CHARGE AGAINST: The dumbest pop act in America.
CASE FILES: There was a time when the BEP were conscious rappers riding the major-label backpack bubble. But after releasing two albums of benign feel-good rap, the group added Fergie to the mix and started chasing a mainstream audience with increasingly mindless pop-hop. How mindless? Their song titles could double as a fourth grader's dis list: "Let's Get Retarded," "My Humps," "Boom Boom Pow." They started dressing like actual clowns and dancing awkwardly practically everywhere — every awards show, every sporting event, every commercial on TV — fueling their reputation as the ultimate sell-outs. Will.i.am seemed to relish being annoying: appearing as a hologram on CNN, painting himself black for a VMAs performance, wearing a tiny slice of metal as a hat, and spewing a ridiculous theory about music only being successful when it's "put out on circles."
THE DEFENSE: Will.i.am actually has a master plan: engineering music to appeal to the most people on the planet. The Peas have extraordinary international appeal, largely because their nonsensical lyrics mean nothing not just in English, but in every language. Plus, Will was hip to dance music way before it permeated every song on Top 40 radio. This is music for the masses. Turn it up. C.G.
CHARGE AGAINST: Kindergarten frat party.
CASE FILES: In October of last year, Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell attempted to eat 24 eggs, prepared by his good pal Guy Fieri, at a Johnny Garlic's restaurant in a Dublin, California strip mall: And thus concludes the Smash-Mouthiest sentence ever typed. Yes, the stunt in question was for a pediatric cancer charity, but this is as succinct a summation of the band's frosted-tips, wallet-chain appeal as anything a sniveling critic could conjure. Smash Mouth's breakthrough was 1997's ska-punk butt-nugget Fush Yu Mang — say it slowly, man — and its ubiquitous, organ-driven lunkhead anthem "Walkin' on the Sun." But the success of 1999's "All Star" as a movie-trailer and arena mainstay has kept the band on the shelves long past their expiration date, as they discovered the formula for coughing up wheezy, breezy covers ("I'm a Believer," "Why Can't We Be Friends?") less for fun than for profit. Comedian Neil Hamburger asks, "What do you get when you put a penny in the asshole of each of the members of Smash Mouth?" Answer: Nickelback.
THE DEFENSE: AOR covers for kids: Better than ska punk. S.K.