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 is there the artists’ catalogs and cultural impact to compare, but also the entertainment value 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 sizeable 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 TWO, MATCH ONE
Spinal Tap (This is Spinal Tap)
Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem (The Muppet Show)
Enter our tournament’s #1 seed, Spinal Tap, arguably the most iconic Fake Band of all time–a parody of ’80s hair metal that was so good it changed hair metal. But its competition is no slouch either, the iconic Muppets, who trounced Mystik Spyral back in Round One. Which one of these bands will spontaneously combust this round?
Kayleigh: “It’s fucking Spinal Tap” probably isn’t a good enough answer, but really, Spinal Tap is the fake band to fake beat. It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever, and Spinal Tap straddles it effortlessly. (The lyrics for “Sex Farm” alone are so blatantly stupid that they become a very precise kind of genius.) I don’t think I could even name all the members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, but Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, and Derek Smalls are branded onto my brain.
Dom: Spinal Tap is too perfect a pastiche to pass up here. In the annals of fake band history, few felt more plausible, so as much as I love me some Muppets, they’ve gotta lay down here.
Madie: Why would you do this to me? I don’t want to say goodbye to the Muppets just yet, but I don’t have much choice. Spinal Tap just turned it up to 11.
Joe: Gotta go with everyone else here and pick Spinal Tap. They’re a band that both feel real and send up all the best tropes of long-running bands and their own mythologies. I love the Muppets as much as the next non-Dylan Roth guy, but Spinal Tap is probably going to be the killer in this competition.
Julian: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem are really fun, but aside from “Can You Picture That” I can’t name too many other of their songs that really grab me. Spinal Tap are the standard bearers for fictional bands and have a pretty large catalog of great songs (it’s a shame Nigel never finished “Lick My Love Pump”). I’m going with the Tap on this one.
WINNER: Spinal Tap
ROUND TWO, MATCH TWO
The Wonders (That Thing You Do!)
Sex Bob-Omb (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
The Beatlesque one-hit Wonders from Tom Hanks’ directorial debut face off against the no-hit wonders from Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Scott Pilgrim–both are catchy as hell, both are cult classics, but (in their films, anyway), both were born to lose. Who’s got more staying power?
Julian: Well look at that, yet another Beatles pastiche, The Wonders are probably the best of the fake Beatles bands (excluding The Monkees who transcended the “fictional band” label), even though they only have two actual songs. Out of all the songs that all these bands have done, “That Thing You Do” may be the best; it’s definitely one of my favorites. I love Sex Bob-Omb, too, and I have a feeling they will actually take this one, so I’m gonna give a little love to Guy “Shades” Patterson and the rest of The Wonders.
Kayleigh: I remember hearing “That Thing You Do” all the time in my Catholic middle school, probably because it’s only slightly edgier than Pat Boone. It’s catchy, but also so over-polished it feels like it should be sung by a hologram. Sex Bob-Omb’s raw, frenetic energy crushes the competition like a big, sonic Yeti.
Dom: I fucking hate this fucking song and I fucking hate how it was immediately stuck in my head the second I read the words “That Thing You Do.” That Thing They Do! is torment to me, with how toxically catchy this song is. I hate it, I hate you, Tom Hanks, why did you make this movie!? Sex Bob-Omb, save me.
Madie: Hard pass on The Wonders for me. Their little ditty is very catchy, but Sex Bob-Omb’s Beck-esque distorted garage rock is something I just genuinely enjoy rocking out to.
Joe: Ah, man, I actually love
The Oneders The Wonders a lot, and they’ve got a catchy, of-the-intended-era sound that I find very soothing, if a little mindless. But Sex Bob-Omb still has the perfect blend of intentional low-fi garage rock and legit Beck innovation, so they gotta be my pick.
WINNER: Sex Bob-Omb
ROUND TWO, MATCH THREE
Otis “Bad” Blake (Crazy Heart)
Some match-ups in our tournament are like comparing apples and oranges, and some, like this one, are like comparing apples to iPads. These two acts couldn’t have less in common: one’s a country songwriter, the other’s a death metal band; one springs from an Oscar-winning prestige drama, the other inhabits the bizarre Adult Swim animation stable. Save us, Joe.
Joe: I went to a Catholic high school where every boy was socially required to have either a rap phase or a metal phase. I had the latter, so during my years of Tool, Disturbed, Iron Maiden and System of a Down, Dethklok was a joke band I was uniquely suited to understand and enjoy. Their songs are great gags and also technically impressive, and honestly they hold up a lot better than some of the crap I listened to back then. Dethklok all the way.
Julian: I’m torn with this one, but mostly about which one I’m more indifferent to. Death metal’s not really my bag, and while I appreciate the parody, the music doesn’t do much for me. Bad Blake’s song won an Oscar, so I guess there’s no real arguing against that.
Kayleigh: If The Wonders are Catholic middle schoolers, then Dethklok is the greasy-haired guy who smelled like patchouli oil in your freshman dorm. Torn between two genres of music I don’t really like, I’ll roll with Dethklok because it’s something I can actually move to, while the only activity Bad Blake inspires is hitting the skip button on my iPod.
Dom: Dethklok is one of the few bands anywhere in this bracket that I can comfortably say I’ve spent real time listening to for leisure outside of the source material. They function well as comedy, because they take everything about death metal and push to it hilarious boundaries, but they legitimately rock at the same time. Jeff Bridges just can’t compete here. Better luck next time, Dude.
Madie: Dethklok shreds the face off the clean, sweet sadness that is Otis “Bad” Blake. Both of these are great in their respective genre, so it mostly comes down to whether you would rather bleed from your ear drums while whipping your hair into a frenzy, or stare longingly into a glass of cheap whiskey in an empty bar. I’m not much of a whiskey person.
ROUND TWO, MATCH FOUR
The Dreams/Dreamettes (Dreamgirls)
Brian Slade (Velvet Goldmine)
It’s Not Bowie vs. Not The Supremes! John Rhys-Meyers vs. Jennifer Hudson and freaking Beyoncé! Both acts do a great job reproducing what made the originals great, but which of these pseudo-biopic stars has what it takes to move on to the next round?
Madie: They both nail the feelings of the original bands they reference, but when it comes to vocal powerhouses, the Dreams have two major heavy hitters. Even though you know it’s put on, you can’t help but fall for their glamour and earnest polish. In the words of Effie, I’m staying and you’re gonna love me!
Joe: Having Beyonce in the mix is almost unfair, but even beyond that, the Dreams are just a better act. Gotta go with them.
Julian: Fake Bowie can’t really compete with a Supremes-style girl group that features Jennifer Hudson AND Beyonce.
Kayleigh: Ah, now it’s getting tough. Despite my predilection for glam rock, and my wish for more fictional bands with LGBTQ rep, Brian Slade is not strong enough to beat Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning performance. These Dreams don’t die.
Dom: Due to a lemon flavored blood oath I recently took at the Tidal headquarters, I am bound by the federal authority of the Beygency to side with Dreamgirls here. Also, while the music from Velvet Goldmine is great for the film, the music from Dreamgirls is legit for all seasons.
Winner: The Dreams/Dreamettes
Infant Sorrow/Aldous Snow (Get Him To The Greek/Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
Alright, let’s get loud, let’s get cheesy, let’s get glitzy! The survivors of our last-minute wild card round, Infant Sorrow, are up against what’s basically the goofy web cartoon version of themselves–or at least, they’re parodying the same thing. Who wore it best, Dom?
Dom: I can comfortably say I don’t like or care much for either of these fictional acts, but I’ll always have a little sliver of real estate in my heart for all things Homestar, so Limozeen gets the edge here.
Madie: Like I said last round, I actually listen to Infant Sorrow on the reg, so as fun as Limozeen is, they’re not my top choice. There’s something so weirdly charismatic and gross about Russell Brand’s almost self-parody as Aldous Snow. Those British motherfuckers never die!
Joe: This one is too close for me! I think Infant Sorrow is maybe a little more insightful of a parody, and Aldous Snow’s songs are definitely more real. But I just have a lot of weird stupid affection for Limozeen and their place in Strong Bad’s heart. Bleh. I generally go with my heart on these, but I have to go with my head, and pick Infant Sorrow, the more clever and listenable band.
Julian: I don’t think Limozeen should’ve even made it past the first round. No offense to The Brothers Chaps, I love Homestar Runner and Co., but musically, Limozeen is pretty one-dimensional (It’s another story when you take into account the TV show and other elements of the band). Infant Sorrow, on the other-hand has songs that I would actually listen to outside of this exercise. They sit somewhere on the spectrum between the mock-sexuality and masculinity of The Darkness, and the savvy of Oasis. Infant Sorrow gets my vote.
Kayleigh: Spinal Tap’s appearance in Round Two only makes it more apparent just how many fictional bands follow in their footsteps (and presumably also get lost backstage). Limozeen takes aim at the ridiculous spectacle of ’80s metal, while Infant Sorrow is a caricature of rock star sexuality with songs like “Furry Walls” and “The Clap.” (But really, if you’re not going to go full “Lick My Love Pump,” then go home.) Both bands are firmly C-list, but with apologies to the Aldous Snow Cinematic Universe, I like Limozeen a smidge better.
Winner: Infant Sorrow