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 FOUR, MATCH ONE
Sex Bob-Omb (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
The Dreams/Dreamettes (Dreamgirls)
Sex Bob-Omb are losers. They have no fans, they have no luck, hell, they can barely even play their instruments. But here they are, in the Final Four of the Fake Bands bracket. The Dreams/Dreamettes, on the other hand, are born winners, a tribute to the legendary Supremes starring Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson and real-life goddess Beyoncé. And yet, this may be the toughest competition they could have faced in this entire bracket. Who will survive?
Madie: When compared to the grit and punchy energy of Sex Bob-omb, even the vocal powerhouses that dominate the Dreams/Dreamettes tend to feel pretty safe. Too safe. The scrappy garage band deserved to make it this far, and I’m giving them a one-up to make it to the finals.
Joe: It’s a close one for sure, but I gotta go with Sex Bob-Omb here. Dreamettes are great in context, and I’d never besmirch the talent involved, but Sex Bob-Omb just resonates harder with me. It’s amazing that Beck was able to capture the sound and vibe of a band from a comic book so well, and we’re better for it.
Julian: I fear this one might be more of a blowout than it should be. Surely, when you have a group made up of Jennifer Hudson and freaking Beyonce, no other band should stand in their way; but I think Sex Bob-Omb has a real chance of winning it. To me, it all comes down to the songs. After I saw Dreamgirls (the movie) I thought the performances were all great, but I couldn’t remember the melody to a song for the life of me, and wasn’t rushing out to buy the soundtrack. Scott Pilgrim, on the other-hand, blew my mind, I went out and bought the soundtrack the next day and talked with my bandmates at the time about wanting to write songs like the ones in the movie (we eventually would, kinda). Of course, this is all a matter of taste, but in my mind, the Sex Bob-Omb songs have a garage rock energy and immediacy to them that propels them ahead of the polished, safe (by today’s standards) songs of The Dreamettes.
Kayleigh: Contributing to the Battle of the Fake Bands has been way more challenging than I expected, perhaps because the reasons for picking one band over another can feel so personal, or so arbitrary. As I’ve argued before, The Dreams/Dreamettes have the most talented singers in the game, but Dreamgirls isn’t a particularly great movie, and Broadway torch songs, even the incredible “And I’m Telling You,” aren’t really my speed. I don’t usually listen to a lot of Beck either, but Sex Bob-Omb is a bright, infectious pick-me-up, and it’s from one of my favorite comic book movie adaptations, so for me the dream ends here.
Dom: At this late stage in the bracket, I think it’s probably safe to align myself with Sex Bob-Omb and acknowledge that outside of “And I’m Telling You”, I don’t much care for the music from Dreamgirls. I don’t want to do this to Beyoncé, but the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack is just far more important to me. That fascinating milieu of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s favorite music, with influences like Sloan and Thrush Hermit just speaks to me on a deeper level.
WINNER: Sex Bob-Omb
ROUND FOUR, MATCH TWO
Josie & The Pussycats (Josie and the Pussycats)
Jem & The Holograms (Jem)
We probably should have always known this matchup was inevitable. Stars of comics, film, and television, these two fictional bands each have strong support within the Deadshirt panel. Had the bracket been lined up differently, this easily could have been the title match, but only one can move on to the Big Show. Which will it be?
Dom: Instead of typing anything here, can I just pull up my shirt to reveal the massive Jerrica Benton tattoo emblazoned on my stomach? I don’t have one there (yet), but I easily could and would feel less than no shame about such a permanent monument to my never-ending love for all things Jem. Josie & The Pussycats obviously wield a little more pop cultural cache, but more well known doesn’t always mean better. Here it certainly doesn’t. Jem & The Holograms are just a far more versatile, powerful fictional act.
Madie: Josie and the Pussycats are so much fun and a big part of my formative music years. I can’t say I have strong feelings about Jem one way or another, but I know that I spent a lot of time wearing cat ears and jamming out to the infectious sugar punk of Josie, Mel, and Val as a teenager. These kitties get my vote once more.
Joe: I like both of the groups, and it’s an interesting match-up due to how superficially similar the two are. I’m a fan of both sounds, but Jem has a vitality to it that I have to credit. Josie is maybe the more accessible of the two, with a wider range of media, and I love their sound. But while it’s a tight race, Jem has a specificity and verve to it that clinches the win.
Julian: Jem is preeetty good, but I don’t think her and her Holograms stack up to Josie and the Pussycats. The main reasons are the same ones I didn’t vote for her over Hedwig and the Angry Inch last round: her voice is weak, sometimes even going out of tune, and the songs often blend together. That’s not to say Jem doesn’t have good ones, too; “Truly Outrageous” is a jam and “I’ve Got My Eye On You” is pretty catchy, but you can detect some cracks even in those. Josie and the Pussycats, both old and new, have the chops, that Jem and the Holograms, both old and new, just don’t.
Kayleigh: So, the two cartoon girl-groups finally meet. If this was a competition between their live-action films, Josie and the Pussycats would win easily, as their movie is a sugar rush of teenage dreams and joy, while the Jem and the Holograms movie is an abomination for which there can be no atonement. But this is about more than their movies. As much affection as I have for Josie, a lifetime love of Jem is hard to compete with–I’m talking childhood Halloween costumes, two doll lines, and a stack of new comic books–and I don’t think Josie’s songs, aside from her classic cartoon theme, are memorable or impressive enough to take her to the top. Jem’s music, on the other hand? “Deception” is my favorite song about your boyfriend cheating on you with your holographic secret identity, ever. Jem just gets me, man.
WINNER: Jem & The Holograms