Back in 2007, when they both happened to be releasing new albums on September 11, Kanye West and 50 Cent engaged in a pseudo-beef over whose first week sales would be higher. 50 Cent promised to stop putting out solo albums if he lost; Kanye dodged televised debates; and all that infighting (both Graduation and Curtis were released by subsidiaries of Universal Music) got them the cover of Rolling Stone and roughly a million-and-a-half combined units shipped.
But why the hell are we talking about this now? Because this coming Tuesday, May 4, the New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene — the two most prominent, critically acclaimed, sprawling Canadian indie-rock collectives on the planet today — are both releasing new albums (Together and Forgiveness Rock Record, respectively). So why haven’t we heard of any good-natured beefing from the two rival camps? How are people supposed to know that these albums are coming out if they aren’t made aware of the release dates via a trumped-up, overly publicized face-off? Doesn’t anyone respect the art of record-promotion gimmickry anymore?
Vulture does. And it’s out of such respect that, with less than a week to go, we now attempt to instigate a sales showdown. You hear us, you two? We want the gauntlet thrown down! To help you out, we’ve assembled a collection of categories in which you could potentially quibble. These are just suggestions; feel free to pick and choose. Or add your own!
Now, nobody has to promise to stop releasing albums if they lose, because we certainly do want to keep hearing new stuff from both these bands. But maybe the second-place finisher has to clean the puke off the other guys’ tour bus after a particularly wild night of Canadian indie-rock supergroup debauchery?
Quality of Leadership
Stellar — both bands have recognized captains, with Carl Newman for the New Pornographers and Kevin Drew for Broken Social Scene. One small issue: Drew founded BSS alongside Brendan Canning; does that mean there’s always potential for a coup led by a formerly loyal aid? The NPs don’t have to worry about that.
The NPs are from Vancouver, BSS from Toronto. Wow, tough one — those are two great cities. If we really had to find an edge, there’s this to consider: Toronto has held on to its NBA franchise, the Raptors, while Vancouver’s former squad, the Grizzlies, are now nonsensically playing in Memphis.
Prominent Related Projects
The NPs have Dan Bejar’s Destroyer and the solo work of Carl Newman and Neko Case. BSS have Amy Millan’s Stars, Emily Haine’s Metric, Andrew Whiteman’s Apostle of Hustle, and the solo work of Drew, Canning, and Feist.
Female Solo Artist
Subset to the previous question: Which of the bands’ breakout female solo stars is superior? Case is arguably more fawned over by critics, although Feist has had more iPod commercial and choreographed-dancing success.
If this feud instigation goes as well as we hope, we could see the action threatening to spill into West Side Story–type street dance-fighting. In this case, overall numbers will be critical. The NPs cast seems to be static, with eight members (Newman, Bejar, Case, plus Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Todd Fancey, Kurt Dahle, and Blane Thurrier). Outside of the core of Drew and Canning, the BSS crew can expand at will, a great asset for rumbles. (Plus, check them out looking particularly street-fight ready here).
Quality of Music
Both Forgiveness Rock Record and Together are currently streaming, which means Newman and Drew have time to get their rock critic on and pen scathing reviews of each others’ albums. Here are some useful terms to get started: “derivative,” “uninspired,” “sounds kind of like Wheatus.”
May 4! It’s going down!