With the June release of The Lonely Island and Judd Apatow film Popstar: Never Stop Stopping, the Deadshirt crew decided to take some of our favorite fictional bands and artists and pit them head-to-head, college basketball style. There’s a wealth of great music that’s come out of characters from film and television, but there can only be one champion, and it’s up to our panel of Deadshirt writers—Julian Ames, Madie Coe, Dominic Griffin,Kayleigh Hearn, and Joe Stando—to determine the winner!
Judging a contest like this is complicated, as there are even more factors to consider here than when comparing real-life bands. Not only are there the artists’ catalogs and cultural impact to compare, but also the entertainment value of the characters and source material. To make this job a little easier, we pared down our list to only artists with original songs. Sadly, this disqualified some popular faves such as The Blues Brothers, Wyld Stallyns, and The Soggy Bottom Boys, but among the sizable talent pool are cultural icons, rising stars, classic cartoons, and a pack of perpetually stoned Muppets.
Make sure you place your bets and start your office pools now.
ROUND ONE, MATCH FIVE
The Be-Sharps (The Simpsons)
Stillwater (Almost Famous)
These two groups couldn’t be more different—one is a high-voltage Allman Brothers-style rock outfit, with songs penned by Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson. The other is a barbershop quartet led by Homer Simpson, whose unlikely rise to fame is the subject of a single memorable episode of The Simpsons. Did either of these acts move the needle for you, Kayleigh?
Kayleigh: Here’s the thing: while the Be-Sharps work fantastically in-episode as a parody of The Beatles, barbershop music fucking sucks. Stillwater almost wins by default, but they genuinely nail it as the kind of ’70s basement rock a teenage boy in a Cameron Crowe film would listen to alone in his room with satellite dish-sized headphones.
Dom: The thing about Stillwater, outside of how great Almost Famous is as a movie about rock music, is that they’re super listenable on their own. You can play “Fever Dog” for someone who’s never seen the film and is somewhat knowledgable about that era of music, and they would probably assume it’s just an obscure act from that period. I’m seconding Kayleigh here, as well. Barbershop music is really only good for parody.
Madie: Stillwater genuinely rocks. No comparison here.
Joe: Gotta go with everyone else on this one. Be-Sharps is a good gag but Stillwater is a good band.
Julian: I remember talking about The Be-Sharps with someone else and wondering, out of all the ways to go with it, why barbershop? Was there an actual barbershop craze in the early Eighties, or was it just a zany joke made up by the writers? Would it be the bizarre swing dance craze of the Nineties if it were done today? Anyway, the song is pretty fun and catchy, but as a band, the barbershop shtick wears thin after a while, whereas the Allman Bros./Led Zeppelin thing that Stillwater has going on is timeless.
ROUND ONE, MATCH SIX
The Rutles (Rutland Weekend Television/All You Need Is Cash)
The Beets (Doug)
Battle of the fake global sensations! The Rutles are an affectionate parody of The Beatles featuring Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who basically shot a fake Beatles Anthology before the actual Anthology came out. The Beets, while their name also evokes the Fab Four, really channel Sandinista!!!-era The Clash, and is the musical obsession of Doug Funnie and company in the classic Nicktoon.
Julian: I hadn’t heard of The Rutles until making this poll. They’re fine. I think with The Beatles becoming the most influential band ever, the parody element feels dated and these songs are just mediocre. I did grow up with The Beets, so this may be a nostalgia vote, but this Beatles parody, where the songs are geared to all adolescent problems except love, feels a bit more fun.
Kayleigh: Speaking of Beatles parodies! “Hold My Hand” is a tepid take on the Fab Four’s Please Please Me era, and feels like a missed opportunity to poke fun at Lennon and McCartney’s early, squeaky-clean songwriting. When I saw Doug was on the list I totally thought this was going to be the song from that episode where Doug has a garage band and wears a big David Byrne suit. Not so! “Killer Tofu” is cute enough for an early ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon song.
Dom: This is my first time experiencing The Rutles, but it’s been twenty years since the first time I heard “Killer Tofu” and that shit still bangs, so, score one for The Beets.
Madie: “Killer Tofu” is extremely catchy, whereas the The Rutles are nearly impossible to distinguish from the actual Beatles to the point where one could argue they’re almost more of a cover band. Extremely close match here, but I’m giving my vote to The Beets.
Joe: The Rutles are fine enough, but the thing I like about The Beets is that despite being a Beatles parody, they have a distinct and listenable sound that draws from other sources. Exact recreation of the target of your parody provides a clear message, but The Beets edge The Rutles out in terms of real sound and listenability.
WINNER: The Beets
ROUND ONE, MATCH SEVEN
Conner4Real (Popstar: Never Stop Stopping)
Mitch & Mickey (A Mighty Wind)
In the most bizarre matchup of the first round, adorable granola-flavored acoustic folk duo Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy & Catherine O’Hara) go head to head with the raunchy pop/hip-hop stylings of manchild Conner4Real (Andy Samberg). It’s sweet harmonies vs. sick beats. Will the rookie from The Lonely Island advance to the next round? Or will this be the first win for a Christopher Guest film in our tournament? To begin to get our answer, we head to Old Joe’s Place…
Joe: Oh man, this is rough. I haven’t seen Popstar yet but it looks great, like the second coming of Walk Hard. Appropriately enough, Conner4Real feels both funny and believable in his own way as a modern pop performer. Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts know how to make a good joke with a good beat.
BUT I’m a huge stan for Christopher Guest in general and his magnum opus, A Mighty Wind, specifically. Mitch & Mickey provide the emotional core to that film, and their music carries a lot of that load. Their songs are less broad and more subtle than the other two fictional acts in the movie, and it pays off. I gotta go with them.
Julian: I’m pretty torn on this one; both choices are very good. The Lonely Island, and by extension Conner4Real, make really catchy hip-hop leaning pop tunes that are typically very funny. The problem I have is that the jokes get old quickly and behind them there isn’t really much. The Lonely Island rely heavily on their featured artist, often an actual artist, to do much of the work of making the song catchy. I guess I’m nitpicking, but I was way more impressed by the talents of Eugene Levy & Catherine O’Hara as Mitch & Mickey, so they get my vote.
Kayleigh: As much as I enjoy Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island (Adam Levine, less so), I know this Conner4Real track isn’t their funniest or earworm-iest song. Mitch & Mickey are a pleasant surprise, giving us a song that is sincerely sweet, warm, and romantic. Who knew the dad from that movie where a kid fucked a pie had it in him?
Dom: I’m normally very lukewarm on anything Christopher Guest related, but this Conner4Real song is pretty minor in the catalogue of Lonely Island parody music, so I’m giving my vote to the dad from American Pie and the mom from Beetlejuice.
Madie: Does Conner4Real get the street credit from Lonely Island’s catalogue? I don’t care, I’m enjoying this way too much anyway. Samberg’s alter ego gets my vote, because I want to see where he goes in this competition, although I really enjoyed Mitch & Mickey and was pleasantly surprised by Eugene Levy’s vocal chops.
WINNER: Mitch & Mickey
ROUND ONE, MATCH EIGHT
School of Rock (School of Rock)
More like Battle of the HAMS, amirite? It’s time for a match-up between two high voltage rock outfits that each sprung from the imagination of an emotionally stunted one-time wrestleman. Strong Bad’s favorite glam metal band Limozeen goes up against School of Rock, a band assembled out of middle schoolers by lovable loser Dewey Finn (Jack Black, the one-time Nacho Libre). Who’s got the heart of a lion, and who’s getting schooled?
Madie: Those kids are great, but I strongly dislike Jack Black. As an individual. Plus, I am a tacky person and also a sucker for hair metal. Let’s bring the metal back to where it belongs.
Joe: I like School of Rock, as a band and as a film, quite a bit. I saw it multiple times in theaters, if I remember correctly. But I have to go with Limozeen here. They’re such a perfect, affectionate parody of the genre, and their DIY skit aesthetic is very charming in a way a lot of other bigger budget gags can’t match. In a different matchup, I’d have School of Rock going pretty far, but Limozeen is a showstopper for me, at least this week.
Julian: Limozeen are really good; they do a great pastiche of ’80s hair metal, and they rock pretty hard, but School of Rock is better. They may only have one original song (to Limozeen’s two) but tell me you can listen to “Zach’s Song” and not bob your head, tap your feet, or sing along to the “ooh la la la’s.” School of Rock gets my vote; and to all the hair metal fans like Madie, don’t worry, we have a band later in the tournament that does it even better than Limozeen.
Kayleigh: School of Rock is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical now? I guess? The kids are cute but I can’t muster a bigger reaction to this song than “Jack Black’s doing an Angus Young thing, I guess.” (Can you guess which two words sum up my feelings for this movie?) Limozeen nails the preening vapidity of hair metal and is pretty funny, too.
Dom: It’s not that the music from School of Rock is necessarily leagues better, but maybe the nostalgia of Jack Black teaching a bunch of kids to love themselves through the power of rock and roll elevates the material. The heart that went into it wins out.
ROUND ONE, MATCH NINE
Infant Sorrow/Aldous Snow (Get Him To The Greek/Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
While writing the first half of Round One, the team realized that there were a couple of important omissions in the bracket, so we decided to squeeze in this Wild Card match featuring animated country act Cherlene and glam goofballs Infant Sorrow, led by Russel Brand’s character from two Nicholas Stoller films.
Dom: I missed the season of Archer where Cherlene became a thing, but this is harmless enough. Impossible to listen to Infant Sorrow without thinking about how irritating Russell Brand can be. I’d love to be able to love that guy, but Jesus Christ. Cartoon country for the win.
Madie: Why, oh, why did I have to pick between these two this early? Despite trying to escape my boonie roots, watching Nashville definitely turned me onto country (or faux country), and I think Cherlene’s number-one-selling country album from Archer Vice is also in line with that feeling of experiencing something really good. Plus, the one cover song on the album is a cover of a Kenny Loggins song with Kenny Loggins on it, and that does some interesting things musically. However, with Infant Sorrow we get sex, drugs, and rock & roll and the weird, hedonistic ego that is Aldous Snow. The lyrical twists are clever, and I just enjoy listening to them. Both of these fictional bands’ soundtracks make it onto my regular listening playlists, but Infant Sorrow has got the clap and can’t be beat. Sorry, not sorry, Cheryl Tunt.
Joe: I’m pretty torn on this one, because while I think the Get Him to the Greek soundtrack is some of the best modern pop parody of the past twenty years, Infant Sorrow is among the weaker acts. I wasn’t familiar with Cherlene prior to this and it’s pretty clever, but it didn’t wow me. All in all, I have to go with Aldous Snow, even if he’s no Chocolate Daddy or Jumbo Shrimp.
Julian: I like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, T. Rex and Elvis Costello, so it’s a given I’m going to like Aldous Snow and his group Infant Sorrow and their brand of glam influenced britpop. This one might just be a matter of taste; Cherlene is really good country, and it’s not the pop country stuff that everybody makes fun of, but I personally like Infant Sorrow just a little bit more.
Kayleigh: Remember when Russell Brand was going to be the Next Big Thing? Dude always looked the part of the sweaty, crowbar-thin rock star, but “The Clap” is a one-joke song, and I’d rather be listening to The Darkness. Like Mitch & Mickey, Cherlene is an interesting example of a fake band that is a genuinely good, well-produced piece of music despite being from a comedy. Close your eyes, and you’d never guess this was from a cartoon spy show.
WINNER: Infant Sorrow
Come back next week for the start of Round 2, where we introduce some heavy hitters, including a trio of feline-inspired rockers, and death metal megastars. Read Round 1 Part 1 Here