She & Him often gather a lot of criticism, simply because of Zooey Deschanel’s involvement in the band. It’s the typical criticism thrown at people who are already famous (for a given value of ‘famous’) for other reasons who later decide to explore the music industry: they’re only getting the opportunity because they’re already famous, because of who they know, because they have money, etc.; they’re not actually any good; people aren’t fans of the music, just of the artist’s other career; people only care because the artist is hot. This criticism is often true; see, for example, the “music careers” of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Heidi Montag Pratt Montag, et al.
The case of She & Him is a bit different, however. While Zooey Deschanel is best known as an actress, she’s not one of those starlets whose voice gets autotuned into next week to make it sound decent for release. She has a sweet, delicate voice that is perfectly suited towards the type of music she’s making with M. Ward in She & Him. The music is fluff, there’s no denying that, so for the critics complaining about the music being kind of devoid of greater meaning, well, I’ll give them that. But everyone needs a fun, summery album that you can put on and dance around to without having to think much about it. There’s a lot to be said in defense of musical “fluff”, but that’s a whole different blog entry, I guess.
In front of a huge crowd of 11,000+ spectators, She & Him provided a breezy summer soundtrack for the evening. M. Ward was largely a silent partner in the project, aside from contributing a few scattered backing vocals. Deschanel, aside from vocals, also stepped in on keyboards, ukulele, and tambourine. Her stage presence is much like many of the characters she plays: genuine, yet somewhat awkward. Maybe aloof. There was some small talk, but most of the show was just cute little pop songs. For me, the show didn’t really get going until close to the end, when the rest of the session musicians left the stage, leaving Deschanel and Ward to perform a few songs on their own. The true highlight for me was a cover of “I Put a Spell On You”, where Deschanel left behind the cutesy, fun vocals and just belted the hell out of the track. Of course, it was the last song of the encore, but I would love to see what she could do with more songs that call for a little more letting loose and a little less cute indie princess.