Music Madness ROUND 1: 1970’s-80’s Bracket
It’s time to take a step back into the past. You’ve voted for your favourite albums since 2000 and from the 1990’s (the 1990’s polls will remain open until Saturday March 16th if you haven’t yet), and now it’s time to get your vote on in the 70’s and 80’s. These were two difficult decades to pair – full of insanely popular and classic albums. We clearly couldn’t fit everything worthy into these brackets, but even so, there are some tricky match-ups. So without further ado, here are the contenders for 1970’s-80’s Conference:
Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1) vs. The Joshua Tree – U2 (16)
As of this month, Pink Floyd’s unique masterpiece turns precisely 40 years old. Since the release of this album, countless albums have attempted a concept or musical arch as continual as that of Dark Side of the Moon, but few have achieved the task. The LP is meant to be heard on vinyl, where each side is heard as one larger piece broken into movements. Not only has Pink Floyd made nearly every list of best albums of the 1970’s or even of all-time, but this record has also sold over 50 million copies – more than any other before its time.
The Joshua Tree is U2’s highest selling album of all time, and won the band their very first two Grammy awards (for Best Rock Group Performance and Best Album). The Guardian compiled a list of greatest albums ever based on reviews and gave this album the #57 spot, while Rolling Stone put it at #27. I am trying to remember how it ended up in the draw instead of an automatic seed, but at least it has made the tournament.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy (8) vs. Rhythm Nation – Janet Jackson (9)
The rap version of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Public Enemy was given the #8 seed because this socially conscious record is not only well-reviewed, but considered one of the most influential albums of its time. Several publications have named it in their top 10 of the decade; both the Q and NME have called it the best hip hop album of all time, and even Rolling Stone can’t keep it out of their top 50 albums of all-time.
Rhythm Nation is an attempt to be a tight concept album about social injustice, but somehow also ends up being a top 40/dance music machine. This is still the first and only album to ever score 7 singles in the Billboard top 5. Seven! 4 of which were #1. It took the open spot at #9 because, although it wasn’t reviewed highly enough to make the brackets on its own, the record has had enough commercial success to give it an edge. I have some more feelings here in this post.
(IV) – Led Zeppelin (5) vs. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd (12)
IV is the most popular album to ever be nameless, given the number since it came out directly after I, II, and III. Actually, its name is – symbols given to represent each of the band members. Classic Rock Magazine in the UK has called IV the best album of all-time, and otherwise this record tends to find a spot in nearly every list of rock albums or albums of the 70’s. It boasts some softer classics like “Going to California”, folk rock songs like “Battle of Evermore”, and the iconic “Stairway to Heaven”.
Pink Floyd get a second entry into these brackets with their draw album, Wish You Were Here, the band’s reflection of grief over Syd Barrett’s withdrawal from the band due to mental illness. The album was released to mixed reviews initially, but since has made several best album of all-time lists, keeping it relatively successful.
Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (4) vs. Blue – Joni Mitchell (13)
Aside from having sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, Rumours has been ranked in the top 50 of best all-time records by Rolling Stone, Q, VH1, and USA Today. I think it might also be the only album to inspire an entire episode of Glee. Why is that important? Because that very week Rumours actually re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at #12. This album is still a favourite, even of teens I work with, who were not even a hope or dream when this album was originally released.
Joni Mitchell has had some fantastic albums, but this is by far her pinnacle. It has been often been named the best Canadian Album of all-time (sometimes switching out with Neil Young’s Harvest Moon), and Hotpress Magazine and VH1 have ranked Blue as their #13 and #14 (respectively) album of all-time – in both cases the highest ranked album by a female artist. It was drawn in at #13 here, making this matchup the most difficult of the conference for me personally.
London Calling – The Clash (6) vs. Who’s Next – The Who (11)
Because London Calling was released in 1979 in the UK and 1980 in the US, the album can be found in multiple decade lists. Rolling Stone called the album their favourite of the 1980’s and many have included it in their top 50 of all time. It’s regarded as one of the best punk rock records ever, and Q listed it as #4 of the greatest UK albums.
Multiple best of lists have included Who’s Next in their best albums lists, but not enough to give this an automatic seed. Still, its collection of classic classic rock singles are definitely enough to make this a favourite – especially “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Baba O’Reilly,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
Doolittle – The Pixies (3) vs. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder (14)
In a poll for the best album of all time, NME writers gave this little 80’s rock album their #2 spot! In 1989 when it was released, Doolittle did relatively well with decent positive reviews and steady sales, but nearly 24 years later the record has become massively influential in rock genres, and regularly given high spots in greatest album lists, leaving it to be one of the best reviewed albums of the 80’s.
Not only Wonder’s most successful album, Songs in the Key of Life is also apparently his personal favourite. In 1977 it received the Grammy for Best Album – the third of Stevie’s career. Its rankings in best album lists wasn’t quite enough to give it an automatic seed, but its popularity and luck put it in the brackets with a possibility to win it all.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (7) vs. Graceland – Paul Simon (10)
This Motown classic is the first album that Gaye produced himself, giving it a cohesive sense as a song cycle more than a regular album. What’s Going On is the only soul record that breaks into the Rolling Stone’s 60’s rock heavy top-10 greatest albums of all time at #6. In 1997, The Guardian named it as their #1 album of all-time.
Paul Simon’s South African inspired Graceland won the 1987 Grammy for Album of the Year and is considered one of the best albums of the decade by nearly every publication that ever made a list. It was voted in by a few people who wanted to see it in the brackets, and it was good enough to take the #10 spot, not having to risk a draw.
Thriller – Michael Jackson (2) vs. Purple Rain – Prince (15)
There is so much to say about this album and the records it broke in 1982 and 83 when this album was getting the most radioplay, but the reason it has the automatic #2 seed is because it is the best selling album of this conference. Actually, it is the best selling album of all time, including soundtracks and compilations. Thriller has been estimated to have sold between 51 and 65 million copies, with 42.3 million certified copies. No one else even comes close.
Ok, so this is almost a soundtrack, but it’s actually a Prince album, and not only that, it’s one of Prince’s best and most successful albums, listed regularly as one of the top albums of the 1980’s (often right behind its competition in this bracket). Like Thriller, Purple Rain is littered with recognizable singles like “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “When Doves Cry”. To me this seems like the most appropriate match in the entire tournament so far.