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 THREE, MATCH ONE
Spinal Tap (This is Spinal Tap)
Sex Bob-Omb (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
It’s the battle of the lovable idiots! The broke-ass 2000s garage rockers vs. the tragically confused 80s hair metal icons! Which of these two legends will find their way to the stage this week, and which will be bursting into flame/coins?
Dom: Spinal Tap is such an iconic entry into the cock rock pantheon, despite being fictitious. But what Sex Bob-Omb lacks in gravitas it more than picks up in charm and heart. In some ways, they feel more real just because we had six graphic novels and a feature film with them. I love a plucky underdog, so I’m giving it to Scott Pilgrim and the gang.
Madie: It’s got to be Sex Bob-Omb for me. Spinal Tap is iconic, yes, but they are also a parody band. I think musical taste and talent hold more value for me than rock mockumentary pastiche. Sex-Bob-omb is fictitious, but I have always wanted them to exist IRL just so that I could get more of the sweet sound.
Joe: This one is tough! From pure listenability, I’d be inclined towards the garage rock sounds of Sex Bob-Omb, but Spinal Tap is such a realized concept, such a funny, believable in its own way band, that it’s a close call. Maybe it’s just my affinity for the movie, but I feel Sex Bob-Omb just barely edges Spinal Tap out.
Julian: This could go either way for me, both of these bands are great. Spinal Tap is a great parody of hard rock and early hair metal bands where the songs aren’t over-the-top about their parody-ness and are actually fun and good; hell, they gave us an ode to big butts before it was even cool for white people to like big butts. Sex Bob-Om managed to find a pretty unique sound for their garage rock and use it to make some pretty kick-ass tunes. I literally can’t decide, so I flipped a coin and it came up Spinal Tap, so there you have it.
Kayleigh: Shit is getting real, ya’ll. This is Spinal Tap is virtually untouchable, but Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is very close to my comic book-loving heart. This is like choosing between a beloved Stonehenge-dwelling uncle and a blue-haired best friend. But then I had the thought, “Sex Bob-Omb isn’t even the best band in their own movie” so the real winner is The Clash at Demonhead, but also Spinal Tap.
WINNER: Sex Bob-Omb
ROUND THREE, MATCH TWO
The Dreams/Dreamettes (Dreamgirls)
It wouldn’t be an installment of Real Songs, Fake Bands without a complete stylistic mismatch. Motown Soul vs. Death Metal! OOoohhh, what a country, what a time to be alive!
Kayleigh: Is it okay to admit I think Dethklok is kind of gross? As a concept, Metalocalypse is executed (heh) very well, but too many exploding heads and piles of viscera for my taste.The Dreams have unquestionably the two best singers in the competition, and no concept is high enough for Dethklok to take down Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson.
Dom: I’m something of a lapsed metal head. As a baby, my mother used to put me to sleep with episodes of Headbanger’s Ball. And I LOVE Dethklok. I just can’t publicly put them above Beyoncé. Not even Beyoncé playing a fake character. If this was Dethklok vs Carmen: A Hip Hopera, I’d have to vote the same way. Dreamgirls win.
Madie: A Beyonce/Hudson team is like drinking wine versus drinking sangria… hear me out. Wine is like ok, but when you add the liquor to it and delicious fruit juices, it packs an insanely powerful punch. Dethklok is fun, don’t get me wrong, and I think their longevity as a parody band definitely counts for something, but YOU DO NOT DISS QUEEN BEY. Dream on!
Joe: I gotta go with Dethklok on this one. The Dreams are great but Dethklok are such a clever, gory-yet-affectionate parody of that particular strain of metal that I’d feel disloyal to my black T-shirt teen years if I voted any other way.
Julian: This is the easiest decision of the round for me. I don’t really watch Metalocalypse; from what I have seen of it, the humor seems right up my alley, but I can’t get past the music. It’s just not the type of music I like (and I DO like some metal genres) – as a result, most of the parody elements get lost on me. Motown-style girl group pop is a genre much more agreeable to me, and with two mega-stars Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson, this is effectively a supergroup. No contest for me, it’s The Dreams, baby!
WINNER: The Dreams/Dreamettes
ROUND THREE, MATCH THREE
Josie & the Pussycats (Josie & the Pussycats)
Dewey Cox (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story)
Now, for the unenviable task of eliminating either one legendary fake band with a real-world history spanning 40 years, or one legendary fake artist whose single film conquers a half-century’s worth of musical styles.
Julian: Wow, another tough one! This could almost come down to a coin flip too, but I’ll try to avoid that. Everything about Dewey Cox is pastiche: his movie is the ultimate mock on music biopics, his life story is a parody of the drug-addled, promiscuous lives of many famous musicians, and his songs are dead-on pastiches of the styles of a number of artists, including Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Brian Williams, and others. I don’t mean to say that since it’s all parody, it’s not good; it’s very, very good, but in a competition this close, I gotta have something to nitpick. Both iterations of the Pussycats, the 70s and the 2000s, have great original songs—and I think that’s a very impressive feat (one that wasn’t achieved by a certain other fake band on this list). I’m going with the girls wearing long tails and ears for hats.
Kayleigh: Dewey Cox may be a hilarious parody of famous musicians and ridiculous celebrity excess, but tell me, did Dewey Cox ever get accidentally blasted into space and befriend an ungodly alien piece of cat vomit named Bleep? No? Then get out of my sight.
Dom: Josie and the Pussycats are great, but Julian’s right. Dewey Cox and the entirety of Walk Hard doesn’t quite get the credit it deserves, so at the very least, we can give them the upper hand in our bracketing.
Madie: I was brainwashed in my childhood. I think Walk Hard was a great movie and the range and cleverness of the parody could not have been pulled off without John C. Reilly’s vocal talents. But to me, what makes a great fictional band is your belief/desire for them to be a real band. Josie and the Pussycats is the middle school crush I never quite got over.
Joe: As much as it pains me to do it, I have to go with Dewey Cox. It’s true, Josie and the Pussycats are one of the top fictional band franchises. But Walk Hard features such a wide array of funny, insightful parodies through the music of Dewey Cox that it’s the clear choice for me.
WINNER: Josie & the Pussycats
ROUND THREE, MATCH FOUR
Jem & The Holograms (Jem & the Holograms)
Hedwig & the Angry Inch (Hedwig & the Angry Inch)
Jem & the Holograms is the hometown favorite, but Hedwig & the Angry Inch is no slouch. Can they pull off an upset here in Round Three?
Joe: With this match, I’ve gotta go with the long-running powerhouse. We’re reaching the stage in the tournament where I can see a lot of good arguments for both picks, but both the fun catchiness and the continuing influence of Jem & The Holograms cannot be denied.
Julian: I came into this bracket knowing nothing about either of these two bands. The first Hedwig songs I heard were a little too musical-y for me, but after some digging, found some songs that really kick-ass. Jem & The Holograms right off the bat had some fun tunes, but most of them that I’ve heard kind of blend together and don’t really stand out. I’m also not a huge fan of Jem’s voice, there are times when I’ll notice it sound a little flat; it could’ve benefited from pitch-correction software, but that, unfortunately, wasn’t around until the late 90’s. I’m truly, truly sorry, Dom, but I gotta go with Hedwig & the Angry Inch here.
Kayleigh: Like Oceania and Eastasia, Holograms have always been at war with Misfits. Hedwig is pretty powerful, but hell, Jem somehow got the words “making love” into a 1986 Hasbro cartoon, so her star power is unparalleled. Have to give this one to my pink-haired pop princess.
Dom: It’s really gonna suck if Jem loses this tournament somehow and I have to ride away from Deadshirt on a horse like Shane at the end of the movie Shane.Where do I begin? There’s “Only The Beginning”, a boisterous come on that should have scored the trailer for the misguided 2015 film adaptation. You’ve got “I’ve Got My Eye On You”, a song so incredible the show used it on three separate occasions, each more infectious than the last. You can’t listen to “The Real Me” and tell me it’s not better than 70% of the current Spotify charts. If nothing else will convince you, play “Music Is Magic” and wait for the soul piercing vocal crescendo at the 1:04 mark. Jem’s got jams for days! THE HITS KEEP COMING AND THEY DON’T STOP COMING. Jem 5eva.
Madie: I feel like Dom might go around avenging Jem Kill-Bill style if they lose, but genderqueer punk rock is definitely more my jam.
WINNER: Jem & the Holograms (The Wrath of Dom is delayed at least one more week.)