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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!

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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.

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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…

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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!

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:

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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!

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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.