Weekend Beats: Tournament Style

It’s way too hot here in Los Angeles this weekend. We live on the second floor, so our apartment is just gross today. Still, we have a marginally functional air conditioner, which makes staying in better than going out, giving me a lot of time to pore over Grantland‘s “Battle for the Best Song of the Millennium” feature. It’s an utterly pointless exercise, but they admit as much. Songs are given seeds and pitted against one another in an NCAA-style bracket, and readers vote to determine the “winner.” Some of the results have been disheartening. That “Stay Fly” by Three 6 Mafia was given a 15 seed, and that people with ears think “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is a better song by almost a 3 to 1 margin really shake my faith in humanity. But M83 and Phoenix upsetting Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, respectively, are reasons for hope. In any event, you should follow the action.

In a follow-up feature discussing the bubble songs that just missed the cut, the NIT songs, if you will, the always insightful Steven Hyden diagnoses what is wrong with the bracket’s composition: very few mid-major songs made the field. He writes:

Let’s acknowledge a few of the biases inherent in the creation of this bracket. There is no metal. There is only a smattering of country. Rock music is consistently relegated to the lowest seeds. Pretty much anything played on an acoustic stringed instrument is apparently verboten. Bands you might like — Spoon, the National, the Hold Steady, Queens of the Stone Age, the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Drive-By Truckers, Bon Iver, Mastodon, Fucked Up, TV on the Radio, Muse — are nowhere to be found. This is a list where “great song” is synonymous with “rap and pop bangers that were popular on the radio once.” That doesn’t mean the bracket is terrible, necessarily — just that if you happen to be among the troglodytes for whom “rap and pop bangers that were popular on the radio once” does not constitute quality listening, sorry, you are left out.

He says this before recommending the Shins’ “New Slang,” a song that most of the folks who read this blog probably listened to on repeat in their college bedrooms while pining away after people who weren’t in fact as cool, smart, or attractive as they seemed. It’s the perfect song for that sort of thing, and as such deserved to be included in the field over something like Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which is just another serviceable, and frankly boring, pop song. It’s like when a 19-12 Illinois team with a .500 record in Big Ten play gets invited to the tournament over a 26-6 Long Beach State squad from the Big West. Both teams are likely to lose in the first round, but I’d rather see how the team from the small conference and that runs an unorthodox system fares against a tough opponent. We’ve all watched enough middling Big Ten basketball and heard enough middling pop music.

So here’s a mid-major gem some of you might know, and some of you might not. It’s from 2011 and merits a Parental Advisory sticker for its adult content: lyrics acknowledging that there are some things in life you can’t come back from. Not kids’s stuff. Then again, Gillian Welch was no Mouseketeer.



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