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Diva Madness: Sweet 16, Part 2

In Part 1, you voted on the west side of the brackets for divas that have started their careers after 1990.  Part 2 will make our way to the other side and vote for classic divas who were well established by the time the 80s were winding down.  For the full updated brackets, click this link.  Ok, time to see who is still in this, beginning with the quadrant that has dealt me the sharpest dagger to the heart, by eliminating Janet Jackson.

80sS16

MADONNA (1) vs. STEVIE (5)

These two divas in many ways could not have more different careers.  Stevie has been most successful as a offering lead vocals (and personality) to Fleetwood Mac, while Madonna has been a solo act from day one.  They are 10 years apart in age, but both women were born to perform, and have proven they will not let anything stop them from touring past any kind of retirement.

ANNIE (11) vs. WHITNEY (2)

While Annie Lennox has been fighting her way to get here, first against Heart’s Ann Wilson, and next against my spirit animal, Janet, Whitney has barely had any competition in this tournament so far.  That could change here and now, although based on brackets you’ve sent me, Whitney seems to be the overwhelming favourite to represent in the final four.  Then again, I know at least one guy who is determined to see Annie Lennox win this whole thing…

And on to the final quadrant of classic ladies…

Classic16

BARBRA (1) vs. ARETHA (5)

Is it just me, or did this just get very real?  Here we have two incomparable divas up against each other, for your comparison.  It’s completely conceivable that either of these women could take it all the way to the end of this competition.  Although Barbra is a top seed, she has already matched up against legendary women, and Aretha’s win over Tina last round was an incredibly tight race until she pulled ahead in the last few days.

ELLA (6) vs. DIANA (2)

I have no idea how to decide between these two women.  Both have phenomenal stage presence, even when they barely move, and not only are they vocally talented, but they have richly unique voices that can be recognized by the most novice of fans.  Appropriately enough, just 2 years ago The Montreal Jazz Festival recognized Diana Ross with an award named after her opponent here.  Which diva would you most like to see in the Elite 8?

That’s it for round 3!  If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to vote for the other half here, and check back next week for the Elite 8!

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Diva Madness Round 2: Classic Divas

All the first round polls have been closed and 32 Divas now remain.  For the rest of the week, I’ll be posing a a quadrant of 4 polls every day, so get your vote on, but don’t forget to come back and check on the rest of the brackets!  We’ll move chronologically through the eras this time, starting with the classic divas, who had the fewest upsets of Diva Madness so far.  Here are the updated (and embellished) brackets for those following along:

bracket (4)

Barbra Streisand (1) vs. Linda Ronstadt (9)

I doubt that anyone is shocked to see Babs continuing to hold her #1 seeded spot, although her competition with Gloria Gaynor did get pretty close at times.  We’re going to see this musical queen go up against the folk-country-rock goddess, Linda Ronstadt, who squeaked out the tightest win in this category against Dionne Warwick (a fact I haven’t yet made peace with personally).  The style of these two videos could not be more different, but I think they respectively represent the two divas’ strengths as performers.  Will you keep the country rocker or the musical songstress?

Aretha Franklin (5) vs. Tina Turner (4)

Well, that got real, and fast!  It was clear that both of these divas would make it to the second round, beating their competition with more than 70% of the votes.  But now we have a situation where both of these divas are favoured to win the whole competition, but only one can make it to the sweet 16.  Either way, this poll will break some hearts.  Since Dionne Warwick has already been eliminated, I feel better about sharing Aretha’s version of “I Say A Little Prayer,” because it is so wonderful.  As for Tina, this seems as good a time as any for some “Proud Mary”.  Oh yes, it is ON.

Cher (3) vs. Ella Fitzgerald (6)

Cher had a few close calls against Debbie Harry from Blondie, but here she is, ready to defend her diva-title as long as you’ll let her.  She certainly has the confidence and attitude to take her to the end, and she’s had to, having regularly carved out space for women in the male-dominated entertainment industry.  Meanwhile, shy Ella seems to transform into an extrovert every time she starts swinging, and “Mack the Knife” is easily one of my favourite performances of hers, showing off her ability to not only produce the beautiful clear tone she’s known for, but also produce a near perfect imitation of Louis Armstrong’s growl.

Janis Joplin (10) vs. Diana Ross (2)

Janis Joplin was the only real upset of the category, beating out disco queen Donna Summer with relative ease.  She has on her side raw emotional pain, and an early death.  She may not have any dance tracks, per se, but she could rock a stage like no one else.  Now she goes up against Diana Ross, who is hardly a lightweight in this competition, having the second most #1 billboard singles after Mariah Carey – that’s more than Madonna, Whitney, or Beyonce.  Can we also take a minute to appreciate the purple one-piece paired with a bright red boa in the video below?

*UPDATE:

Round 2 polls are now all open!  Go vote (links are below), and check back March 16th for Sweet 16!

Diva Madness Round 2: 1980s (Until midnight, Sun., March 13th)

Diva Madness Round 2: 1990s (Until midnight, Mon., March 14th)

Diva Madness Round 2: Modern Divas (Until midnight, Tues., March 15th)

 

 

Diva Madness: Classic Era Round 1

The time has come for voicing your opinions in another epic bracket tournament, this time between the beloved Divas of our pop music world.  For a longer description of how these particular 64 divas were chosen and seeded, check this out.  A link for the printable brackets is in the image below – make sure to download a copy and play along at home.  If you send me your final four selections (either filling out this nifty Google Form or by tweeting a pic of your brackets to me @djwhysoserious before March 1st), correct predictions will be entered to win a TBD gift-prize!

IMG_0055

Ok, now with those details aside, let’s get this tournament happening already!  It’s time to make our hard choices about which Classic Era Divas get to progress to the next round – and to help us decide, I’ll pick a ballad for each diva to show off their chops for us.

Barbra Streisand (1) vs. Gloria Gaynor (16)

First up we have our top seed of the classic era, Barbra Streisand (henceforth known as Babs) going up against disco sensation Gloria Gaynor.  In terms of Diva status, both of these ladies did their share in defining the term, one in the world of musical theatre, the other in the clubs.  Babs’ career has spanned 6 decades (!), and she is one of only 16 performers to have won an EGOT.  Gloria’s career may only span 4 decades, but she has arguably the most timeless breakup song ever, “I Will Survive”.  For comparison purposes, we’ll hear Babs sing the iconic “People,” (from Funny Girl), and Gloria on one of her few ballads, “I Never Knew” from 2004.

Of course your votes do not need to be restricted to these two performances, but instead should take in to account all that you know and love about these women, their music, and their diva-like attributes.  Who will survive?

Linda Ronstadt (9) vs. Dionne Warwick (8)

Although she was the most successful female artist of the 1970’s, Linda Ronstadt is rarely a name I come across anymore.  She is known for re-popularizing tunes with covers, breathing life and energy into songs that otherwise might have been forgotten, something that only a diva can truly get away with.  Dionne Warwick is another diva who rarely gets the recognition she deserves, even though she is the second (to Aretha Franklin) most charted women in billboard history.  Even into her seventies, she carries herself with an attitude and grace that proves her diva-worthiness over and over again.  She may be known for “That’s What Friends Are For,” and “Walk On By,” but I’ve chosen her original “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” to show off her effortless vocal power.  For Linda, I’ve chosen “Long Long Time” to give some evidence of why Time Magazine described her as “Torch Rock”.

Remember, vote for the diva, not necessarily my song choice.  😉

Aretha Franklin (5) vs. Billie Holiday (12)

Yes, this tournament is going to get ugly right away.  I’ve already mentioned that Aretha is Billboard’s most charted female artist, which speaks to both her prolificacy and her longevity, having charted as early as 1961 and as recently as 2014 (with her cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”).  On top of numerous awards, Rolling Stone Magazine has called her the Greatest Singer of All Time.  Then again, what do they know if they make such a list without including Billie Holiday, a force of expression who broke and rewrote every rule for jazz vocalists and performers?  It’s hardly any doubt that the majority of singers that did make the list took their cues and inspiration from this lady right here.  Billie may easily be the original diva, with attitude and drama dripping from every performance and recording.  To show off these matriarchs of soul, I’ve chosen a couple of their earliest, career-creating songs.

Judy Garland (13) vs. Tina Turner (4)

This is the oddest match up of this bracket, and because of very different fanbases, I have no idea how this one will end.  The similarities are there: both women seem most comfortable on stage, and are classic examples of what they do best, whether it’s singing like a Hollywood angel in Judy’s case, or infusing a performance with as much personality and energy as we’ve all come to expect from Tina.  Each of these divas has had to repeatedly overcome personal drama in many forms, refusing to let it define their careers.

Cher (3) vs. Debbie Harry (14)

Cher just may be the original pop chameleon, reinventing her image and style for each decade she went on to dominate.  Though she began her career primarily as an entertainer, Cher worked hard to improve and strengthen her vocals, and released some solid ballads along with her dance tunes to prove she could play the diva game and stand out, with her contralto range and personality for days.  Debbie Harry is not only a punk icon, as one of the most successful women in rock music, but she also stands as a symbol of female beauty, talent and badassery.

Neither of these ladies are known for their ballads, but that’s what you’re going to get for this round.

Dolly Parton (11) vs. Ella Fitzgerald (6)

These may be the two least drama-driven women in this bracket.  Dolly Parton is one of very few child stars to make it through adolescence without addiction or major crisis.  She is still with the same man she married in 1966, and has for decades seemed to be the one solid rock in a host of emotionally extreme divas.  However, this rock is also a star performer with a personality to match her ample bosom and massive hairdo, and she is the most awarded woman in the history of country music.  Ella Fitzgerald didn’t start her life drama free, having regularly been homeless after running away from an abusive stepfather and multiple orphanages.  But it seemed the First Lady of Song found her home in singing jazz standards with an unmatched clear tone and an ear for improvising.  Though she was reportedly quite shy in person, her stage presence was another story.

Donna Summer (7) vs. Janis Joplin (10)

These two divas have been regularly crowned “Queen” of their genres, disco and psychedelic rock respectively.  Donna Summer began her career in musical theatre, but rose in popularity with her hit “Love to Love You Baby,” a song so popular in clubs that she recorded a 17-minute version so they wouldn’t need to play it on repeat.  A live version of the sexy song is below, since even her ballad songs eventually turn into a full-on disco dance party anyway.  Janis Joplin has plenty of solid blues tracks perfect for feeling and grieving, although she isn’t so much showing off her voice as she is her very soul.  Unfortunately for all of us, her potential for longevity was cut short by a heroin overdose, which ended her life before she reached 30.

Patti LaBelle (15) vs. Diana Ross (2)

Nothing like the Godmother of Soul and the Queen of Motown facing off.  I doubt I need to say much in terms of justifying either of these women’s diva-status.  While Patti LaBelle is known for her powerful voice (which allegedly spans 5 octaves), Diana Ross has often been accused of her fame being more reliant on her performance (which probably says more about her stage presence than it does about her voice).  Whatever you see as Diana’s strengths, they’re strong enough for Billboard to call her the “Female Entertainer of the Century,” and for her to be arguably the best charted woman worldwide.

Music Madness: Elite Eight

Today is one of my favourite days of the year because it is the day that the final four NCAA basketball teams of March Madness battle in two games to determine who will play the finals on Monday.  I have a bit of time between games, so it’s time to finally move on to the March Music Madness’ match-ups between the Elite Eight!  Basically, these are the finals of each conference/era, so it’s kind of a big deal.  What albums do you want to represent each conference in the final 4?

*UPDATE: These brackets will be open for a short time only.  Get your votes in here before 7pm PST on Apr. 8th, and make sure you come back soon after that for the Final Four!

For the Since 2000 Conference we have Radiohead and Arcade Fire.

in rainbows discin rainbows back

VS.

funeral funeralback

In the 90’s we have Ms. Lauryn Hill going up against Nirvana.

miseducationslicemiseducationback

VS.

nevermindslicenevermindback

In the 70’s-80’s Conference, I was shocked to learn that The Joshua Tree is going up against Thriller.

joshuatreediscjoshuatreeback

VS.

thrillerslice thrillerback

And finally, for the music of the 1950’s/60’s Conference, two downright classics in Kind of Blue and Abbey Road go head-to-head.

kindofblueslicekindofblueback

VS.

abbeyroaddiscabbeyroadback

Music Madness: The Sweet Sixteen

After a busy Easter weekend, I am finally getting around to posting the next round of voting for Music Madness! The albums have been narrowed to only four in each conference. Check out this updated bracket to see where all the albums are at, then come back and vote.  Polls will be open for a shorter time than usual, so make your picks and check back on the weekend for the Elite Eight.  For now, here’s who has made it this far…

rushofbloodinrainbows

Coldplay’s Rush of Blood to the Head surprised me by beating out Kid A in round 2, and now they’re up against yet another Radiohead gem, In Rainbows.  Any opinion here?  

funeralbacktoblack

Arcade Fire destroyed The White Stripes’ last at a Final Four shot, while Amy Winehouse has been slowly and steadily beating anyone who stands in her way.  This is an odd match up, with potential to get ugly.  

jaggedlittlepills miseducation

This seems fair: two of the most influential women in 90’s music going head to head with their most widely bought and heard albums.  In the last round, Alanis just barely scraped by Lauryn’s old group, The Fugees, with 51% of the vote – the closest of any polls so far.  Meanwhile Miseducation is the album that upset the #1 pick.  Clearly both are in it to win it.  

220px-Smashing_Pumpkins_-_Mellon_Collie_And_The_Infinite_Sadness nevermind

Two of the biggest records in 90’s alternative rock, both beating out some huge rap records to get here.  Both Mellon Collie and Nevermind had strong wins in round 2, giving me the suspicion that this will be a much closer matchup.  

joshuatreeFMacRumours

For the record, the polls with Rumours in them have always had a few extra voters than the others, so it has some fans with opinions.  U2’s Joshua Tree however, is the #16 seed that has already upset another great album of the 70’s in Dark Side of the Moon.  This is a tricky one for me, but it’s up to you.  

SITKOL thriller

Thriller has not had an easy time in these brackets.  MJ has faced both Prince and Paul Simon so far, and now is up against one of his personal favourite albums.  This is the first time that Stevie has faced another R&B record, having faced only punk rock albums so far.  

kindofblue lovesupreme

Kind of Blue is the only #1 seed still in the game, and finally gets to face another brilliant jazz musician here.  Miles Davis has been up against classic soul records, while John Coltrane has been battling folk and rock to be here.  

petsounds abbeyroad

The Beatles’ final contender vs. this Beach Boys’ game changer.  Two iconic albums in competition is what this conference is all about.