CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL SCORE: (2) JEFF BUCKLEY 168, (7) Tracy Chapman 159 .......... FINAL FOUR FINAL SCORES: (7) TRACY CHAPMAN 154, (1) Joy Division 90 ..... (2) JEFF BUCKLEY 137, (1) The Cure 89 .......... ELITE EIGHT FINAL SCORES: (1) JOY DIVISION 74, (14) Low 60 ..... (7) TRACY CHAPMAN 85, (1) Elliott Smith 69 ..... THE CURE 65, (2) Radiohead 58 ..... (2) JEFF BUCKLEY 74, (1) Neutral Milk Hotel 44 ..... FINAL SWEET SIXTEEN SCORES: (1) JOY DIVISION 75, (5) PJ Harvey & Nick Cave 24 ..... (14) LOW 73, (2) Concrete Blonde (64) ..... (1) ELLIOTT SMITH 78, (4) Gary Jules 44 ..... (7) TRACY CHAPMAN 74, (6) Kate Bush 53 ..... (1) NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL 54, (13) The Church 49 ..... (2) JEFF BUCKLEY 73, (3) Sinead O’Connor 35 ..... (1) THE CURE 109, (3) Tori Amos 86 ..... (2) RADIOHEAD 76, (6) This Mortal Coil 50 ..... (1) JOY DIVISION 96, (9) Mazzy Star 91 ..... (2) CONCRETE BLONDE 76, (7) Bob Mould 28 ..... (14) LOW 60, (6) Crowded House 51 ..... (5) PJ HARVEY & NICK CAVE 65, (4) Alphaville 38 ..... (1) ELLIOTT SMITH 113, (8) Replacements 88 ..... (6) KATE BUSH 87, (3) Nirvana 64 ..... (7) TRACY CHAPMAN 99, (2) The Eels 62 ..... (3) GARY JULES 103, (12) Morrissey 63 ..... (6) Kate Bush 72, (3) Nirvana 53 ..... (3) SINEAD O'CONNOR 66, (11) Ride 27 ..... (13) THE CHURCH 106, (5) James 44 ..... (2) JEFF BUCKLEY 95, (10) Smashing Pumpkins 40 ..... (1) NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL 80, (9) New Order 56 ..... (2) RADIOHEAD 102, (7) Nine Inch Nails 99 ..... (6) THIS MORTAL COIL 61, (3) Indigo Girls 60 ..... (4) TORI AMOS 89, (5) Swans 40 ..... (1) CURE 82, (8) Tom Waits 68 ............... FINAL 1ST ROUND SCORES: (5) PJ HARVEY & NICK CAVE 93, (12) Midnight Oil 38 ..... (7) BOB MOULD 63, (10) Peter Murphy 47 ..... (1) JOY DIVISION 117, (16) Erasure 19 ..... (6) CROWDED HOUSE 98, (11) Leonard Cohen 54 ..... (7) TRACY CHAPMAN 199, (10) The Smiths 162 ..... (5) MORRISSEY 115, (12) Morphine 83 ..... (3) NIRVANA 137, (14) Slowdive 102 ..... (8) THE REPLACEMENTS 128, (9) Dream Academy 82 ..... (13) THE CHURCH 262, (4) Magnetic Fields 193 ..... (10) SMASHING PUMPKINS 165, (7) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 155 ..... (9) NEW ORDER 160, (8) Sarah McLachlan 78 ..... (1) JEFF BUCKLEY 204, (16) Bjork 92 ..... (4) TORI AMOS 78, (13) Echo & the Bunnymen 22 ..... (8) TOM WAITS 72, (9) The Pretenders 22 ..... (6) THIS MORTAL COIL 51, (11) Yaz 31 ..... (3) INDIGO GIRLS 71, (14) Pavement 26 ..... (9) MAZZY STAR 132, (8) REM 46 ..... (2) CONCRETE BLONDE 88, (15) Psychedelic Furs 34 ..... (4) ALPHAVILLE 71, (13) Dead Can Dance 36 ..... (14) LOW 120, (3) U2 65 ..... (1) ELLIOTT SMITH 63, (16) 10,000 Maniacs 24 ..... (2) EELS 50, (15) Counting Crows 46 ..... (4) GARY JULES 62, (13) Depeche Mode 19 ..... (6) KATE BUSH 59, (11) Sisters of Mercy 20 ..... (1) NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL 42, (16) Violent Femmes 12 ..... (11) RIDE 25 (6) Peter Gabriel 24 ..... (3) SINEAD O'CONNOR 37, (14) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 17, ..... (5) JAMES 24, (12) Red House Painters 23 ..... (7) NINE INCH NAILS 46, (10) Wilco 31, (5) SWANS 31, (12) Pet Shop Boys 18 ..... (1) THE CURE 50, (16) Gear Daddies 10 ..... (2) RADIOHEAD 40, (15) Liz Phair 35


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sweet Sixteen Action: (4) GARY JULES vs (1) ELLIOTT SMITH

FINAL SCORE: (1) ELLIOTT SMITH 78, (4) Gary Jules 44


(4) Gary Jules, "Mad World"

Analysis by Ryan Carter

I had no idea Jules' song was a cover of a Tears for Fears hit until several years after I'd heard it in Donnie Darko. I looked up the original, and I don't think I've done so since. There's no need. It doesn't have the pull that Jules' version does. And by pull, I mean, well, the sadness. But also its clarity. This is a pretty spare tune. It's not hard to follow. There's a big wet whallop in here that's aimed right at your gut.

These days an artistic representation of suicidal ideation is a big turn-off. I get a little frustrated. This is ground that's been covered before. I know my thought is dismissive, and I'm kind of self-conscious about that dismissal. I kind of want to lecture the artist on reaching their full potential in other more constructive ways. "You've got a lot of talent, and you shouldn't squander it on moping." That sort of thing. But that's me today, as a grown-up. In 2002 or 2003, when I probably heard the song, memories of my own adolescent rage and despair weren't so distant. Let's say I was introduced to the song in 2003: that's 13 years ago. In the past thirteen years I've done a lot of stuff. In 2003, I'd been out of high school for only eight years. I'd been out of college for only three or four, depending on how you count. And that passel of years wasn't easy. There was plenty of sadness, and plenty of leaning on the edges of rooftops, looking at one city or another, feeling almost surgically removed from everything below and beyond.

I may even have spent some of those rooftop moments in a hat like Gary Jules wears in this video. The landscape he looks over is pretty bleak and wintery. There's a lot of separation there. Not a lot of "there" there. It's familiar.

Today I see a young parent with a young child and I smile. Same happens when I see a dog. If I were to gaze over the rooftops of my city, I'd think about the neat cars on the streets, maybe how the landscape was different before they put in the interstate. (In fact I'm certain I'd think about the changed landscape. I've become deeply enamored of historical plat maps.) I'd think about the weird politics that have led to the football stadium I can see being built downtown. In short, I often think of things other than me, because I feel connected to them. In all sorts of ways. Today I'm luckier and happier than I've ever been. I'm engaged to a singularly kind and beautiful woman. I've come out on the other end of a couple pretty serious illnesses. I've got friends and I'm well employed. I'm not alone.

But Gary Jules reminds me that sadness is a thick filter I know well. How he got Michel Gondry, whose film credits include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and that weird White Stripes video where they're made of Legos, to direct a video for his perfect song I don't know, but Gondry gets what he's talking about. When Gondry gets it, you know you're on to something.

Ryan Carter is a research librarian for a large global firm, and lives in Minneapolis.


(1) Elliott Smith, “Waltz #2”

Analysis by Katie Jean Shinkle

On tumblr the meme below is being shared furiously by teenagers experiencing heartbreak (100,000+ reblogs/likes as of December 2015), and most of them do not know who Elliot Smith is or where these lyrics come from or what they are associated with. They do not know he is dead. They do not know his music. These teenagers care about this image because, almost twenty years later, these lyrics embody ultimate sadness, loss, the impossibility of unrequited love, an infinity of closed off possibility—I’m never going to know you now—and even through the impossibility, a challenge of the heart—but I’m going to love you anyhow. 


What are the ways in which we know and love each other, even for brief moments of time? How do we ever relieve ourselves of the grief and burden of relationships, especially our earliest ones, the ones that shape who we are and what we carry with us? If thinking of "Waltz #2 (XO)" in this way, this is the saddest song of 1998* (especially as this song was in the world with songs like this and this and this that year). "Waltz #2 (XO)" is a song about childhood trauma, but it is also a song about suffering and love, longing and turmoil, as all Smith’s songs are, and the relentless mantra of being a failure and receiving such a message as early as the earliest years of life: you’re no good you’re no good you’re no good / can’t you tell that its well understood? This is a love song to his family, his harsh stepfather and the undying love of his mother. This song offers an articulation to these complicated feelings and a chance to ruminate on the suffering that shapes us all in these ways and that shaped the haunted and exhausted Smith as an adult: I’m here and expected to stay on and on and on / I’m tired, I’m tired


It’s OK / It’s alright / Nothing’s wrong.


On October 21st, 2003 the news of Smith’s death trickled in slowly to the Michigan woods where my friends and I were binge drinking PBR and chain-smoking Newport 100s. Elliott Smith was one particular friend’s favorite artist and when we heard the news he told us a story about meeting Smith earlier in 2002. Supposedly Smith was clean then, but there are conflicting reports. My friend told us about giving Smith a handmade acoustic guitar created by my friend and his father, and how Smith was so humble upon receiving it, as if no one had ever given him a gift before. He mused with my friend about how the world was a strange place without heroin. He played the guitar in the show. My friend wept while telling us this story, and we all stayed up all night with him while he played Elliott Smith covers and recorded them, playing his guitar and bawling through songs. He must have played "Waltz #2 (XO)" for us 20 times by morning, and by morning my friend had deleted all the recordings in a rage as grief is apt to do. Here are the ways in which we love each other, even for brief moments. Here is how we relieve our grief. 


I’m never going to know you now / but I’m going to love you anyhow. 


*Or, arguably, the saddest song of all time, and possibly Smith’s best song. In Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith by William Todd Schultz, he argues that "Waltz #2 (XO)" is Smith’s best, most tortured song (see here in Slate in 2013).

Katie Jean Shinkle is the author of two books, most recently The Arson People (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015). You can learn more about her work here


  1. Ugh, this has been the hardest decision for me, so far, to pick between these two songs. It comes down to (for me) macro-sadness vs. micro-sadness: everything's-effed-anyway-INCLUDING-but-not-limited-to-children's-birthdays, or your romantic alienation/anxiety/depression. Cripes.

    1. Lynn & Ryan: this interests me quite a bit, because it's kind of the opposite of the conversation going on over at the Sinead/Buckley matchup, where some people felt like they didn't have access to the microspecificity of Sinead's song, and preferred the more abstract sadness of Buckley. Admittedly it may be more a preference of subject matter or of musicianship or vocal performance or lyrical complexity too. I'm going Elliott Smith here, but I don't really read his sadness as being super micro: it seems fairly well generalized to me too.

      Agreed though with Ryan that "macro sad is too statistical": it's only in the personal, I think, that we can really connect.

  2. Nice dichotomy, Lynn. I'm going with micro. Macro sad is too statistical.

  3. Nice dichotomy, Lynn. I'm going with micro. Macro sad is too statistical.

  4. This one is the hardest one for me so far. Both songs meant a lot to my Personal Sad Feelings Self of the Past, which Carter articulates very well.

  5. Apparently I'm solipsistic even in sadness--I went with Elliot Smith.