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Diva Madness: The Final Four

Alright folks, here are the final four of Diva Madness.  Before we get to the updated brackets, you should know that the poll settings have changed so that you may vote once a day per device, so make sure to check back and help out your diva of choice.  Polls will close on Tuesday, April 5th at midnight, and the final matchup will be posted the next morning.  Let’s take a look at the four divas you’ve chosen to represent each era and their road to the final four.  Instead of picking one video for the round, I’ll scatter several links to performances and mash ups throughout their introduction.  Have fun, and vote responsibly!

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She may have started out as a #6 seed, but I doubt that many people are surprised by Aretha’s presence in the final four of Diva Madness.  Since starting her musical career solidly in the arena of gospel with the likes of Mahalia Jackson mentoring her throughout the 1950s, she followed her idols Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson into the world of popular rhythm and blues.  IMG_0067She began to chart on Billboard in 1961 (at the age of 19), and now holds the record for most charted female artist of all time, with 112 singles in the pop charts, and 100 R&B entries (including albums and singles).  Her very first #1 hit became an iconic feminist anthem.  She has not lived a life of drama per se, but has perhaps internalized the drama around her, resulting in health challenges including weight fluctuation.  Rolling Stone magazine has called Aretha one of their top 10 artists of all time, and the #1 singer of all time.

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Annie Lennox is the dark horse of this competition, making her way into the final four as an underdog for most of the tournament.  In brutally tight competitions, she took out my personal fave, Janet, and predicted favourite, Whitney, only to finish of Stevie Nicks who made it past both Gloria Estefan and Madonna.  IMG_0066She’s proven to be a contender, and every time I talk to folks about this competition I am reminded just how loyal Annie fans are.  Though this Scot began her career with the Eurythmics and turned out several #1 hits, it was her solo work in the 90s that elevated Annie to a household name and gave her a place in the diva category, proven by her 1992 album title, Diva.  She defies many of the normal diva attributes, both in terms of drama and presentation of gender, but it’s hard to say whether these things are to her advantage or disadvantage in this competition.

 

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She is the last #1 seed left in this competition, making her the diva version of UNC (for the basketball fans out there).  She is favoured to win, but that is without factoring in some mad love for Adele since her 25 album and tour.  Still, Mariah has the nostalgic factor, representing the era that could be considered the golden period for divas.  IMG_0064To get to this place, she has rarely found herself in a close-call situation, always having a clear advantage against Faith Evans, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, and even most recently, Celine Dion.  In terms of diva defining categories, she has an edge in every possible one.  Her vocal range is legendary; her runs are unbelievable; her hand motions when she’s doing a run are on point; she has a residency in Vegas and has enough drama and narcissism to star in her own reality show; and she does nearly everything in heels and sequins. On top of that, she is arguably the most successful female artist of all time.  Also, have you seen her episode of “Cribs“?  The girl is undoubtedly a hustler.

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With only 3 albums in less than a decade of recorded music, Adele has already found herself listed with the best-selling recording artists of all time.  IMG_0065She has a great voice, but I think what makes her a diva is her ability to emote beyond the words she sings.  In her mid 20s, Adele has already seen a share of drama, and channelled it directly into some very catchy pop-songwriting and big hair.  I just realized that none of these four finalists are total package performers – they are all primarily vocalists that stick to what they do best.  Adele is certainly in this category, proving time and time again that she can just stand on a stage and sing, and we will be mesmerized.  Plus she’s still so young, so hopefully there are many years of divaness to come.

Ok, it’s time to vote!  Remember, you can come back every day until Tuesday to place your vote.  See you on Wednesday for the championship poll!

 

Diva Madness: Elite Eight

In case you haven’t been paying attention, this tournament has been emphasizing the second word, madness.  I’m not gonna lie, I never expected this.  I did not consider a remote possibility that that BOTH Beyoncé AND Whitney Houston would be booted out of the competition during the Sweet 16.  Guys.  I was saving all their best videos!  I hardly have anything left for Annie Lennox and Lady Gaga.

It would be a different thing if this were simply a a female vocalist competition, but I feel as though there are some voters not properly taking the word “diva” in to proper consideration.  Still, I have no one to blame but myself, for putting this decision in the hands of voters.  I feel as though I understand for the first time how Trump could make it this far as a presidential candidate.  So, I will see these brackets to the end, but my heart is no longer in it.  Let’s see how the Elite Eight fare with some national anthems (when available), and in order to understand my deep sadness I dare you to compare them to this performance:

Thank you, Whitney, for showing us how it’s done.  And now with a heavy heart, I present you with the updated Diva Madness Brackets:

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Lady Gaga vs. Adele

Perhaps it is true that there is no such thing as a modern diva.  If a post-90s representative has been narrowed down to Lady Gaga and Adele, then I certainly could be convinced.  The truth is, no matter what happens here, Beyoncé will always be the modern diva of my heart.  More than that, she is the most diva of her bracket, even if we are stuck voting between these two.  It’s as if we’ve forgotten that Bey has had more Billboard #1 singles than Adele and Lady Gaga COMBINED, not to mention she’s owned the Superbowl halftime show twice, and still blown away a national anthem like NONE of these women yet.  Ok, I’m done.  Maybe ya’ll just wanted a fairer fight.  Adele does not yet have an epic performance of “God Save the Queen,” so I found the closest thing: her Bond theme.

Mariah vs. Celine

Now, at least the 90’s still has some proper divas to offer the final four.  Either way, this quadrant will be represented a vocal legend and a personality to compete with the gods.  Just a reminder to please make your decision based on the singer (their voice, interpretation, and hand motions) rather than your patriotic (or aesthetic) bias towards either anthem.

STEVIE vs. ANNIE

These two do indeed deserve to face one another, even if I think this is not the appropriate time or place.  Neither of these woman have a time when they sang the national anthem, so I suppose it’s good they are competing against one another.  They are also, after all, the only two divas left who began their careers in rock bands.  Who will you pick to represent the 80s, and rock divas in the final four?

ARETHA vs. ELLA

We’ll end with a truly epic face-off, although I could not find a performance of Ella Fitzgerald singing “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Maybe she didn’t feel like she could swing it as much as she wanted.  Anyway, as with Annie Lennox, I’ve found her singing “Georgia on My Mind,” which is basically a State Anthem, if that was actually a thing.  Meanwhile, I found more versions of Aretha singing the American anthem than any other diva left – I picked this one primarily for the video quality.

Polls will remain open until Friday, April 1st (no joke!), so make sure to let your friends and diva-allies know to place their votes in time.  See you next weekend with the final four!

Diva Madness: Sweet 16, Part 1

Welcome to the Sweet 16 of Diva Madness!  With so few battles in each quadrant, we’re going to take two at a time, and in this post we’ll be voting on the west side, representing our more recent divas of the 90s and the 00s.  For a full and updated, printable bracket, here’s the link: DivaMadness S16.  Now let’s take a closer look and start the voting.

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BEYONCÉ (1) vs. LADY GAGA (4)

And so it begins with two living legends, both having recently begun a new era or phase of their careers.  They are both easily triple threats (if not quadruple or more), and have found very little competition in Diva Madness so far.  This is certainly not the first interaction they’ve had, and you can watch both divas feature each other on phone related tracks here and here.  Perhaps this poll will be closer than either have experienced in previous rounds…

ADELE (6) vs. P!NK (7)

I’m somewhat disappointed that there is no such thing as an Adele/P!nk collaboration, although I really can’t picture what that would look like on a performance level.  So far here in Diva Madness, Adele has easily beaten underdogs, while P!nk has most recently and notably upset the 2nd-seeded Rihanna to contend for one of the Elite Eight spots.  Who would you like to face off against the winner of Beyoncé vs Gaga?

On to the 90s…

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MARIAH (1) vs. MJB (5)

Although I saw this match-up coming in my prediction, I have to admit, now that it’s a reality, I have no idea how to vote.  These two women are vocal powerhouses who bring a personality to their performance just as large as their dynamic range.  The majority of younger, potentially rising divas are regularly compared to these 90s icons.  Mariah certainly has the record sales and billboard hits to make her a #1 seed, but MJB continues to make current hits and gain younger fans.  There is no given in this poll.

LAURYN (11) vs. CELINE (2)

Initially I thought it might be difficult to draw comparisons between these two divas, but there are actually some similarities.  They both began performing at a young age, their vocal talent is beyond compare, and both women have reached a status that is not easily relatable for the common person.  Who’s the bigger diva though?  That’s up to you.

Share with your diva-loving friends until early next week, and check back in a day or two for the second half of Diva Madness Sweet 16!

Diva Madness Round 2: Modern Divas

Even before the NCAA’s March Madness has their Selection Sunday announcing their seeds and brackets, Diva Madness is ready for your final decisions about which divas will progress into our Sweet 16.  Here are the last 4 polls of round 2, all pairing up modern divas for your votes.

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Beyoncé (1) vs. Kelly Clarkson (8)

Not even the tragic death of Amy Winehouse could prevent Beyoncé from advancing to this round, and now she goes up against America’s sweetheart idol, Kelly Clarkson.  Though they are stylistically different, both Bey and Kelly are first and foremost powerful vocalists who have learned to do a whole heck of a lot more than sing.  Ok, I might be talking about one person more than another, but it is simply not possible for me to fake objectivity.  Votes are anonymous.

Katy Perry (5) vs. Lady Gaga (4)

These are two modern-pop-defining, novelty-loving superstars, and now they appropriately go head-to-head.  While both have been known for their over-the-top antics, they have also proven to be go-to acts for events such as The Oscars or The Superbowl in recent years.  Also, they really inspire hyphens!

Jennifer Hudson (14) vs. Adele (6)

At the 14th seed, JHUD upset the 3rd place to be here and goes up against one of the most popular voices of pop music right now, Adele.  I would absolutely love these two to have a sing off in real life, and to be honest, they both have such great and quirky personalities, I’d love to just watch them hang out on a reality show.  Who should I talk to in order to make that happen?  In addition to the performances below, consider checking out both women on James Cordon’s “Carpool Karaoke” – they are two of his most entertaining guests so far.

P!nk (7) vs. Rihanna (2)

Once again, we have two artists that both have been selected to win this bracket by some who have predicted their final four.  P!nk seems to be on a bit of a break from the spotlight, but there is no doubt she’ll be back with anthemic vocals and some new performance trick any day now.  Meanwhile, with her most recent release, ANTI, Rihanna just became the only artist to have #1 Hot 100 singles from 7 consecutive albums.  I’m also curious who you think would win a fist fight, but maybe that’s a conversation for the comment section.

There are still a few more days to vote on the other brackets, so in case you’ve missed any, here are the links, and how long their polls will be open.  Otherwise, get your friends voting, and prepare for Sweet 16 starting Wednesday, March 8th!

Classic Divas (Until 12am, Sat. March 4th)

1980s Divas (Until 12am, Sun. March 5th)

1990s Divas (Until 12am, Mon. March 6th)

 

Diva Madness: Modern Era, Round 1

Before you get down to business voting your favourite modern divas into the second round, please take a minute to download or print the brackets below and share your predictions for the final four (on twitter or Google Form)  by March 1st, 2016 for a chance to win a prize!

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If you haven’t yet voted for the first round of Classic Era Divas, they are up and ready for you now.  And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s an intro to the March Diva Madness tournament!  Now that those details are out of the way, let’s make some hard choices about the best and most beloved divas.  Since these are divas who’ve made their success during the first era of social media, we’ll try to keep the ballad examples as intimate as possible, showing off the vocals more than other performance elements.  Let’s get to it!

Beyoncé (1) vs. Amy Winehouse (16)

Those of you who know that I devoted this tournament entirely to Beyoncé two years ago may assume this seed is biased.  However, Bey is tied with Diana Ross and Mariah Carey for second most top-10 billboard singles of all time, though she has only been charting since 1998 (with Destiny’s Child).  With every single or album she releases (with some of the most brilliant marketing plans seen in music), she continues to prove her diva status with both her increasing vocal abilities and the way she attracts or drama and controversy.  Speaking of drama, her rival is the only deceased diva on this particular bracket.  For her all-too-short career, Amy Winehouse in concert was often like Whitney or Lauryn at their worst.  But when she was on, it was clear that Amy had not only a unique sound, but also a deep connection with the soul she grew up on.

Carrie Underwood (9) vs. Kelly Clarkson (8)

Herein lies the battle of the idols.  After Kelly Clarkson was the first ever winner of American Idol, it was quite sometime before anyone challenged her success.  Even after Carrie Underwood started making albums, Clarkson was considered to have sold more records worldwide than all the other Idol contestants combined.  However, since Underwood’s most recent album, Storyteller, the two divas’ sales are pretty competitive, estimated in the 60-70 million range.  When Ryan Seacrest (host of American Idol) was asked only last month whom he considered to be the most successful idol of all time, without hesitation his answer was Carrie, who has also broken nearly every possible record in her category of female country artist.  Meanwhile, Clarkson has continued to out-chart Underwood in the top 40 category, giving her a higher seed by a fraction of a score.

Katy Perry (5) vs. Nicki Minaj (12)

Katy Perry is a single-making machine.  Although she doesn’t have as many top 10’s as the top seeded divas in this bracket, she is tied with Beyoncé for 8 #1’s on Billboard’s 100.  She is known for her over-the-top live shows, including her 2015 Superbowl Halftime performance when she rode in on gigantic animatronic horse.  Nicki Minaj is known for her over-the-top performances too, but she tends to rely more on her massive Barbie-influenced persona than tricks and technology.  Although there are not many other rappers in this competition, I’ve found few disputes when it comes to Nicki’s inclusion.  Recently I asked an 11-year-old whom she thought was a prime example of a diva, and without thinking she answered “Nicki.”  Proof.

Florence Welch (13) vs. Lady Gaga (4)

The lead singer of Florence and the Machine is known for her unique and characteristic vibrato, and songs that allow her to build dynamically until she belts from her mid-range with all the power and soul of the greatest rock singers of the past.  While she may not receive royal status (yet), there does tend to be an other-worldliness about her stage presence.  Speaking of other-worldliness, Lady Gaga has been the standard by which we measure all pop gimmick.  However, don’t let Gaga’s antics distract you from the fact that Stephani Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) can sing.  At 17, she was one of few select students to gain early admission to the renowned musical theater program CAP21, and more recently she has been showing off her ability to perform jazz standards with Tony Bennett.

Shakira (3) vs. Jennifer Hudson (14)

While Shakira hasn’t found nearly as much success on Billboard’s Hot 100 as many of the divas from her era, this Columbian belly dancer is especially known for her international acclaim.  She has broken nearly every record for a Latin recording artist to break on American charts, making her arguably the most successful Latin artist of all time.  In English she is mostly known for her hip-shaking dance tracks, so for a ballad example, it’s best to hear her in Spanish.  Jennifer Hudson made a name for herself as a vocalist to take seriously shortly after her run on American Idol, when she starred in Dream Girls as “the one who out-sang Beyoncé.”  She has been through the ringer but refuses to give up.  Although she has had limited success in pop radio, I am predicting this to be JHUD’s time to really shine.

Alicia Keys (11) vs. Adele (6)

I don’t know what Alicia Keys has been up to lately, but every diva has her own rhythm of popularity, and although her last album was not as successful, she’s charted most recently with The Hunger Games’ big theme, “Girl On Fire”.  Now that she’s a mom, it might just be the norm for her to take a few more years between each project, but that hardly takes away from her repeated appearance on pop, r&b, and hip hop charts.  Adele would have made this list before 25 and her huge ballad of 2015, “Hello,” pushed her over the 100 million sales mark, but she certainly would not have been seeded quite so high.  This year she embarks on her first tour since 2011 which will certainly continue to solidify her superstar diva status.

P!nk (7) vs. Miley Cyrus (10)

Although P!nk hasn’t had the same level of success on the pop charts, she not only has a powerful diva-worthy voice with an edge of attitude, but she’s a performer who has no physical boundaries with what she’s willing to do.  Whether she is swinging on fabric from the roofs of stadium venues, or whether she is mastering powerful and violent choreography to dance while singing at the top of her lungs, P!nk has made it look effortless.  I have no doubt that some will call into question Miley Cyrus’ presence on this list, but regardless of what you think of her personality or performance style, this girl was born and raised as a phenomenal power country vocalist.  She is the youngest person on this list for a reason, and whether they pay for her voice or to see what she’ll do next, she sells a heck of a lot of concert tickets.

Sia (15) vs. Rihanna (2)

In some ways, Sia is an anti-diva.  She has said that her wigs and other strategies of hiding her face are intended to keep some level of mystery and privacy for herself.  Though she has had success as a songwriter writing songs for many other artists (including the diva she is up against in this round), there are few singers who can perform her songs with the technical ability they require.  Meanwhile, Rihanna has the most #1 songs of any other woman from this era, and has been incredibly prolific in both recording and performing.  Her most recent album, ANTI, is a departure from her dance floor anthems, but seems to be a statement about making the music she wants to make right now, reminding me of Janet’s The Velvet Rope – no small comparison from this unabashedly massive Janet fan.

Don’t forget to vote for the Classic Era Divas, and watch out for more brackets at the end of the week!