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Beyoncé Madness Round 2 Part I: Visual Album + Collaborations

bracket (3)I realize that it’s been a bit of wait, but now all the first round polls have been closed and the brackets have been updated.  Feel free to print and/or download the link from the image above if you’re following along.  I have 16 new and difficult decisions for you to make, but I have broken them into two separate blog posts.  For this particular post you’ll be asked to vote on your favourites in two bracket categories: the newest Beyoncé “visual” album, and the collaborations.  So get comfortable and get decisive!

beyonceSELF-TITLED BRACKET

In her self-titled December-2013-released “visual” album, Beyoncé has introduced us to some of her best music to date, and I know you must agree, since these songs received more votes than any of the others in the first round.  There’s still an issue of actually embedding these videos, so just click the pictures to open a new tab and link to a video.

(1) Grown Woman                    vs.                  (9) Pretty Hurts

The bonus video that beat out one of my personal favourite Jay Z/Beyoncé collaborations (21-7) goes up against the winning ballad of the first round that took out Heaven similarly, 20-8.  Other than that, I have no idea how to compare these two songs.

grownwoman

prettyhurts

(12) Superpower                 vs.                     (4) ***Flawless

The underdog collaboration with Frank Ocean has already beat the odds by winning against XO, so its title may be apt.  But can it beat the equally appropriately-named ***Flawless?  You tell me.

flawless

superpower

(3) Partition                       vs.                         (6) Rocket

I like to call this match-up the sexy-off.  Possibly two of the hottest songs from an incredibly hot album.  Which one do you like better?

partition

rocket

(7) Blue                      vs.                   (2) Drunk in Love

And here is what I think is our funniest match-up, though I guess they’re both sort of family-related…

blueivydrunkinlove

collaborations

COLLABORATIONS BRACKET

Some of our all-time favourite Beyoncé tracks are collaborations.  Based on the choices that made it through to this round, it seems that you have preferred her work with rappers… one in particular.  I would venture a pretty safe guess that she prefers those collabs too.  Still, there are still some other collaborations in this bracket that have the strength to go all the way.

(1) Baby Boy ft. Sean Paul   vs.   (9) Upgrade You ft. Jay-Z

Both of these tracks beat out their first-round competitors without much effort.  Something tells me this will be a much closer race.

(5) Telephone with Lady Gaga           vs.              (4) ’03 Bonnie & Clyde with Jay-Z

With the videos in mind, this is kind of the perfect match-up.  Your choice is between the somewhat insane and cartoony Thelma & Louise inspired Gaga collab, and the more traditional devotion and trust between criminals in love as in ’03 Bonnie & Clyde.

(5) Check On It ft Slim Thug         vs.       (11) Lift Off with Kanye West and Jay-Z

Pink Panther takes on Watch the Throne.  Lift Off is definitely the underdog in this race, but it’s already proven itself by beating out the Shakira favourite Beautiful Liar.  Ok, actually, I’m not surprised about that.  Does Shakira remind the rest of you of a cartoon goat?  Anyway, enough about that.  Sorry for the fan-made video of Lift Off, but it’s all I can find.

(7) Deja Vu ft. Jay-Z                vs.            (2) Crazy in Love ft. Jay-Z

The power couple faces off with themselves.  It was inevitable.  The only big question is… how many times will this happen before the final poll?  Deja Vu seems to be the kind of song that everyone forgot, but loves, while Crazy in Love was the only song that won with a unanimous vote.

Check back tomorrow for the other half of the brackets, and let me know what you think will make it to the final 4!

*update: Round 2 is up!  Go vote here.

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Beyoncé Madness: Solo Career Bracket

So far you’ve voted on the new album, and on the Destiny’s Child era.  Now it’s time to vote on the solo tracks that Beyoncé has been releasing since 2003 without a girl group or collaboration.  This is one category that has been far better than I was personally expecting, so I hope that you have time to make yourself comfortable as you carefully consider each of the choices before you.

1. Irreplaceable vs. 16. ROC (vote in winner)

The infamous single that gave so many of us a default direction whenever we are unsure of our next move: To. The. Left.  Irreplaceable is up against the song that is quickly becoming one of my favourite love songs, especially with the first line: “The title of my book would be life with superman”.  You already voted ROC into the competition, but can it really beat Beyoncé’s most billboard-successful solo track of all time?

8. Love On Top vs. 9. Countdown

Two incredible songs, both from 2011’s 4, which I make clear that I’m pretty wild about on an earlier blog, here.  I’ve posted the Love On Top video below (because it’s awesome), but I’m sure I will always connect this song with  Beyoncé announcing her pregnancy at the end of her VMA’s performance.  Legendary.  But so is the video for Countdown, which she actually shot while pregnant as well.  So either way, she’s a boss and she wins.

5. If I Were a Boy vs. Listen

It’s about time we had a proper Ballad-off.  If I Were a Boy was I Am… Sasha Fierce’s debut single alongside Single Ladies (one from each disc) in 2008.   Listen was the lead single from the musical Dreamgirls, and has been a huge diva-defining moment for Beyoncé.  Both are reflecting on their flawed relationships, both are fantastic demonstrations of emotion displayed through song, and both have portions of their videos shot in black & white.  Important connections.

4.  Halo vs. 13. Get Me Bodied

This is by far the strangest match-up of this side of the bracket, and for that I apologize.  But please do me this solid and watch both videos to the end, because they are so deserving.  Halo we all know, because it is regularly sung in television competitions, because it is a vocal masterpiece.  Get Me Bodied is one of the most choreographically fun videos ever, where B invites Michelle, Kelly, and her sis Solange (who helped write the song) to hang out and dance.

3. Me, Myself and I vs. 14. End of Time

I was super surprised to see that Me, Myself and I was seeded so high, but its success on the billboards beat out most other Beyoncé solo tracks.  This is pretty classic R&B, up against a Fela-Kuti-inspired dance track from 4, End of Time.  Inexplicably, there is still no official video for this track, but there is a pretty fantastic performance from Roseland, which is below.

6. Sweet Dreams vs. 11. Run the World (Girls)

Part of Sweet Dreams’ success came from its early leak under the title Beautiful Nightmare, immediately making its way into clubs.  That sliding bass and layered synth distinguishes this song from a lot of Beyoncé’s pre-Sasha Fierce music, and Run the World, although recorded and released later for 4, is very much in the same vein.  It also takes Beyoncé’s MO of female empowerment to a whole new level of assertion and control of wild animals.

7.  Best Thing I Never Had vs. 10. Diva

Best Thing I Never Had is an amazing combination of soft r&b with hard attitude.  Some of my favourite Beyoncé lyrics of all time are in this song, like the wonderfully repeated, “You showed your ass and I saw the real you”.  For bonus points, pay attention to the original “oh baby,” that we’ve grown to love in Drunk in Love.  Diva may be a female version of a hustla (it’s also been called the female version Lil’ Wayne’s A Milli), but I would say it tops its male equivalents in the categories of swag, fashion, and truth-telling.  Because let’s face it, she’s the number one diva in this game for a lot more than a minute.

2.  Single Ladies vs. 15. Start Over

This is rather unfair.  Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) is arguably Bey’s most iconic song/video.  It continues to get constant play at weddings and on the radio, and frankly, I was shocked that it wasn’t her most successful single of all time.  Single Ladies goes up against Start Over which doesn’t even have a music video, but is one of her most authentic sounding songs from her album about a couple that has lost some of the spark, but wants to rekindle and, well, start over.

And there we have it.  I’ll try to get the Collaboration polls up soon, and post an updated bracket.  In the meantime, you can still vote on the Destiny’s Child bracket until Wednesday, Feb. 26th.  Peace out.

Beyonce Madness: Self-Titled Bracket

beyonceAre you ready for the first full round of voting?  For those of you who are still unfamiliar with Beyoncé’s latest (2 month old) album, I am very excited to offer you an opportunity and excuse to check it out… and make painful decisions about which songs you like better than others.  Because that is exactly where we are going to begin.  

*NOTE: I had trouble embedding these videos from youtube, so a lot of the videos are linked from the photos.  Also, if you are still in need of the full brackets, click here.

Grown Woman vs. Part II (On the Run)  
Although not officially part of the self-titled album, Grown Woman has been floating around online for a little longer than the rest, mostly because of this Pepsi commercial.  Before Drunk in Love was covered and remixed by everyone and anyone, this was probably the most recognized song from Beyoncé, which is why it’s seeded as #1.  
grownwoman  
If you’ve been following since the weekend, you are already familiar with Part II (On the Run), the song that won the vote-in spot in The First Four.  It’s unfortunate that this is going to be the only song in the bracket without an official music video to accompany it, but please don’t let that fact influence whether this is a contender.  Sonically alone, this has a lot of potential to compete against anything on the list.
ontherun
8. Heaven vs. 9. Pretty Hurts
The two big ballads from the album go head to head.  Pretty Hurts opens the “visual album” with an exploration of what we sacrifice for beauty and esteem.  The video is one of my favourites from the album, although depending on the day, I could say that about nearly every one of them.  I guess that’s why you have to decide.

prettyhurts

Meanwhile, Heaven is sad.  And absolutely beautiful.  Like an elegy to her miscarried baby (I assume), she whispers and cries out, “heaven couldn’t wait for you”.  In this context, I can only assume the video is illustrating the life she imagines for her baby.  It’s tragic and touching, and one of the best ballads she’s ever done.

heaven

5. XO vs. 12. Superpower
The most radio-friendly track on the album is a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes with a video that pictures the Queen of everything as a regular person with whom you might enjoy a visit to the fair.

But XO is up against another inevitable force: a Frank Ocean penned love song.  There are two mistakes in the video for Superpower, however: the fact that Frank Ocean doesn’t make an appearance (while nearly everyone else in the music industry does), and Beyoncé’s weird outfit.  Even so, this is a truly great duet between two beautiful, soulful people.
superpower
13. Haunted vs. 4.***Flawless
Both of these tracks are excellent examples of the new Beyoncé.  Both are dripping in Jay-Z influence in flow and phrasing.  Haunted is actually split into two videos:  Ghost comes from the first half of the song which is mostly rap/talking, while the second half retains the track name and is a bit more melodic.  Anyway, I think you should take them together, so here are both videos.

haunted

And then there is the ever-quotable ***Flawless, both song title AND appropriate adjective for the song.  It has everything you could want in an empowering anthem, including a reference to some band no one’s ever heard of (Skeleton Crew) and more importantly, a boss Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche TED Talk on feminism.

flawless

3. Partition vs 14. Jealous                                                                           This is a particularly difficult pairing because these songs are so connected visually on the album, although like Haunted, Partition is split into two videos, with the audio from the Yoncé video opening the track.  Partition is possibly the most raw and sexy track on the album (and that is saying something), while Jealous is one of the most vulnerable and honest (regardless of whether you think Beyoncé actually still cooks, naked or otherwise).

partition

vs.

jealous

11. No Angel vs. 6. Rocket                                                                             Both of these songs are ridiculously sexy.  No Angel is one of the most thought provoking videos for me.  I think it’s the anti-thesis to J Lo’s Jenny from the Block.  Beyoncé is being honest about the fact that celebrity has changed her, and she doesn’t fit in where she came from.

noangel

Meanwhile, Rocket takes a far less subtle approach, especially when paired with the video.  I can’t help but hear this as a Marvin Gaye throwback, simulating a sexual experience but keeping to a classic R&B sound and structure.  Hot.

rocket

7. Blow vs 10. Blue
This is easily the most awkward match-up in this bracket.  A super sexy ode to pleasure whose video is full of neon-wearing dancers in a roller rink… battling a down-to-earth ode to Beyonce’s daughter, Blue Ivy (with a video shot in Brazil… so as low-key as that can be).

blow

vs.

blueivy

2. Drunk in Love vs. 15. Mine
And finally, the two big rap collaboration tracks on the album – the first with Beyonce’s real-life boo, Jay Z, and the second with Canadian baby face of rap music, Drake.  Without leaning too heavily on which rapper you prefer, vote for the song you actually like better.  Either way, Bey kills it on both tracks.

vs.

mine

That’s it for now!  Stay tuned to vote on more brackets… next up, your favourite Destiny’s Child tracks!

Beyoncé Madness: The First Four

For those of you unfamiliar with March Madness as it pertains to College Basketball, every year the greatest tournament ever begins with 2 special “play in” games, where 4 underdog teams battle for the last spots in the tournament.

Similarly here, the first four will comprise of 4 songs that you can vote-in to compete against the other 62  already seeded tracks.  There are two places on the Beyoncé bracket that you may have noticed are named “vote in”.  Those are the spots these songs will fight for.

The first poll will be for the 16th spot alongside songs from Beyoncé’s latest album.  You get to vote between two songs from  Jay-Z’s album, Magna Carta… Holy Grail that feature Queen Bey – making them her most recent songs apart from the self-titled album.  Have fun voting!

BBC – Jay Z featuring Beyoncé, 2013.  From Magna Carta… Holy Grail.

Granted, Beyoncé is not a major part of this song.  She opens the track reminding us all that her boo is a billionaire, and then lets Hov, along with some help with his friends Justin Timberlake and Nas, take it from there.  Her background vocals are credited to Third Ward Trill – a shout-out to her hometown, which becomes a bit of a theme on the new album, so it’s kind of connected.

Part II (On the Run) – Jay Z featuring Beyoncé, 2013.  From Magna Carta… Holy Grail.

Like BBC, there is no official music video for this track, but who wouldn’t want to watch a slide show of this adorable power couple?  On the Run works like a sequel to JayBey’s first song together, ’03 Bonnie & Clyde, which is seeded 4th place among the 16 collaborations.

Next up, the vote-in for the 16th spot among the best of Beyoncé’s solo career will give one of Bey’s more obscure and underrated tracks a chance to go head to head against her top-selling singles.

Lost Yo Mind, 2006.  Bonus track from B’Day

I for one, have no idea how this song avoided being properly released.  It is really good – one of my personal favourites from B’Day.  

ROC, 2008.  Unreleased.

Talk about obscure, this track was never actually on an album.  It was written and recorded for I Am… Sasha Fierce, but didn’t make the cut, maybe because she uncharacteristically uses the “N” word.

And now that you know all the options, don’t forget to print off your own Beyonce Brackets to predict and play along with!  Click the image below to access a printable/downloadable copy of the bracket, and good luck!

Beyoncé Madness

Danice’s Favourite Albums from 2013

Albums are my favourite, so I had the most fun compiling this list.  As much as possible, I’ve linked the album art to places where you can stream the album so that you can give the albums a listen yourselves. Hopefully you’ve had time to scroll through and listen to my top 13 songs of 2013, and if you have, you can probably make a few educated guesses about what my favourite albums of the year might have been.  Let’s see how close you were.

lauramarling13.  Once I Was an Eagle  –  Laura Marling

Although the (almost) title track is a stand-out for me, this whole album hangs together so brilliantly.  I have no trouble admitting that one of my favourite things about Laura Marling is the way she reminds me of Joni Mitchell.  And I love Joni.  Once I Was An Eagle is instrumentally minimalist, with mostly just vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar and some dark cello and soft drums, adding to the sense of its vulnerability.  Sometimes it feels like the instruments are playing in the distance, but Marling is half-whispering in my ear, singing me these short narratives about moving on in life in the midst of our fears and uncertainties.  It’s beautiful, and I have a feeling I’ll be returning to this little song cycle frequently in the future.

vampireweekend12.  Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

I realized that I had to include this album when I was considering about 4 songs as favourite tracks of the year – Dianne Young, Yeah Hey, Unbelievers, and Hannah Hunt.  But actually, by themselves these songs are not half as fun as just putting on all of Modern Vampires… which maintains the tight, upbeat pop music that we’ve come to appreciate from Vampire Weekend.

matangi11.  Matangi – M.I.A.

Named after the Hindu Goddess of the same name, this album is most certainly M.I.A.’s most spiritual album to date. It’s true that my favourite tracks from Matangi are the two that were released long before the album came out, and also the two that sound most like they could have been on an earlier album (Bad Girls & Bring tha Noize).   Still, the other tracks bring both a more gentle approach (Come Walk With Me & Sexodus), while still responding to ludicrous pop culture phenomenons, specifically when turning Y.O.L.O. into a reincarnation anthem, Y.A.L.A. (“You Always Live Again”).  The truth is, M.I.A. can do almost no wrong in my eyes, and even if Matangi was not everything I was hoping for, it still was one of my favourite records of the year.

magnacarta10. Magna Carta… Holy Grail – Jay Z

Although even Jay Z himself will admit that this is not his best work ever, it was still one of my favourite things to listen to this year.  The first three tracks alone are enough to make the album unforgettable, and On the Run (Part II) is my favourite collaboration with Beyonce to date – even more than Crazy in Love, even more than Drunk in Love.  One of only two albums I bought without a pre-listen, and it was definitely worth it.  (The second was his wife’s).  If you have no prior experience with Magna Carta, I recommend starting with this video:

loveinthefuture9. Love in the Future – John Legend

If nothing else, John Legend is consistent in his smooth sexy music making, and Kanye producing only amplifies these strengths.  I have listened to Love in the Future in its fullness more easily than any other John Legend solo album. (I qualified that with “solo” because I am a huge fan of his collaboration album with The Roots, evidenced here).  This album is classic, romantic R&B with no interruptions.  My favourite moments are his cover of Bobby Caldwell’s Open Your Eyes, and the beautiful, piano-heavy All of Me, but in its entirety, Love in the Future has everything to make someone fall head over feet in love.  At very least, with Legend himself.

blood orange8. Cupid Deluxe – Blood Orange

So far, here’s my least mainstream album on the list.  A solo album from Dev Hynes, the writer/producer who gave Solange the sounds I liked best on her True EP last year.  Today I read that Dev Hynes’ apartment had a fire and he lost all of his stuff, including his cat named Cupid, who I can only assume the album is named after.  So, all of this to say, we should probably all help him out and buy the album.  It’s really chill and good, I promise.  Also, this outfit in this video.

RAM-daft punk7. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

This was the sound of the summer of 2013, and that sound was a perfectly blended mix of old and new school dance music.  Disco is alive and well, and it is brought to you by futuristic robots/a couple French guys.  “Get Lucky” was one of the biggest tracks of the year, but it’s not the only solid thing on the album.  There are certainly some strange hiccups, such as Touch, which feels like a musical solo that didn’t make the cut.  But as a complete LP, RAM makes for a great soundtrack for just about anything.  I recommend meal preparation, exercise or a road-trip.

20:20 experience6. The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake

There is a reason this album sold more than any other in 2013.  It’s massively appealing to both fans of new pop and golden-era soul purists.  The best parts are all of the horns and strings in every song, and the seamless transitions from one part of a song to the next.  Nearly every track on the album is more than 7 minutes long, which sometimes seems a bit excessive, but mostly I think JT just has so many great ideas for each song that the normal 3-4 minute format is far too restrictive.  Maybe his next album (and yes, I would like to just pretend that Part II never happened) will be one continuous track, simply transitioning from one musical theme to the next.  I’d be down.

laura mvula5. Sing to the Moon – Laura Mvula

This lovely human being is my favourite new artist of 2013.  If I were to make this list based 100% on my iTunes plays count, this would be my second most listened-to album of 2013 (after only the second album on this list).  I still cannot get enough of her clean vocals with moments of full choral backup, jazzy instrumentals, and syncopated rhythms.  It certainly helps that she makes beautiful music videos as well.  Oh look, here’s one now!

electric lady4. The Electric Lady – Janelle Monae

I was waiting, anticipating this one like no other in 2013, and it thankfully did not disappoint.  I have been following Monae for a while now – the Archandroid was my favourite album of 2010 – and to be honest, I was really hoping The Electric Lady would be a sort of coming-out record for her.  It was the next best thing.  Chock full of queer anthems, this album is devoted to proudly being yourself.  On top of it, the record holds together far more cohesively than her last. Janelle Monae seems to have settled into a new kind of soul, instead of trying to prove herself in every imaginable genre.  I love every collaboration here – I mean, she has definitely worked with the right people: Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange, Esperanza Spalding all make unforgettable appearances.  As I’m writing this, I’m considering moving it up to a higher spot.  Here’s a video of her reaction after 106&Park premiered her brilliant video for Q.U.E.E.N.

reflektor3.  Reflektor – Arcade Fire

I actually was not a fan the first time I heard the title track, Reflektor.  Luckily, when SNL extended their programming one night to include nearly the whole album, my PVR kept recording, and I was drawn in.  For me, Arcade Fire has never made a better album than their first, Funeral.  But in their move away from their original anthemic feel and sound, I am amazed that this is the same band, exploring new soundscapes.  I have always really appreciated Arcade Fire’s ability to explore serious, sad and dark themes while maintaining a genuinely fun aesthetic – whether it makes you want to sing along, or simply nod your head.

flyingcolours2.  Flying Colours – Shad

This is actually what I listened to more than any other full album in 2013.  Like a majority of the artists in this list, on top of pairing thoughtful, honest lyrics with really fly, catchy hooks, he’s a fantastic performer.  He just may be Jay Z in his lifetime because, like Hov, he looks like he’s having the time of his frickin’ life on stage.  Meanwhile, he is quite possibly the best lyricist in the game right now.  I am somewhat regretting not putting my favourite song of the album on my top 13 of the year list, so here it is now:

beyonce1. Beyonce – Beyonce

Ok, so I know it’s only been a week, but there is no way that this album could place anywhere but number 1.  It’s such a game changer – and that’s without even watching/listening to it.  Honestly, a part of me thought that the fact that 4 was an incredible album was a bit of a fluke.  I wasn’t expecting this.  I mean, yeah, no one was, but I really wasn’t expecting a whole album from Beyonce that I would love.  And I got it.  For every minor album disappointment of the year, Beyonce made up for it.  With this album, Queen Bey has stepped into her place as pop royalty, and made her toughest, most in-your-face, honest, and vulnerable album to date.  She practically made me forget about every other album that I just wrote about, and affirmed my decision to not compile this blog early.  She also may have ruined all new music for me.  Here’s one of the few videos that has been released on youtube so far.  It also happens to be one of my favourites… but then again, every song on that album is my favourite.