Thursday, July 13, 2006

Anti-Smoosh

Smoosh is the name of a Seattle-based "girl group" featuring two sisters ages 12 and 14. They are getting lots of media hype. (More here.)

Are they the female Second Coming of Hanson? Or ... could it be something else?

Notice a political slogan in this publicity photo?

They're the Bubble Gum Moonbats.
Pre-Teen Dixie Chicks.
Anti-American Top 40.
Adorable Dhimmis.
Middle School Cindy Sheehans.

Don't buy it. Don't let your kids buy it.

* UPDATE 7/13 *
Some Smoosh fans have been upset by this posting. But who was it that decided that Smoosh should inject politics into its act, via the anti-Bush button prominently displayed in the publicity photo? It's a free country, but why would Asya (or Chloe, since I can't tell them apart) wish to alienate the 51% of American voters who backed Bush in 2004?

If Smoosh is free to be anti-Bush, are we not equally free to be anti-Smoosh? More to the point: Are we not free to resent vulgar political sloganeering from a couple of middle-school musicians?

Actually, I like Smoosh's music. I also like Green Day, purely as music. But the trend of entertainers intruding fashionable left-wing politics into their acts -- actors who lecture us about global warming, guitarists hectoring us about foreign policy -- does not promote unity in a nation so deeply divided between Red and Blue. (As Laura Ingraham puts it: Shut Up and Sing.)

In Seattle (where the corrupt King County Democratic machine stole the governorship for Her Fraudulency, Christine Gregoire), I suppose it's considered cute for an adolescent pop star to sport a "NO BUSHIT" button in a publicity photo. But, in case the parents of Asya and Chloe didn't notice, John Kerry is not president, and such cheap partisan posturing will have the effect of reducing Smoosh's potential audience by half.

Or, as our good Marine buddy Cpl. Josh Belile might put it:
"Durka durka, Muhammed jihad!"

* * * * *
LOL! The Kossacks go Smooshie:
With all that is happening in your country and the world why would a Right Wing Blogger go after 12 and 14 year old sisters?
Good question. Another good question: What kind of parents would allow their daughter to pose for a publicity photo while wearing a "NO BUSHIT" button?

* * * * *
Crunchy Con Smoosh-ophile Clark Stooksbury thinks I'm attacking his patriotism.

Mr. Stooksbury, I'm not saying that the Smoosh girls don't have a right to hold negative opinions of Bush -- since I myself have expressed such opinions vis a vis The Amnesty That Dare Not Speak Its Name, among other issues, including NCLB. But such policy-specific criticism is not what a "NO BUSHIT" button is about.

It's one thing when Neil "I'm Still Canadian" Young makes himself obnoxious via crude political posturing, or when a propagandist like Michael Moore starts retailing conspiracy theories. They're grown men, and are at least responsible for their own idiocy.

But Asya and Chloe aren't even old enough to sign a contract without parental permission. Some adult -- parents, publicist, manager, record executive -- must have thought, "Hey, a 'NO BUSHIT' button -- great idea!" So these girls, whose youthful cuteness helped them gain an audience as musical performers, are thus made an advertising vehicle for political messages. It's a bait-and-switch.

What next? Will Smoosh hire Jerome Armstrong as a consultant?

* * * * *
Notice the completely uncritical "oh my gosh aren't they wonderful" tone of this CBS News feature. That seismic tremor you feel is caused by Edward R. Murrow rolling in his grave.
* * * * *
Critic's corner

You can download a video of Smoosh's latest song, and see what technology makes possible in the 21st-century music industry.

Myself a singer-guitarist-songwriter of some experience, I am friends with some real musicians. I gave up my music career ambitions in the late '80s, just a few years before affordable, high-quality home digital recording became widely available. What has struck me about the trend of the past 15-20 years is a steady decline in pop songcraft and musicianship: vague lyrics, badly rhymed; guitarists slogging out power chords rather than picking riffs and leads; vocalists who whine or shout rather than sing.

As much as I got bored with the "album rock" sound of the mid-'70s -- what a relief when the Ramones and Elvis Costello appeared on the scene! -- in retrospect it must be admitted that groups like Bad Company, Steely Dan, Styx, and Foreigner (to name but a few) represented something of a zenith of pure musicianship in rock. They could play their instruments.

Not to knock the Smoosh girls (as musicians), but you see how the advance of technology has elevated amateurism. They are the musical equivalent of a TV "reality show": the fact that the performers are not professionals, that they have not paid their dues, is the raison d'etre of the act. Their untutored youthful earnestness is presented as authenticity. They are "real people."

This is where technology has a cultural impact: Smoosh is now in the big leagues of show biz because, unlike 30 years ago, one doesn't need to spend years playing cover tunes in honky-tonks and gin joints, then rent a recording studio, cut a demo, land a recording contract and score radio play in order to reach a mass audience. (Go back and listen to Skynyrd's early Muscle Shoals sessions and realize that in 1972, this popular club band couldn't even get a contract with those professional-quality demos, which included songs like "Freebird" and "Gimme Three Steps" that later became classics.)

Now it goes like this: Buy some digital recording gear, cut a CD in your basement -- the "studio" time is effectively free, so you can overdub and retake infinitely -- and put it up on the Web. Then do your own video and put that online. You can become tomorrow's "next big thing," even if you're just a couple of middle-schoolers.

This is where Smoosh is definitely unlike Hanson. Before they became suddenly famous, the home-schooled Hanson brothers had spent years listening to and attempting to imitate the old classics in their dad's record collection. For all its bubble-gum pop silliness, "Mm-Bop" had discernible roots: Those kids had obviously listened to a lot of Motown and early Beatles. Smoosh's music seems to reflect no influences that predate the MTV rotation of recent years.

Ask yourself how Smoosh compares to earlier pop prodigies. Do they hold a candle to 12-year-old Stevie Wonder?

My 13-year-old twins have a garage band. I've helped them just a little. Among other things, I helped them learn the chord progression to Green Day's "Holiday." But I've resisted the urge to meddle or to give them too much fond encouragement. If they're ever really going to be any good, they need to figure things out for themselves. They need to struggle and stumble and pay some dues. They'll either quit or stick with it, but whatever they do, they'll have to do it on their own.

Pushing a couple of half-trained musicians into the glare of the national spotlight, before they're even old enough to play in a nightclub? You can say it's cute. I call it crazy.

-- McCAIN