The new list of nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction 2021 was recently announced, and every artist is a treasure, but only six will make the final cut. An individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years before the year of nomination to be eligible.
It’s a stipulation that usually rules out your favourite band, but this year sees some notable inclusions such as Foo Fighters and Jay-Z, who have made the ballot on their first year of eligibility. The list of potential inductees for the illustrious establishment shines brightly with talent and showcases various genre-transcending talent. In May, the inductees will be announced, hoping that the annual live event will get the go-ahead for its usual spot in the autumn.
2021 will see two rappers nominated for their place in Rock Hall. Alongside one of the most successful men in hip-hop in Jay-Z, there is also a nod to the criminally underrated LL Cool J. Within the list of nominees you will also find the unique talents of Tina Turner, who is bidding to become a double Hall of Famer, Kate Bush whose exclusion to this point is truly baffling, and the wondrous talent of Chaka Khan.
There’s also a nod for electronic pioneers Devo and Dave Grohl’s stadium-sized rockers Foo Fighters. This feature looks at all the names on the ballot and reflects on one special album from their careers. Let’s dive in!
The best album from every Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee 2021
Jay-Z – The Blueprint
There are very few artists who can match the potency of Jay-Z, the premiere music mogul, undoubted king, and undeniable rhyme master. Hova has rightly established himself as one of the legends of hip-hop, and while he certainly made his name away from the mic, being Beyonce’s husband can have that effect on your career, it is in the studio that Jay really put his own spin on the rap game.
His finest piece of work came back in 2001 with The Blueprint. You’ll struggle to find a fan of Jay that disagrees with this choice, and the album asserted himself as the most important rapper in the world. Everything that makes Hova a true king can be heard on this LP. From the soulful seventies beats, the introduction of Kanye as his producer, to the way he tells stories with consummate ease, on Blueprint, Jay laid it all out.
Carole King – Tapestry
Astonishingly, Carole King has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before, considering she has been eligible for a quarter of a century. In the early ’70s, she was arguably the most prolific songwriter on the planet, a one-woman hit machine who churned out hits like there was no tomorrow.
Her debut album, Music, was a slow-churner that gradually led to king becoming a star and her 1971 follow-up, Tapestry, remains a work of art that alone warrants an induction into the Hall of Fame. The album received faultless reviews and topped the charts for weeks-on-end, but Tapestry was also selected the ‘Album of the Year’ at the Grammys.
King also won the award for ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance’, ‘Record of the Year’ for ‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘Song of the Year’ for ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. The Grammy’s haul made her the first solo female artist to win the Grammy Award for ‘Record of the Year’ and the first woman to win the Grammy Award for ‘Song of the Year’. King is a true pioneer that deserves recognition.
Tina Turner – Private Dancer
Tina Turner is already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her work with her ex-husband Ike Turner, but 2021 could be the year that, at long last, her solo work gets the recognition it deserves. Turner initially struggled following the end of their relationship in her solo career, and it took years for it to get going.
1984’s Private Dancer was a far cry from the delectable R&B she made with Ike. Tina was making contemporary pop music that showed that she had moved on from her previous guise. The album was her first taste of success as a solo artist and gave her a second bite at the apple. Private Dancer spawned seven singles, including the infectious,’ What’s Love Got to Do with It’, the title track and the emotive ‘Let’s Stay Together’.
Mary J. Blige – My Life
Mary J. Blige’s 1994 effort, My Life, announced her as a star and proved that she was a voice that everybody needed to hear. Her sophomore record was extremely up-close and personal, unlike her debut, which is down to Blige heavy involvement in the record’s songwriting process. She laid her emotions bare about her clinical depression, battling with both drugs and alcohol, as well as opening up about an abusive relationship.
“There would be times where she would be in the studio singing, and it would be the dopest take in the world, but she would be crying,” co-producer Chucky Thompson shared with Red Bull Music Academy in 2014. “Those are things you can’t create; those emotions are coming from an unseen place. It was a situation where we probably could have made 40 My Life albums if we kept going.”
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
The singer has become a legend in her own right and hasn’t had to be as nearly prolific as some of her other counterparts who sit at the top table of British music, despite doubtlessly being allowed to do so. Instead, Bush has worked her career how she intended it to be, only creating music that she loves. Not giving her life over to the record executives behind the scenes and, by doing so, has kept her artistic intent pure and relatively untouched.
Hounds Of Love is a faultless record encapsulating from the first moments of ‘Running Up That Hill’. The record’s opener is not just a pop masterpiece but an undulating and intriguing song like none you’ve ever heard before. The title track arrives with a simple power that renders it one of the best pop songs ever written. Drums thunder like they only do in folklore, and Bush’s vocal manages to range from the utterly beautiful to the beautifully guttural.
This power continues to permeate every song on the album, including tracks like ‘Cloudbusting’ and ‘Waking The Witch’ are equally as golden, equally dripping with metaphor and mystique, and equally as jaw-droppingly good.
Devo – Q. Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
There’s very little in music that Devo leader Mark Mothersbaugh has left to achieve in his life, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has continued to pass the group by until now. He’s won BAFTAs for his film scores and he’s been given honorary doctorates and even composed the Rugrats scores. The musician transcended hippie culture in the seventies and in the winter of that decade co-founded one of the most forward-thinking bands of all time, Devo.
The band’s debut effort, Q. Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, remains their finest effort purely based on the fact that in 1978 their whole aesthetic and sound was completely new. People didn’t know what was going on and couldn’t wrap their heads around for love or money who or what Devo was. It remains one of the most dramatic entrances and seminal debut albums of all time.
Foo Fighters – The Colour And The Shape
Foo Fighters would release its eponymous debut album in 1995, in which former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl showcased a whole new side of himself and even recorded all the instruments featured on the record. The sound retained elements of the famous grunge style associated with Nirvana but injected with Grohl’s uplifting energy that would propel Foo Fighters into the stadium conquering band they’ve grown into.
It’s their 1997 follow-up, The Colour and the Shape; however, that takes the top spot as the finest record by the Foos. Spawning singles like ‘Everlong’ and ‘My Hero’ made Foo Fighters one of the biggest bands on the planet with their expansive hard-rock sound. Grohl bought in a full-band, and whilst the first album was a necessary record of releasing to tour, this was the real announcement of exactly who Foo Fighters were and that they were here to stay.
The Go-Go’s – Beauty and the Beat
The Belinda Carlisle group formed in Los Angeles back in 1978 and quickly became a mainstay of the West Coast’s upcoming new wave scene. The movement was born off the back of the success of groups like The Talking Heads and Blondie on the other side of the country, but, The Go-Go’s became icons in their own right. Their 1981 debut, Beauty and The Beat, was an important record that proved that alternative music was a place for everyone, no matter what sex you are.
“When I was about seven, I discovered the Go-Go’s,” said super-fan Drew Barrymore in an essay published by the magazine V. “I went out and bought their album Beauty and the Beat and, as the vinyl twirled, my whole world changed. I stared at the girls on the cover like they were a gateway to cool. The fact that they were girls made me feel not only invited but more important – like I could be a badass too. I looked over to my Pippi Longstocking poster on the wall and thought, Yes! I like girls who rock!”
Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
It’s jaw-dropping that Iron Maiden aren’t already inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but despite being eligible for 16 years, they are still waiting for the call-up. The group formed in 1975, however, it was the addition of vocalist Bruce Dickinson in 1981 that would take the band up a level and their first album, with him on board, Iron Maiden remains their greatest.
1982’s The Number of the Beast saw everything about the group click firmly into gear and beginning to reach their potential. Pioneers of the new heavy metal scene, when the group ditched Paul Di’Anno in favour of Dickinson, everything kicked up a notch. The album was their first record to top the UK chart and their first to break into the Billboard 200 in the States, which validated their decision to bring in Dickinson.
Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
Chaka Khan is an iconic musician who is pop royalty and her 1984 album, I Feel For You, is Khan at her absolute peak. The title track is a cover of Prince classic that Khan gave a fresh spin to and made her an unavoidable star, still going forcibly strong all these decades later.
The album was from the golden era of pop music and remained one of the finest efforts from this period. Although it wasn’t Khan’s first solo album, it was Chaka’s first release since Rufus’s split and saw her break-out as a pop-star in her own right.
Fela Kuti –Shuffering and Shmiling
One of the most well-known names to come out of the African music scene is Fela Kuti is a bonafide great. Kuti was put on the Western map thanks to Cream drummer Ginger Baker championing the musician as an undiscovered saviour. His 1977 record, Shuffering and Shmiling, offers a perfect introduction to Kuti’s world and Nigerian music as a whole.
Mick Jagger is a huge fan of the late artist, once stating: “As far as I know Ginger was one of the first to get into these rhythms and travel to Africa to actually sit there and play them. He might have been influenced by Phil Seamen, the jazz drummer who pre-dated him, but Ginger went to play with Fela Kuti, which must have been a daunting journey in more ways than one.
“But then he always did want to push things that much further than most drummers who came from England. Fela always had great orchestration and an amazing horn section, as he played horn himself and liked to use two baritones, which is unusual.”
LL Cool J – Radio
LL Cool J’s debut album, Radio, remains one of the most important pieces of work in hip-hop history. The record helped the genre shift away from being a novelty, throwaway area of music and his intricate lyricism about inner-city life was both hard-hitting and poetic. The record announced not only who LL Cool J was, but what Def Jam Records was too. It was an introduction to the label that would change music forever.
Rick Rubin produced the album, and his minimalist touch worked wonders with the aggressiveness of Cool J’s bars. What makes this stellar piece of hip-hop history even wilder is the fact that LL was only 17-years-old when he created this utter masterpiece that not only stands the test of time but, without it, then who knows if the likes of Jay-Z would be on the list of nominees alongside him.
New York Dolls – New York Dolls
Originating in New York City and named after the same location, the New York Dolls were one of the biggest punk rock pioneers for some time. Even with their years of being active being rather sporadic, and with the drastic changes in their lineup as a band, the New York Dolls remained one of the most influential punk bands of all time. They’ve impacted some of the biggest names in rock history, including the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Guns N’ Roses, the Damned and so on.
Their 1973 eponymous debut album remains one of the most seminal pieces of work in rock history. There was an elusive charm that made their fans feel intensely intoxicated with the band. Although they never sold many records, the people who bought the records held the New York Dolls in the highest of regards, and this album gave many a sense of belonging. New York Dolls are real rock ‘n’ roll pioneers who deserve their place in the pantheon of rock royalty.
Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
Rage Against The Machine’s critically acclaimed self-titled debut later in 1992 set the foundations for what was to come as the band’s fame went into the stratosphere. Their first album, it’s safe to say, established the group as one of the most integral band’s to have come out of the 1990s.
This album changed the game and saw Rage become the voice for disillusioned youth around the world, a collection of music fans who fell head over heels for Rage’s unique brand of punk—material which arrived as a hybrid of rock and rap and became a much welcome arrival onto the scene. Tracks like the eternally relevant ‘Killing In The Name Of’, ‘Bombtrack’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ simply don’t age.
Todd Rundgren – Something / Anything?
Not only has Rundgren had an esteemed career as an artist, but he was also the producer behind classic records like Badfinger’s Straight Up, Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re an American Band, the New York Dolls’ New York Dolls, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and XTC’s Skylarking.
His 1973 album, Something/Anything? takes home top spot, and the record is a 90-minute extravaganza that is a wonderful invitation into Rundgren’s prog-rock universe. He’s always opted to experiment rather than act with caution, and on this record, every little gamble he makes pays off emphatically.
What makes the album even more special is three-quarters of the album was recorded in the studio, with Rundgren playing all instruments and singing all vocals and producing it. The final quarter was then recorded live in the studio without any overdubs and contrasted beautifully with the rest of the album.
Dionne Warwick – Soulful
Dionne Warwick has one of the most iconic voices in pop-music history and her 1969 album, Soulful, explains exactly why. This record was the first of Warwick’s albums for Scepter Records that did not directly involve her longtime production and songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Still, the album proved that she could thrive quite easily without them.
Soulful was produced by Warwick alongside Chips Moman. The pair composed a stunning array of soul-infused covers. It’s one of the definitive soul albums. Warwick even covers three Beatles songs on the record, and her take on ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is a beautiful tribute to The Fab Four that moves this classic into a brand new sphere.