It's no surprise, but when we announced this past May that the Free Credit Report (dot-com) band was kaput, people had some pretty strong reactions. What is a surprise, though, is that some of those strong reactions were actually pro-band. Who knew that some folks would actually miss the guys who spurred you on to "tell your friends, tell your dad, tell your mom" about the site that employed them?
Experian, the parent company of the soon-to-be-defunct FreeCreditReport.com, has been legally forced to rebrand itself as a forthcoming service now called FreeCreditScore.com. And with the exit of the Free Credit Report band, incoming is a new Free Credit Score band.
To get the hype going, the company's conducted a nation-wide search for the new band that will annoy the crap out of you during every prime-time commercial break. But while the old Free Credit Report Band wasn't a "real" band, per se -- actor Eric Violette was cast as a lead singer with some other dudes we forgot -- the replacement will, in fact, be an organic band, more or less. Hopefuls auditioned at real-life castings and submitted videos for online voting, and the finalists have been whittled down to four.
Which one will make the cut? We've evaluated them on a few factors that were so important to the original. All four will appear on the air during tonight's broadcast of the Major League Baseball All-Star game, and you'll be able to vote for your favorite once every 24 hours through August 9.
1) Annoying voice. For the new band to truly follow in the old one's footsteps, the singer must have an over-enunciated, nasal, unmistakably white-boy voice with a choppy sense of rhythm. (We won't blame actor Violette for that, though, as apparently he's a Francophone Canadian whose singing voice was dubbed in by the ad campaign's songwriter. But still -- the new band's singer will ostensibly sing the jingles him or herself.)
2) Slightly regrettable, every-guy fashion sense. The original Free Credit Report band did not look like rock stars. Granted, they were usually in costume because they had to get shitty jobs or something due to bad credit scores. But when they did appear in street gear, they looked schlubby -- just like the average guy likely to be snowed into signing up for this service which will likely not, after all, be free in the end. So the replacements can't have real star style.
3) Forgettable backing members. You remember Eric Violette, but not the rest of the actors cast to play his backing band, right? So the replacement has got to have a memorable frontperson, and totally replaceable backing players.
4) Perceived shamelessness. The bands who sign up for this have to realize that while this gig could be financially lucrative (or maybe not, we have no idea), it's going to make any kind of critical approval almost impossible. Also, it's going to annoy the crap out of thousands of potential fans. It didn't matter to Eric Violette and company because they weren't a real band. But do the hopeful replacements look hungry and desperate enough to deal?
Let's take a look, and handicap the finalists.
I Love Monsters
The Hometown: New York City (which likely means New Jersey, Long Island, or somewhere Midwestern)
Annoying Voice Factor: 5/5.
This guy's voice encapsulates everything that is larynx-damaging from the current crop of power-pop-rock. Bands of New Found Glory and company did this well when it was pop-punk; this guy sings like an imitation of an imitation of an imitation of New Found Glory.
Schlubby Fashion Factor: 3/5.
Although generally inoffensive, the singer's poorly fitting blazer and another guitarist's leather jacket appear as if they are still making a half-hearted style effort. That's too much.
Forgettable Backing Band Members Factor: 3/5.
Sorry, but annoying singer/bassist dude lets his backing guitarist contribute vocals, which takes away some of the shine. Now we'll remember him -- also, it has to be said, this is the only band with a little color in it. Pretty sad that the rest of the contenders chosen by Experian honchos are about 90-percent male and 100-percent melanin-deficient.
Perceived Shamelessness Factor: 5/5
These are grown-ass men playing the most bland commercially aimed pop-rock possible, with the name I Love Monsters.
The Poets Dance
The Hometown: Chicago
Annoying Voice Factor: Only about 2/5.
While this guy relies on the trappings of watered-down "pop-punk" vocal stylings, he's not straining or anything and it's pretty melodic. It may not be annoyingly memorable enough to replace the great Free Credit Report band.
Schlubby Fashion Factor: 4/5
These guys clearly don't give a crap about where they shop or how they look. We only detract a point because the bassist looks like he cares about hair care.
Forgettable Backing Band Members Factor: 2/5
Although even clicking between browser windows, we can't remember what any of these guys look like, we do remember the presence of two keyboard players. That detracts from the singer, who must be the most annoying presence in the band. Also, keyboards are cumbersome to take on rollercoasters and bikes.
Perceived Shamelessness Factor: 2/5
These guys just seem kind of earnest rather than desperate, like they know they'll do okay even without the campaign -- which is likely true. Their polished sound is radio- and festival-friendly.
The Hometown: Los Angeles
Annoying Voice Factor: 2/5
Eh, we want to support the only female-fronted act in the running for this thing. Her voice is cute, like Gwen Stefani -- although it's kind of high-pitched, and could possibly sound shrill after repeatedly echoing through our boob tube's speakers.
Schlubby Fashion Factor: 1/5
No, this band has way too much of a look to be relatable to the great, poor-credit-scoring masses.
Forgettable Backing Band Members Factor: 2/5
The guitarist with the fancy Les Paul seems to need a little too much attention, with his precisely calibrated dark-artiste-in-the-mall look and his guitar spins. What he doesn't understand is, the Free Credit Report/Score band is all about the singer.
Perceived Shamelessness Factor: 3/5
Relatively high -- the band name alone is gimmicky, and while the general look is trying to be "different," it's an easily packaged form of "different" that will still sell well. Still, they'll do well on the Southern California club and festival circuit regardless.
The Victorious Secrets
The Hometown: Detroit
Annoying Voice Factor: 1/5
Actually, we quite like this guy's voice, a slightly roughed-up, mellifluous rock croon that is pleasing to the ears.
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Schlubby Fashion Factor: 5/5
These are the kinds of guys whose style girlfriends always try, unsuccessfully, to "fix." Perfect to follow in the footsteps of Eric Violette and friends.
Forgettable Backing Band Members Factor: 5/5
Even the pianist seems to melt into the background. Actually, five minutes later, we can't really remember what the singer looked like, either.
Perceived Shamelessness Factor: 1/5
They seem a little too talented, and not quite gimmicky enough for this mess, and instead come off as lovable underdogs. We hope they do okay no matter what the result of the competition.
OUR PREDICTION FOR THE WIN: I Love Monsters
The combination of irritating factors and the seeming desire for commercial success -- any kind of commercial success, in this case the literal kind -- is high. We would love to hate them as the successors to the Free Credit Report Band. However, Evolove is also a possibility, just for the novelty factor of having a female singer. Still, we feel better about a man standing in as a target of national revulsion.