March Diva Madness
Beyonce has stated that “A diva is a female version of a hustla”. Though some of us would have slightly different definitions for and connotations with the word Diva, most of us imagine a female vocalist with some form of epic personality, and I thought these hustlas would make for an especially exciting competition for this year’s March Music Madness.
Every March I pick a different music-related category to compete for your votes, inspired by the greatest sportsing tournament of every and any year, NCAA Basketball’s March Madness. This year I’ve picked 64 divas, organized in quadrants that represent the eras in which they began their careers, contending for your votes to earn the coveted title of “Diva Champion.”
Before defining it for our purposes here, it’s important to acknowledge the way that the word “diva” has grown and morphed over the centuries and decades. Originally, the term was reserved for distinguished female opera singers to denote a sort of deific or otherworldly quality about them. More recently it’s been used colloquially to denote someone with particular pampered tastes – maybe they will only drink one particular brand of bottled water, or only stay at a hotel if certain specific flowers are present in the room. When it comes to pop music divas, I would say we have collectively taken the original operatic idea of diva and added some additional expectations. Here is a list of criteria to explain how I came up with this list of 64 pop divas.
First of all, the diva must be known for her vocal skills, though they may not be her first or even primary source of talent. For example, though J.Lo, Paula and Madonna are examples of singers who were initially made popular because of their dance skills, they are considered divas because of the way they have continued to develop and emphasize their voices. Plus, they reflect other qualities we’ve come to expect from divas. This was the primary reason why someone like Taylor Swift was left out of this tournament – although she is touring and releasing some heavy-hitting singles, her voice is simply not strong (nor unique) enough to stand up against other divas here.
Secondly, though her vocal abilities are important, a diva is never just a singer. She has become a kind of status symbol – a brand – which is often the case for those who are known easily by a single name (think Adele, Aaliyah, or Cher). This may also be expressed by regularly being described in terms of royalty or otherworldliness (such as Beyoncé, Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks, or Lady Gaga). Often an indication of status symbol is the degree to which a drag queen is known to emulate your particular expression of femininity.
Thirdly, there is often a level of drama in the life of a diva. Some inner drama might show itself outwardly in weight and/or hair fluctuation (Janet, Tina, and Aretha demonstrate this), while others present an attitude that acts as both a defence mechanism, and a marketing technique (such as P!nk, Sia or Rihanna), and still others have even less success at hiding their life and relationship drama from the public (like Whitney, Britney, or Tina Turner).
Finally, the diva is all about her moments of shiny fame. Certainly there is a longevity to some of our most celebrated divas (Diana Ross, Mariah, and Annie Lennox), who span multiple decades, often reinventing themselves to remain popular in new landscapes of pop culture. However, divas tend to focus more on their next big moment – the next huge single, the next epic performance or tour – rather than focusing on crafting great albums (with some exceptions of course!). Generally the diva shows her strength through the two pinnacles of her career: ballads that show off her vocal talent, and dance tracks to get the party started.
Once the singers were selected, there was the matter of seeding (ranking) them within the brackets. A scoring system was established that awarded points based on record sales/streams, average of past tour sales, appearances on VH1 Diva Specials, lifetime achievement awards and public beefs or dramas. High scores within each era were given high seeds that will compete first with lower scored divas, however it’s ultimately up to you to decide who will move on to the next round, and upsets are some of the most exciting and inevitable occurrences in every March Madness competition.
Without further ado, take a look at 2016’s March Music Madness brackets! The image should open a printable/downloadable pdf as well. Tweet a pic with your final four pics with the #DivaBrackets to enter to win a TBD prize!