We’ve made it to the last brackets of round 1! These polls include the most recent of femcees to compete, only making their mark in the music world within the past 7 years. I will admit that I am a pretty big fan of a handful of these ladies, but I’ll try not to let my bias slip into view too much. Also, the brackets below have been adjusted to include the veteran winners of round one, so check out the updated page, and get to voting!
(1) Iggy Azalea vs. (16) Little Simz
Aside from being one of the most criticized rappers of late, Iggy Azaelia managed to nab the #1 seed here because she’s also the most acclaimed. I don’t want to underestimate the Florida-based Aussie, and I will fully admit that “Fancy” is one of my fave videos, but I also admit that I am very excited that your vote-in choice, Little Simz, might have a real shot here. Straight outta London, Simbi is a soft-voiced poet with impeccable flow. She has yet to blow up in North America, but I have a feeling her current tour is going to help boost her status. She recently did a Tiny Desk Concert (my favourite office furniture related series).
(9) Sasha Go Hard vs. (8) NoName
Two very different Chicago Femcees get to face off here. Sasha Go Hard is one of a very few female rappers associated with a south-side style of trap known as drill music. As a drill artist, Sasha is an aggressive rapper addressing the violence in her city with graphic imagery that doesn’t sugarcoat. Meanwhile, Noname has been combining her rap with jazz and R&B and gospel to reflect on her city and country. She hasn’t made music videos as far as I can tell, but she’s gained popularity as a longtime collaborator of Chance the Rapper, before releasing her debut LP, Telefone, last summer.
(5) Azealia Banks vs. (12) Nyemiah Supreme
Even their pictures make me feel like this match-up is extra appropriate! Unfortunately Azealia Banks‘ reputation for online rants and beefs threatens to overshadow her talent as a rapper, but whether it’s in a song or on twitter, the girl commits to her ideas and energy, no matter how outlandish. Nyemiah Supreme is quick to self-identify as the most underrated female, but I will let you decide that. She brings a fun energy and attitude, looking like she’s down to party long after she’s finished performing.
(13) Lizzo vs. (4) Young M.A.
Well yeah, if it wasn’t real before now… both of these fresh femcees have been blowing up more recently, although they’ve been hard at work for years. Lizzo has been the front-woman of a handful of collaborative indie projects like Grrrl Prty, The Chalice, and Ellypseas, before releasing her first solo record in 2013, Lizzobangers. I love her because of her energy, body positivity, fantastic sense of humour and optimistic outlook. Young M.A. took the world by storm with her extra-viral “OOOUUU,” which has been referenced, covered, and remixed more than I can keep track of. She is a proud Brooklyn butch lesbian who does not hesitate to rhyme about her two greatest loves – hennessey and women. I love her because she is unapologetically her badass self. I don’t even know how I WANT this to go.
(3) Tink vs. (14) Sammus
Tink builds narratives using rap and vocals as interchangeably as Lauryn Hill. She’s been steadily giving us mixtapes, including her Winter’s Diary series, and is expected to release her first LP by the end of this month. Another master storyteller, Sammus weaves her PhD level vocabulary with a wide range of pop culture references to make nearly everyone feel included at some point. I have no idea what to do here, folks. Good luck.
(11) Gifted Gab vs. (6) DeJ Loaf
Along with her crew from Moor Gang, Gifted Gab is keeping the Seattle hip-hop scene alive and well, with her Queen-Latifah-inspired flow over remarkably simple and catchy beats that draw even more attention to her clever lyrics. Detroit’s DeJ Loaf has a particularly chill, melodic delivery, treading the fine line between rap and r&b. She’s been steadily growing with recognition since making XXL’s 2015 Freshmen Class – the same year as Tink.
(7) Angel Haze vs. (10) Lee Mazin
Angel Haze can rap at a rapid-fire pace while processing deep personal content. Hmmm, actually that is a phrase I could use for Lee Mazin too. Come to think of it, these two rappers remind me a lot of each other. My love of Angel Haze began when they came out as queer and remade Macklemore’s “Same Love,”and has only strengthened with every release. I guess Philly-based Lee Mazin is mostly known for her spot on Sisterhood of Hip Hop, but her freestyles are exceptional.
(15) Princess Nokia vs. (2) Rapsody
Princess Nokia is the rapping alter-ego of Wavy Spice aka Destiny Frasqueri, as well as her collaborative project with OWWWLS. Their two mixtapes are eclectic without losing focus, drawing on numerous styles and cultures of influence, with an attempt to reach across difference and musically represent humanity as a whole. No bigs. You may have heard of Rapsody since she showed up on Kendrick Lamar’s epic rap opus, To Pimp A Butterfly, but she has been releasing her smooth wordplay as a solo artist since 2010. In her words, she’s “still that rapper that your favourite rapper is scared to rap after.” So good thing she’s up last on these brackets.
These polls are going to close fast, so get your voting done before the end next weekend and then watch out for the second round!
And then there were two…
After all the madness, we’ve found ourselves in with a reasonable final match up after all! Although every bracket I’ve seen has been busted, both of these women have been predicted as the ultimate winner of the tournament, and now I am hoping for as close a competition as we had in the UNC/Villanova final game last Monday night. I’m just cheering for a close vote, or something like that, because the truth is, I have argued with myself about who deserves this more: Aretha Franklin or Mariah Carey.
So I don’t know what will happen here, and I promise not to have intense feelings either way. No matter what, I will choose an album for the winner to talk about in a separate blog post next week. As in the final four, polls will be open only until the weekend, but you will be able to vote from your device once every 12 hours. By now you should be very well acquainted with these two legendary divas, so let’s get right to it, shall we?
Actually wait, look what I found. First there’s Mariah singing an Aretha cover.
Now for Aretha covering Mariah….
Yes girl, that happened. And finally, when they appeared on the same stage for the first VH1 Divas performance in 1998.
Ok, now you can vote.
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!
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. She 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.
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. She’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.
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. To 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.
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. She 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!
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:
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!
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.
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…
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!