Charmed by shots of a baby-cheeked Rose hanging out in her room and sorting recyclables, as well as by lyrics that extolled the Kyoto Treaty and carpooling, HBO producers put Blübird in prime time. On a Saturday evening in October 2006, thousands of Americans watched a music-video-like segment that combined Rose’s original footage with scenes of the band performing “Global Warming” live before a cheering audience at da Vinci Arts Middle School, where Rose was then in seventh grade. (The Music in Me would go on to win a Peabody Award.)
Their songs aren’t totally cliché, like ‘Girl power, blah blah blah, yay.’"
After the show ran, Blübird started getting gigs at venues all over Portland—from Voodoo Doughnut to the Crystal Ballroom—and as far away as Seattle and San Francisco. In early 2007, the band recorded its first album, We Are Birds, which garnered positive reviews from several local publications. A Portland Mercury critic predicted that “success is on the horizon” for the girls. Birds sold enough copies on iTunes and at shows that Rose and Alto opened a bank account for the band (though Rose says they “haven’t done anything special” with the money so far). With its burgeoning popularity, Blübird appeared to be winging its way toward becoming the most successful act to come out of the rock camp since Rose’s first band, the Ready, appeared alongside such local acts as the Decemberists and Sleater-Kinney in the Portland installment of Burn to Shine, a series of music DVDs produced by ex-Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty.
“The weirdest part was all the people shouting our names and stuff at our shows,” Rose says of Blübird’s rise from camp band to local phenomenon. “That was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’”
Later in 2007, a link to “Global Warming” appeared on Neil Young’s “Songs of the Times” website, which lists hundreds of protest songs and invites visitors to vote for their favorites. The peppy tune quickly made it into the list’s top 10 songs, putting Blübird ahead of such established acts as Bright Eyes and Eric Clapton.
But that summer, things started to get ugly. Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck posted a link to the song on his website; soon afterward, Alto and Rose began receiving tons of hate mail from across the country, calling the girls everything from talentless to brainwashed. Amateur critics harpooned the song for being musically simplistic, but it was the message itself that really sparked controversy. Suddenly this junior-high-school pop song was being debated across the country for both its musicianship and its political correctness. Some attacked the band for referring to the president as an “idiot”; others pointed to lines like “the sun will kill us all” as evidence that Alto and Rose were spreading fear and promoting so-called “global warming propaganda.” Normally, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s environmental-news blog gets a few comments per post; a May 2007 entry on Blübird received 216. The debate over the band’s merits (or lack thereof) raged into early 2008. “I heard this idiotic song,” reads one of the negative comments. “It’s got more misinformation than Al Gore.” Another declares, “We are doomed as a country when this generation comes of age and becomes leaders. God help us all.”