Over at The Critical Condition, Roommate Mark has unleashed the Ultimate Pop Song Tournament upon us, and our summer may not ever be the same. I, along with Nick Davis, was fortunate enough to be invited to help shape the field of 64 songs (from 1981-2011) and even did some of the writeups. Mark has moved on to the second-round matchups. Go over there and vote.
For my part? I'm going to highlight the matchups as Mark releases them and tell you how I'm voting and why. Because every good tournament deserves some armchair analysis!
I was on vacation on Friday and missed the final matchups of Round 1, but I trust you guys made the right decisions.
(1) "Like a Prayer" [Madonna] vs. (9) "Don't You Want Me" [Human League]
"Don't You Want Me" is one of those '80s songs that I'm a smidge too young to have any emotional ties to it, but listening to it as an adult, I can absolutely appreciate that it's really well-constructed, smart Brit-pop. But I'm not going to even lead the Human League on. Because they just have no chance in this matchup with "Like a Prayer." I remember being in Catholic school in third grade when the music video came out. I remember thinking my teacher was SO COOL for not totally condemning Madonna (and actually thinking the Jesus statue crying tears of blood was pretty cool!).
(4) "I Want It That Way" [Backstreet Boys] vs. (5) "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" [Eurythmics]
I feel like the Eurythmics ended up in a corner of the bracket that made it seem like I don't like them. I do -- and I LOVE this song. But man, bad luck ending up against "Freedom '90" and now "I Want It That Way." The latter has become a target of some easy derision in the comments on Mark's site, which is totally predictable, especially since it's been up against two huge '80s hits. Generational gaps are really hard to cross, and late-'90s pop was a really common punching bag for certain children of the '80s. That's okay, I can rest in the absolute truth that "I Want It That Way" is brilliant pop that transcends its own gender.
(11) "Groove Is in the Heart" [Dee-Lite] vs. (14) "9 to 5" [Dolly Parton]
I couldn't support "Groove Is in the Heart" over "Flashdance," but I am kind of happy it advanced because I get to support it here. "9 to 5" is great, but it's a smidge more limited as to where I can optimally enjoy it. Whereas Dee-Lite is the perfect call for going out, staying in, after work, morning wake-up calls, chair-dancing at the office, or any number of occasions.
(2) "Since U Been Gone" [Kelly Clarkson] vs. (7) "Karma Chameleon" [Culture Club]
Kelly Clarkson came WAY too close to being out of the tournament in the first round. Hopefully this doesn't repeat itself in this round. I sometimes feel guilty when I think about Kelly Clarkson, because I do think she blew out her voice in order to deliver the kind of pop-rock we ended up demanding of her. I wouldn't trade this song for anything, but I do think Kelly shredded her vocal cords in order to give it to us. The least we could do is advance her another round in this tournament!