, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, and Carly Simon. Eminem is the only artist who just became eligible this year, although Duran Duran, Parton, Richie and Simon were also first-year ballot Hall of Famers. After a few years that saw many guitar-driven arena rock bands join the Hall, the 2022 class includes lots of synthesizers, pop balladeers, and a little country and hip-hop.
The field was narrowed down from the 17 artists nominated in February, with A Tribe Called Quest, Beck, Kate Bush, Devo, Judas Priest, Fela Kuti, MC5, New York Dolls, Rage Against the Machine, and Dionne Warwick left out this year. Judas Preist will receive the Musical Excellence Award this year, alongside Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. A public poll to determine the “fan ballot” was won by Duran Duran, who collected 934,880 votes before the poll closed earlier this week. The top 5 was rounded out by Eminem, Benatar, Eurythmics, and Dolly Parton, all of whom got in.
The year’s field prompted even more debate than usual about what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame represents, including Dolly Parton publicly questioning whether she belongs. Is the Hall about all popular music, or is it making an argument that genres like country and hip-hop are honorary cousins of rock? Are globally popular acts like Kate Bush who are less well known in the states victims of the Hall’s American bias? Do easy listening hitmakers like Lionel Richie and Carly Simon deserve a seat at the table just like any stadium rocker? And will Rage Against the Machine, now nominated and snubbed in five of the six years they’ve been eligible, ever get in?
Here are the takeaways from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.
A Historic Year for Women in the Hall
Two years ago marked the first time that three women or female-fronted bands were inducted into the Hall in one year, with three more following in 2021. This year’s slate of inductees sets a new record: Benatar, Parton, Simon, and the Annie Lennox-fronted Eurythmics are the first quartet of female inductees in a single year. Even with nominees Kate Bush and Dionne Warwick counted out, it’s a historic set of inductees.
Dolly Parton, a Country Hall of Famer since 1999, released a statement in March that she’d prefer not to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “I don’t feel that I have earned the right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out.” But the Rock Hall kept her on the ballot, and Parton had second thoughts, telling NPR in April that she’d “accept gratefully” if inducted. Parton follows Johnny Cash as arguably the second pure country music artist in the Rock Hall
Carly Simon is probably the biggest surprise of the inductees. But the “You’re So Vain” singer was one fo the biggest solo stars of the 1970s, and her run of over a dozen Top 40 hits and eight platinum or gold albums continued well into the late ‘80s. Simon has been eligible for the Rock Hall over two decades, and was nominated for the first time in 2022. Annie Lennox, should she ever be nominated for her solo career, now has a shot at being the second woman inducted twice after Stevie Nicks.
The ‘80s Triumph Over the ‘90s
With artists becoming eligible 25 years after their first commercial recordings, acts from the 1990s have been getting their first shot at the Rock Hall in recent years. But Eminem is the only artist entering the Hall in his first year of eligibility, and moreover, he’s the only the inductee who hasn’t been releasing music since at least the early ‘80s. After a few years of ‘90s alternative rockers like Radiohead and Pearl Jam getting in on their first try, Beck and Rage Against the Machine were unsuccessfully nominated this year, while many more like Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer have yet to be nominated.
Artists who peaked in the early years of MTV overwhelmingly dominated the 2022 field, including Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Lionel Richie, and Pat Benatar. This year’s field also heavily favored the most commercially successful nominees, and all seven artists inducted have top 10 pop hits and platinum albums to their names, while influential acts like the New York Dolls, the MC5, and Fela Kuti came up empty.
In March, Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor told SPIN “I nearly fell off my seat” when he heard that the band we’re nominated. “I wouldn’t say we were a down-the-line rock’n’roll band. I know it’s a very wide array of people that get in there, but we’re as rock’n’roll as I guess Dolly Parton.” All seven inductees are among the living and still actively performing, so we’ll likely see a performance-heavy ceremony this year. Just about the only question will be whether Duran Duran’s founding guitarist Andy Taylor, who left the band in 2006, will be part of their performance.
The Musical Excellence Consolation Prize
When this year’s nominations were announced in February, we noted a concerning pattern. Artists who’ve been unsuccessfully nominated for the Hall of Fame proper have increasingly been given awards in other categories that had originally been created for the kinds of individuals who’d made an impact on the music world without being marquee artists.
The Sidemen category was rebranded a decade ago as The Award for Musical Excellence and has increasingly been used to honor artists who could and should be in the Hall. Last year, LL Cool J received the Musical Excellence Award, and the ceremony took pains to make it seem like he’d been voted into the Hall like Jay-Z and Foo Fighters had, which he wasn’t. A similar switcheroo is taking place this year with Judas Priest, who lost their first nomination for the Hall but are being given the Musical Excellence Award alongside Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, members of The Time who’ve written and produced hits for Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Usher.
Elizabeth Cotton and Harry Belafonte will also receive Early Influences recognition this year, while label executives Jimmy Iovine and Sylvia Robinson and entertainment lawyer Allen Grubman will receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Saturday, November 5 in Los Angeles and broadcast by HBO.