Thinking about this second-round matchup against Sinead O'Connor's "Three Babies," I was pretty sure that no one would be insane enough to cover Sinead, but then I found a not-real-revelatory live version from 2014 by fellow March Sadnesser Tori Amos, included here for your consideration. Perhaps it's because "Three Babies" is so apparently autobiographical that it seems nearly uncoverable, but then that never stopped Tori, who is fearless in her covers, and besides, since Tori has also miscarried, she's got better access to the song than some. It's also because Sinead's just got that un-fuck-with-able voice: I could see a riot grrl kind of cover being the only way to transform the song and find out what else is inside it.
So these two songs offer a number of contrasts: "Three Babies" is pretty far along the autobiographical/confessional axis of sadness (see also our first-round coverage of "Three Babies"), and so much of our appreciation for Sinead's work is in the passion, how hot it feels, that she's appeared to hold very little back, which sometimes has worked against her in terms of her career. Is this the only song explicitly about miscarriage or parenting in the bracket? Is this the only sort-of maternal (or even parental?) song here? Does that mean that the easier sadnesses to talk or sing about or share are the more universal, like romantic devastation?
"Vapour Trail" is much less obviously about a specific autobiographical situation. Its few lyrics tell us what we need to know: "First you look so strong then you fade away / The sun will blind my eyes, I love you anyway / Thirsty for your smile, I watch you for a while / You are a vapour trail in a deep blue sky." Is this about romance? Friendship? Artistic admiration? We're hazy, as is the image it suggests.
This matchup seems to be about not just which voice is more evocative (if that's the decision, then Sinead's your choice) but about whether a more apparently confessional, intense sadness is sadder than a more abstract one. Or whether this more more apparently confessional sadness is sadder than Ride's.
Maybe because it's an easier sadness to imagine ourselves inside of, "Vapour Trail" offers us, the listeners, a way to participate in that song, culminating in the "la-la-la-la"s that end it? We'd be surprised, though, if the game goes their way. They'll have to go to the zone defense, which they're good at, to stick around. If Sinead breaks it down and forces them to switch to man-to-man, it's over.
The odds are, as they almost always are, with the apparently autobiographical song, plus the undeniable emotion when Sinead's voice surges—"No longer mad like a horse / I'm still wild but not lost"—is nearly impossible to defend against. Can she keep that level of intensity up the whole game? If so, this is where Ride's tournament ends.
(11) Ride, "Vapour Trail"
(3) Sinead O'Connor, "Three Babies"
Note: today, some folks are reporting an error when voting in our polls below. We're working on it, but note that it IS counting your votes, even if the error shows up; the software also filters out multiple votes, so you can't accidentally vote too many times. Anyhow, if it doesn't work for you either click HERE to vote (and HERE for results) or do it on twitter below:
#marchsadness 2d rd tip-off: @rideox4 vs @SineadOconnorHQ: https://t.co/pXO8qEJc3a; who you got? why?— Ander Monson (@angermonsoon) March 14, 2016