The final decision of the Round of 32 has been made tonight, and the Sweet 16 starts tomorrow. I'd like to do some reflection at this point on the first round, surprises, upstarts, etcetera, as some of those decisions did make us think twice about this thing. Maybe taught us something valuable about the volunteer demographic regarding music preference. Or taught us that this tournament is absolutely unrelated to music value, subjective as it may be.
Sweet 16 Match-ups:
Stawberry Fields Forever vs. Down Drinking At The Bar
Brown-Eyed Girl vs. Don’t Stop Believing
-We had our share of surprises. Wagon Wheel, the number one seed in the entire tournament (the only song that had not two, but THREE ballot entries from the aggregate entry pool, the stage in which volunteers were allowed to nominate their three choices for the tournament) was dismantled by Strawberry Fields Forever. Again, demographics do come into play- the beauty of this democratic tournament is that there is that everyone is equal, every vote is equal, and at heart, more people on average have a closer sentiment for the Beatles than they do for Old Crow. The same phenomenon occured with Atlantic City's early bow-out to Brown-Eyed Girl.
-Of note also in the Blue Bracket were some oldies but goodies, some country and folk that made some appearances. The most grassrooted of the first round match-ups in my opinion had to be Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddam's loss to Loundon Wainwright's Down Drinking At The Bar. The folky, wistful Wainwright pulled out that match-up, and I think that was the right choice- on a minor note, Simone in the tourney could have stood a better chance with Sinner Man. Also, that loss proved a running first round theme I hoped would prove true and did: just because a song has "Mississippi" or "Volunteers" in the title or lyrics doesn't mean it should get an automatic Sweet Sixteen bid.
-Finally, in a nod to the departed and good Janos Marton, Don't Stop Believing advances over Lost Highway by Hank Williams. Utterly disappointed: Luc LaMarche.
Sweet 16 Matchups:
No Rain vs. Piano Man
Ooh La La vs. Oye Como Va
-The Yellow Bracket, as I initially saw it, seemed straight-forward and predictable; again, the tourney proved its infinite nature was so much more than my worldly, mortal hunches. The only advance I correctly predicted was the worst, and that's simply Blind Melon's No Rain over The Oogum Boogum Song. Brenton Wood's visceral, funky classic, with a name that screams of onamotopoenglish, is so much better than poppy, angsty 90s grunge. Yes, Blind Melon had a lot of potential. Yes, No Rain is very popular. No, is it better than 75% of Funkytown music.
-Now come the surprises in the lower bracket. Walking In Memphis, my dark horse to win this thing, gets knocked out by Ooh La La, which I secretly and now publicly love but didn't think would make it past that crooning piano of Marc Cohn, relying on a song plot that deviates entirely from the music of his song. Wrong was I, to Britton’s disappointment; however, The Faces move on, and at this point stand as my favorite in the bracket.
-As concisely as possible: Thunder Road is 100% better than Oye Como Va, which detracts from every Latin song before and after it. XM’s Caliente and Fuego are crying over this, because they like everyone love Thunder Road. Oye Como Va also detracts from the musical talent of Santana. It’s like if we were relying on Uptown Girl instead of Piano Man in this thing. Or Young Turks instead of Ooh La La. Or I Got My Mind Set On You instead of Strawberry Fields Forever. I could go on. Oye Como Va progresses to the Sweet 16.
-Finally, tonight’s match-up saw Hotel California match up against Piano Man, both brilliant songs played more than they perhaps should on popular classic rock, which allows some of us to forget their brilliance in the first place. I love both, and Piano Man advances.
Sweet 16 Match-ups:
Africa vs. Beat It
You Give Love A Bad Name vs. Bohemian Rhapsody
-Oh green bracket. Where the 80s go to flounder. And somehow in floundering knocked out 90s, 70s, and even 50s alternatives. The Green Bracket is a poppy, precise side ponytail party. And eventually, once one of these Sweet 16 songs eventual emerges victorious, a poppy, precise side ponytail graveyard. On top of this bracket we had the #1 seed Pink Floyd’s Fearless bow out to Toto’s Africa, which maybe shows us all that having the last 45 seconds of a song be awesome African magic drum music works much better than random European soccer chanting. Sorry Mohawk. Love you, love your work.
-Africa matches up against Beat It next round, which somehow someway managed to best the musical brilliance of Joe, Donnie, and the rest of the New Kids On The Block’s “Step By Step.” That will be a ridiculous match-up.
-The other quadrant saw a grassroots disappointment, but simultaneously one that ties into my belief in this tourney. Yes, Jefferson Airplane is a wonderful band. Yes, Volunteers is a great song. Yes, Marco, I realize that the song repeats the phrase “Volunteers of America.” When 25% of a two minute quickie is dedicated to repeating that phrase, however, it detracts a bit from the song as a whole. So many other Vietnam-era songs I would have loved to see in this thing besides this song. Any CCR would have done better. Or something more substantial than the 2 minute JA White Rabbit style ditty. And no, by default this does not mean I’m a Bon Jovi booster. There’s more to be learned in what lost in this match-up than what won, because You Give Love A Bad Name, energetic as it is, cannot compare to JA’s aggregate musical talent, what it stood for, everything “Need Somebody to Love” screams at its audience. Bon Jovi powers forward on the coattails of demographic college-age appeal and faces off in the Sweet 16 vs…
-Bohemian Rhapsody. Bohemian Rhapsody beat Monster Mash. I’ll quote John Harlow on this one, forgive me if its not verbatim John-boy but its pretty damn close:
“Monster Mash is a song I enjoy hearing sometimes. Like, I’d say, once a year, probably on Halloween, probably in the morning when I’m taking a shower so I don’t really have to listen to it but I do notice that it’s playing.”
Sweet 16 Match-ups:
Superstition vs. Dead Flowers
Night Moves vs. Reverse Cowgirl
-Not too much commentary for this bracket. From the get-go, Superstition is a clear favorite for this entire tournament. It’s funky enough to appeal to the younger masses, and nostalgic enough to grab the older vote. Beating Iron Man was fairly straight-forward, as Iron Man on the other end appeals to a very specific demographic— those who were teens and young adults when it came out and were also rebellious enough to immerse themselves in the heavy metal movement (which contemporarily seems silly because those groups were not really that heavy when compared to the 90s direction of Pantera and Insane Clown Posse ultra-extreme descendants…Ozzy, biting off bat heads in concert doesn’t translate too well to reality television with the fam 15 years later) as well as those youth today that relate to that sort of pseudo-rebellion. In addition, Iron Man is a lyrically stupid song. Walk-over for Superstition.
-Dead Flowers beat out Roundabout, Yes’s other song besides Owner of a Lonely Heart. It’s an 8 minute tribute to awesome 80sness. Which doesn’t translate well at all into tournament format when matched up against the Stones, as mediocre a Stones selection compared to the Stones pool of possible songs, that Dead Flowers may be. Mullet, my apologies. Please continue your incisive, aggressive commentary of the terribleness of the tournament because it is supremely amusing.
-Ah, Night Moves. I’ve been criticized by the founder of music tournaments over this song “going 2 minutes longer than it should.” The same founder has championed And She Was. Sometimes love makes us blind and overly critical. Janos Marton’s love of The Talking Heads I think has convinced him erroneously that its merit, as high as it maybe, is above that of 70s soul rock. Seger. Bob Seger. Learn to love him. Because he’s going far.
-And last, but not least, the only live performance of the tourney and possibly the most controversial tournament progression: Jim Schiller’s live performance of Reverse Cowgirl trounces Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come. It’s been criticized that having the live performance versus the speaker was unfair. There was a clear advantage. Even during vote collection, volunteers were heard to vote Cowgirl while emphatically whispering, “We don’t want to hurt the boy’s feelings.” Cowgirl ascends on, and thanks to Marco’s MP3 recorder at Open Mike, will be played as a live recording in the Sweet 16. Love you mean it, Jim. Love your work. Sam Cooke is one. I sincerely doubt Bob Seger will be two.
And that’s all the commentary I’ve got for now. I’ll update as we progress at this point, and am debating the implementation of a more scaled voting system in the later rounds. Til then, take care, love you all, and vote with your heart.