I was listening to the full playlist (you can hit up the Spotify and the Google playlists at right, but be aware that they omit the recently-defeated Bob Mould song, which you can only get via CD or via bootleg upload to Youtube) and had the thought that, here at the halfway point of the tournament, with almost half the field culled, the songs that we've lost make a better mixtape than the songs that are still here. I think that's because the songs that remain are converging on something—something really dark and sad that I can't yet articulate—which is good, that's what we want, we have our eyes on the prize, clear eyes, full hearts, you know, whatever, but that something is also getting more specific (and therefore self-similar, and therefore potentially unbearable).
So it seems like a lot of the songs that have now been cut are the more interesting ones, the ones that aren't as obviously "sad" like Liz Phair's "Fuck and Run" or that Leonard Cohen song, "Closing Time," that, you know, didn't really match up well against the big dogs, or maybe their charms are more idiosyncratic and less accessible. But that's the case with any tournament, especially one that's decided by majority vote. And it's a fact that they make for a more fun (if also predictably less sad) mixtape than the remaining ones. We'll be playing two Sweet Sixteen games a day starting today, 3/18, then we take a break for the weekend, then we're back on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the remaining six.
For the Sweet Sixteen matchups, since you've heard enough from The Committee by this point, we've invited guest columnists to write short essays in advocacy, anecdote, and/or analysis of each of the songs and sadnesses for you to consider in your voting. So today you'll find Alison Stine repping (3) Tori Amos's "Silent All These Years," Kathleen Rooney repping (1) The Cure's "Pictures of You," Brian Blanchfield speaking out for (6) This Mortal Coil's "Song to the Siren," and Matt Vadnais on (2) Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees." Those go live at 9am or a little earlier.
In the meantime, if you're interested in some more statistics, exactly 32 of our 64 entries are acts from the USA (a slight oversimplification, since at least one—The Pretenders—is half US, half UK). Of the foreign half, 23 entries are unsurprisingly from Ireland or the UK. Five (The Church, Nick Cave, Midnight Oil, Crowded House, Dead Can Dance) are Australian. Two (Sarah McLachlan, Leonard Cohen) are Canadian. Alphaville is from Germany. Bjork is from Iceland.
Of the domestic bands, seven are from California, four are from Minnesota, then the next most-represented states are Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and Georgia with two apiece. Then at least seven other states are represented. That Minnesota is so well represented is on the face of it surprising, but that is possibly related to the fact that the Committee is made up of Midwesterners. (One can certainly conclude that at least the Gear Daddies' inclusion was on account of this, since they're probably not on your radar if you haven't spent some time in the hinterlands.) Though, in response, one might also note that one half of the Committee is from Michigan, and exactly none (!!?) of these songs are by Michiganders. What's up with Michigan's lack of successfully incubating sad artists during this time period? Weren't we sad and fucked enough to at least spawn a notable one? Or did everyone just get the fuck out for a better climate? Minnesota's strength here also likely has to do with the excellent alt/indie scene in Minneapolis in the 1980s and 1990s (which continues to this day). This made the state much more likely to resist the sad song brain drain since at least there is a city and a scene to go to. After some thought, the committee couldn't name one band from this era that might have been included that's from Michigan. Detroit is, after all, Motown and Rock City, and was in decline in the 80s and especially the 90s. Can you think of any? We'd value that input. (And no, Sufjan came a bit too late for this bracket.)
The gender breakdown of the Sweet Sixteen includes eight songs sung by women and eight by men. Women have outpunched men, generally speaking, in the first two rounds, since we started with fifteen female-sung songs of the original field, and only seven of them lost in the first two rounds, giving them a success rate of 54%. Compare that to the 37 songs sung by men that lost, giving the men a 16% success rate. Because we were aware of the gender disparity in the field, we tried to avoid pitting women against each other in the first round (also because of the numbers it was simply less likely).
Also, of the original 64, sixteen were solo artists (a couple of the bands, like Magnetic Fields (at least the song represented here), are a little hazier whether they're really bands: still, we counted them as bands). Seven of the Sweet Sixteen songs remaining are by solo artists, so solo artists have also punched above their weight in the tournament thus far. You can do the math.
That's not surprising in a tournament of sadness, right? Is it fair to say from this that we (at least slightly) prefer our sadness solo? And perhaps sung in a female voice?