Smile Politely

Miley Cyrus’ Awesome Half-Brother

Top five concerts (in no particular order):

Modest Mouse w/ The Walkmen at The Rave in Milwaukee during summer 2004: I was burned multiple times by cigarettes and did not notice.

Wilco w/ Deer Hoof at the Chicago Auditorium Theatre in October 2004: Tickets were free and they played for 90 straight hours.

Broken Social Scene somewhere in London, England in May 2008: I hadn’t slept in 40 hours and I cried/ almost passed out during the encore.

Akron/Family at The Canopy Club sometime during the 2005-2006 school year: I went by myself and they blew my mind.

Kelly Clarkson at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in the summer of 2006: PERFECT.

You may be asking, “Why did you go to a Kelly Clarkson concert?” The answer is because I love her. Three friends and I used the excuse of taking my friend Jim’s little niece, but she only acted as a smokescreen to our real intentions: to have our faces melted by the definitive pop star of our post-reality age. She appeared on the stage as a giant silhouette and then, in a flash of light, a curtain came tumbling down and Clarkson strutted onto the stage with thousands of fans screaming her name. I was unashamed and giving enthusiastic fist pumps.

The Clarkson concert, one of the proudest and maybe most embarrassing moments of my life was preceded by one of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen. Rooney, the band that was known for kind of sounding like The Beatles before The Redwalls came around and redefined the comparison, was opening for Clarkson. A solid two years after their moderately successful self-titled record came out, Rooney was given the privilege to share the stage with one of the biggest recording artists in the world; watching the members on stage and the crowd’s reaction, however, it felt more like a punishment.

The Californian five-piece quickly played through songs like “Blueside” and “Sorry Sorry.” They attempted to get the crowd involved with some group hand claps and singalongs, but as the rain fell onto one of the ugliest outdoor music venues known to man, their attempts failed and the scene turned depressing. Though probably a rewarding and memorable experience, I don’t think fighting to keep the attention of preteen girls is ever the end goal for a musician. Interestingly enough, it seems that Rooney has finally captured the hearts and minds of pop princesses all over the country. The problem is, they aren’t the ones performing their song… Metro Station is.

Metro Station is the hottest new band to have entered mainstream consciousness through the unapologetic use of connections. “Co-frontman” Trace Cyrus is the half-brother of the two-headed pop monster, Hannah Montana-Miley Cyrus. Metro Station’s unique, infectious and 100% shitty synth-pop not only makes you want to dance but also be buried alive. Their hit single “Shake It” sounds suspiciously like the Rooney classic “I’m Shakin’.”

Rooney sings: I’m Shu Shu Shakin’, Sha Shakin’

Metro Station sings: Shake Shake, Shake Shake ah Shake it.

If one pops in your head, the other one is sure to follow. It’s a shame that Trace Cyrus is the one reaping the benefits to a disgustingly catchy hook. I’m not saying Metro Station stole the chorus; I know Metro Station is a band brimming with honor and the two melodies aren’t so similar as to warrant plagiarism. They are similar enough, however, to question why one became a big-time hit and the other floated around in that awkward “not mainstream enough to be successful and not interesting enough to be respected” limbo.

The Miley card obviously played a big part in this, but I also think it was the direction Rooney was coming from when penning the song. They took a lyrical trope of pop music, “shake,” but took it out of the expected context of dancing and placed it in the realm of nervous vulnerability. That’s mistake number one. Unless it’s a ballad like “Lucky” by Britney Spears, no one wants to hear about vulnerability on the radio. If the song’s got a beat, it shouldn’t have a heart. You’re thinking too hard, Rooney! Secondly, the pronoun “I” proved to be detrimental. If it was “You’re Shu Shu Shakin’” it might have worked, but when the singer is shaking and covered in “spit and sweat,” it doesn’t present a great image to the consumer.

Metro Station presented an assertive, edgy vision in their essentially identical product. First, they are either talking about dancing or sexing. That’s something everyone can get behind. Laying in bed, crumpled tissues by your side just isn’t. Secondly, Metro Station is singing a command. “Shake it!” they yell. People like to be told what to do. Go out and buy things! Tell your parents you need to see Hannah Montana in 3-D for a third time in theaters! Shake it, damn it! Lastly, Metro Station wrote a song about falling in love, naked style. Rooney wrote a song about love lost. Once again, great material for a song, but not for a hit singalong single for the Tiger Beat set.

A band really shouldn’t be concerned with making a hit song or selling out stadiums, but Rooney never made the kind of music that was going to fill up clubs or make it on year-end lists. Not that artists should be concerned with that either, it’s just that I think it is fair to say Rooney’s ridiculously polished and manicured sound wasn’t made just to express themselves artistically. They wanted to be superstars. They appeared in “The Princess Diaries” and “The O.C.” With this in mind, and despite how good of a song “Blueside” is, I think Metro Station won. They earned the right to that hook and they worked it. Good for you Trace Cyrus. Good for you.

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