While listening to the Offspring's "Hammerhead" on the radio, I had the same thought you did: This song probably puts them into the conversation for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's a big hit already, and it's maybe their most serious hit, although not nearly as good as "Self-Esteem," but a lot of people respect "serious." It also means they've now been on the charts for a good long time; "Come Out and Play" dropped in 1994.
Nobody really talks about that kind of thing, do they? Baseball fans are constantly debating which current players have a shot at the Hall of Fame: Has Manny Ramirez already done enough to get in? Does Roy Oswalt have a chance? What does Ryan Howard need to do to make up for his late start? People never discuss midcareer rock bands like that.
Part of that has to do with what baseball fans call the bus test: Would this player make the Hall of Fame if he got hit by a bus tomorrow? Lots of rock acts succumb to the bus; some of them even drive their own bus. A rock band's bus can come in the form of an acrimonious breakup, death, obsolescence, or making Door to Door.
That factor makes it hard to handicap an artist's chances at Cleveland, but what the heck. Here's my look at what some current (or recent) acts need to do to gain enshrinement. Artists are listed in each category in order of their chances as I see them:
Pearl Jam: They haven't had a hit in a long time, but Eddie Vedder has always been a friend to the Hall.
Locks, but May Have to Wait
Beastie Boys: I have no idea what the voters will do with hip-hop. If they see it as just another form of rock & roll, Jay-Z and Eminem will waltz in, with Biggie and Tupac in the Buddy Holly/Ritchie Valens slots. Even if they don't, they'll still vote for the Beasties just to show they're "down" with what the kids are listening to. Then they'll reach for their copy of Who's Next to cleanse their palates.
Beck: He's had his share of hits, he's a true original, and he's got lots of fans. The only thing that might hold him back is that some voters might perceive him as insufficiently rock & roll. That and the fact that he doesn't bathe regularly.
Pavement/Wilco: Neither has ever had a real hit, but they've each got a substantial body of work and have been revered for a long time. I've never heard a critic have a harsh word about either one. It'll take a while, but they'll both go.
Sheryl Crow: At some point, the Hall will go two straight years without inducting any female acts. After a bit of an outcry, the next year, Sheryl Crow will go in.
On the Right Track
Coldplay: They're almost a lock, really. They're already where the Lovin' Spoonful were when they broke up, and the Spoonful are in. And they seem like the most unlikely candidate to get hit by the bus.
John Mayer: Beloved by everyone from Buddy Guy to Jessica Simpson. I guess that's how every single you put out becomes a hit.
The White Stripes: They could use one more hit like "Seven Nation Army," but people love 'em, and they sure have their own niche.
Beyonce Knowles: The analogue would seem to be the Supremes, which means Beyonce would sashay right in. Drawbacks: She may be a bit too hip-hop for this crowd, and her career is divided between Destiny's Child and her solo work. My guess is that Beyonce goes in, but DC doesn't.
Alicia Keys: Probably a better bet than Beyonce, actually, as more of a pure R&B artist. The Hall has been exceptionally kind to R&B artists with lots of pop success.
Got Work to Do
Panic at the Disco: With two hit albums and four hit singles under their belt, their oldest member is still only 22. "Nine in the Afternoon" went to Number One in Singapore.
The Killers: Two popular albums is a good place to start. Need about three more, with four or five more hits.
Death Cab for Cutie: "I Will Possess Your Heart" seems poised to run roughshod over the summer. They probably don't need more than a couple of really strong pop hits. Plus, "Crooked Teeth" was really fun.
The Decemberists: They already have a decent catalog, and if they make The Crane Wife three or four more times, they have a shot. They're smart, their politics are impeccable, they have their own sound, and you never know, there may be a bunch of American history grad students among the voters by the time they're eligible.
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away should have been their move into the big time. It wasn't. Back to work, boys.
Maroon 5: They'd seem to be in the same place as the Killers, except I don't think there's much of a future for their warmed-over Jamiroquai. I suspect they've had their last hit.
Melissa Etheridge: Her politics are solid, she's a lovable survivor, she's been making hits for a long time, and the lesbianism won't hurt. She seems to have the kind of reverence for old-time rock & roll that Hall voters respect. Drawback: Her music has never been any good. Sorry, Missy.