Want your band to get a rave review in a nationally respected newspaper? You can make a killer record, or you can grossly insult a Republican on TV.
The Roots, the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” may not have had glowing reviews in mind when it played the Fishbone song “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” as show guest Michele Bachmann sat down with Fallon.
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Now, Washington Post music critic Chris Richards is singing the Roots’ praises for both its new album and its Bachmann song selection. In the middle of Richards’ review of the band’s new disk, “undun,” Richards laments that the band may best be remembered this year for the Bachmann affair, and not the new material.
The band considered it a joke. Certain corners of the media considered it an outrage. NBC apologized to Bachmann and “severely reprimanded” the Roots. Last week, with the smoke just starting to clear, bandleader Questlove said the stunt was “absolutely not” worth it.
But regardless of whether the decision was in poor taste, it underscored a bigger point about the Roots: The band members might spend their work week taking Jimmy in and out of commercial, but they’ve never stopped thinking of themselves as artists.
It’s the circle of Mainstream Media life, but let’s break it down all the same.
Richards says “certain corners of the media” were upset by the song selection. Hmmm. So only conservatives were silly enough to think calling a Congressman a “lyin’ ass bitch” on national TV was worth a fuss. Let’s consider the outrage had former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi been greeted in a similar fashion.
And the best way to burnish one’s artistic bona fides is to grossly insult a guest? Besides, if the Roots were True Artists, wouldn’t they say that speaking truth to power was worth it, indeed?