The new list of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to dredge up a lot of old arguments.
Announced Wednesday, with an induction ceremony planned for fall, the 2021 nominations include two more rap acts, which will once again rile up anyone unfamiliar with rock 'n' roll's roots in blues and gospel music. They also include another major artist of the once-derided '70s disco era, which arguably brought more musical innovation than 90% of the Rolling Stones' career.
But there are some new and rather inarguable elements to this year's list, too, including a proliferation of legendary women and a deeper dive into 1990s artists.
Here's how the hall of fame voters should rank these 2021 nominees, starting at the top. No arguments, please.
The Go-Go's: Being the first all-female group to write and record a No. 1 album should have been enough to get the "We Got the Beat" hitmakers inducted years ago. Their recent Showtime documentary and bassist Kathy Valentine's new memoir also underline how much sexism they endured/defeated, and how much their songs and attitude have influenced younger musicians.
Tina Turner: She's already in the RRHOF alongside her ex-husband as Ike and Tina Turner; which makes an induction for her solo career all the more meaningful. Turner had one of rock's greatest comeback stories and biggest albums of the 1980s ("Private Dancer"), and her indisputable icon status is based more on that solo era.
Jay-Z: Masterful lyricist. Eleven No. 1 albums to his name. Enough success as a producer and businessman to become one of the music industry's biggest success stories. If not for the (stupid) debate over hip-hop belonging in the rock hall, he'd be a shoo-in.
Rage Against the Machine: Their groundbreaking blend of rap, hard-rock and politics made them perhaps the most important rock band of the '90s after Nirvana. They're one of the greatest live bands of all time, too.
Carole King: Already inducted for her monumental songwriting work for other artists with Gerry Goffin, she clearly deserves an entry for her solo singing career. "Tapestry" turns 50 this year and has been way more influential and ubiquitous than other classic "songwriter albums" by peers such as James Taylor or Jackson Browne, both of whom entered the hall a long time ago.
Iron Maiden: With their ghoulish stage props and beastly lyricism, the British metal vets might be deemed too campy for the hall's snobbish voter bloc. But their music has long had an innovative edge and proven massively popular around the globe. Look for them to at least get inducted via the fan vote.
Chaka Khan: The Chicago singer has been nominated before as a member of Rufus. Both that group and her solo career brought funk and disco to the pop-music mainstream via such hits as "Tell Me Something Good" and "I'm Every Woman."
Devo: The Ohioan "Whip It" hitmakers' impact was more visual than musical, as they carved out an artful (and fun!) standard for music videos — with help from Twin Cities filmmaker Chuck Statler — just as MTV took flight. But the music itself was bold and timeless, too.
LL Cool J: Like Run-DMC and Beastie Boys (both already inducted) he brought hip-hop to MTV and Middle America. His celebrity status has endured more than his music, though — although it's hard to argue with his classics "Going Back to Cali" and "Mama Said Knock You Out."
Mary J. Blige: The soulful New York R&B singer had an ultra-impressive string of hits from 1995-2005, including "Family Affair" and "Be Without You," with a voice to match all that gold.
The New York Dolls: The influential New York glam-punk pioneers have a chance for a sentimental induction after last month's death of guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, but they ended prematurely and never had a big impact commercially.
Fela Kuti: The Nigerian Afrobeat legend was a massive force in African politics and world music, with a vast discography of mind-blowing music. But he probably remains too obscure in the Western world to make the cut.
Dionne Warwick: Beautiful voice and storied career, sure, but there was never much about her that was very rock 'n' roll — as we've been reminded of lately by her rather grandparently tweets.
Kate Bush: Put her in before Morrissey, anyway.
Todd Rundgren: Seventies scenesters know his stylish hits ("Hello It's Me") and his Zelig-like connections as a producer and songwriter. Ask younger fans about him, though, and they'll likely reply "Who?!" or "Oh yeah, Liv Tyler's stepdad."
The Foo Fighters: Dave Grohl's affable rock unit deserves to get in, and it will. But the fellas can wait a few years.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658