Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Prince (2) vs. Marvin Gaye (15)

Posted by metaphorical on 19 March 2007

When James Brown died in December, my friend Brooklynite and I ended up on the short and long ends of a debate on a mailing list we’re both on—short in terms of people agreeing with us, and long in terms of being right.

It started with Brooklynite writing:

I was pleased to see that the AP obit gave him his due:

“Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years.”

(I’d have put it in stronger words than that, actually.)

Surprisingly, I was one of the few to jump in and agree, more by instinct than thought-out opinion. It took me about a month to sort out for myself why I thought that (a rumination that can be found here).

The next time we were together face to face, Brooklynite brought up the subject and another startling gauntlet was thrown down: James Brown might be the most influential artist of the second half of the 20th century, and he would certainly be—I remember these words very well—”one of the final four.”

That naturally made us think of the NCAA’s March Madness, a knockout tournament in which 64 (actually 65) teams are paired off in 16 brackets of 4. Brookynite’s thesis is that while few if any would put Brown at the top of a list of 64 music artists, he might well win every face off, one-on-one, with other artists.

So, in short, this is how great ideas are born in the Internet age: you double-dog dare someone to enact his theory on the Web. Voilà. March Madness—of Musicial Artists.

Today Brooklynite put up the first bracket of 16. I think he did a really good job of filling out the bracket with quietly influential artists who you probably wouldn’t have thought of, but in hindsight make perfect sense. Some of the seeds will seem insane, which is what makes for good horseraces, marriages, and bar debates. I myself made my picks with a Guinness-and-Harp black-and-tan beside my MacBook; if you vote, let me know and the next round is on me.

12 Responses to “Prince (2) vs. Marvin Gaye (15)”

  1. Swanny said

    For beer? Of course I voted.

    One – Lyle (1)
    Two – Iggy (9)
    Three – Aretha (12)
    Four – Dylan (4)
    Five – Ray (11)
    Six – Spike (14)
    Seven – Fugees (10)
    Eight – Marvin (15)

  2. digglahhh said

    Couple of quick observations:

    Marvin Gaye got screwed in the seeding.

    Claire, whether or not you like an artist should be largely irrelevant. I can’t stand Elvis, but he’s gotta advance a few rounds (a 1 has never lost to a 16 in the history of the NCAA basketball tourney). Bob Dylan is deserving of his spot, and of advancing.

    I’d like to chime in on the one genre of music I assume I am the most well-versed in. I’ve seen one representation of hip-hop and it was the Refugee Camp, Clef, Praz and L-Boogie (I guess Arrested Development is at least fringe)- that’s kind of a travesty. I don’t think they’d be able to earn much higher than a #10 seed in an all hip-hop tourney- no hyperbole there. N.W.A., Rakim, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, 2Pac, Boogie Down Productions, Bambaata, Run D.M.C., Jay-Z and many more are easily more deserving and that’s before we even get into those for whom you have to be a hip-hop fan to understand their influences. I have never in my life heard any musician refer to the Fugees, as a group, or any individual member thereof, as one of their musical inspirations. They didn’t really have a lasting impression on the music. They had a relatively distinct sound, made some dope records and had a slightly wider reach than hip-hop. All in all, I don’t think they accomplished anything particularly special.

    This was not cool of you to do to me on one of my busiest work days of the year, Metaphorical…

  3. Digglahhh, I put up a follow-up post explaining how the groups were chosen. You’re absolutely right about hip-hop — if I’d been choosing on the basis of merit, PE and Run-DMC (for instance) would have been seeded high. Neither, somehow, made the “most played” cut, tho.

    As for the Fugees, there’s a simple explanation for their presence — my four-year-old daughter is a huge Bob Marley fan. When I played her their cover of Bob’s “No Woman No Cry” a while back, she fell in love with it, and it’s been in heavy rotation at our house ever since.

  4. What kind of a ranking system would it be if it weren’t perfect from one point of view and utterly and horrifically evil from another?

    Besides, Digglahhh, this is the perfect lead-in to your more general ruminations on hip-hop. Let’s get that thing going.

  5. digglahhh said

    As long as you can make an analogy to the real tourney; it’s completely cool.

    See, the Fugees just got an automatic bid by winning their non-competitive conference tournament, the FYOL (four year old lullaby) conference… Happens all the time.

  6. In other words, the real question is, where’s the 65th team?

  7. You know, I just figured out this afternoon how to add the 65th team. Check back tomorrow morning.

    And Digglahhh, the lullaby conference is fierce The Fugees had to beat out Buddy Holly and Leadbelly and The Trashmen to get that slot.

  8. ClaireDePlume said

    You’re quite right Digg, my personal opinion ~should~ be irrelevant. Well mostly irrelevant; this ~is~ a poll and we all are voting. Is a vote a personal opinion i wonder?

    I hope your hip-hop receives a full and bountiful pre-Easter bunny bounce to air its voice too.

    Will Paul Simon grace our ether land with his presence as well?

  9. a 1 has never lost to a 16 in the history of the NCAA basketball tourney

    Not to go off-topic, but: does this mean that a 16 has never survived the first round in the history of the tournament? It’s single-elimination, right?

    I wonder what the lowest-ranked seed ever to have won the tournament would be. If it’s not lower than 8 (though it well could be), then there would apparently be no need for the first round at all. If it’s not lower than, say, 10, there would still be no need – you could just let teams ranked 7-10 run a one-round mini-elimination. Why bother to include teams that, statistically, have a vanishing chance of winning, and would be regarded as flukes if they did?

  10. digglahhh can answer the question you actually ask, but I’d point out that there’s a lot of honor, and not a little money, in making the Final Four, and even the Sweet 16, as it’s called.

    Now, in a single elimination tournament, only the fact of finishing first has true meaning, because the team that lost to the eventual winner might possibly have come in second overall if the seedings had been different. But the presumption is that there’s some meaning to coming in second, and even the various final finishes below that. So there could be several reasons, besides the sheer entertainment of it, to having 64 instead of 32 teams.

  11. digglahhh said

    Perhaps I’m exercising hubris by not looking this up, but the Ronnie Massimino Villanova team that won in 1985 (beat Ewing’s G-Town Hoyas) began the tourney as a number 8 seed, if memory serves. That team is the lowest seeded team to ever win it all. One of the guys on the team was on coke in the championship game two, I kid you not. In fact, I think there’s an HBO documentary about that team.

    No 16 has ever beaten a 1. I think a 2 has lost to a 15 four times.

    The other thing that complicates it is that the 64 best teams don’t necessarily make it. There are, I believe, 28 conferences and the winner of each conference tournament gets an automatic bid. So, that leaves only 36 “at large bids.” Not infrequently does it happen that a conference has only one deserving team, but that team gets upset in the conference tournament. So now the upset team goes because of the auto bid and one of the at large bids has to go to the other deserving program. I won’t go any deeper into that kind of stuff. But suffice to say, the 16 seeds represent worse than the 61-64 best programs in the country. They usually represent the winners of the weakest conference’s tourneys who would not make it without the auto-bid rule.

    Finally, there is a ton of money in the tournament. One run to the final four will probably pay for a school’s entire athletic program for the year and then some. When the Duke swimmers complain about the special treatment of the basketball team, they neglect the fact that the basketball team’s success pays for the pool…

  12. digglahhh said

    Sorry bad time for a type-o. That should be championship game TOO. It’s all single elimination.

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