MVA Madness SWEET 16
The Sweet Sixteen is finally upon us, and only four Music Video Artists have survived from each category. Some huge upsets have happened already, leaving only two top seeded artists in the competition! Instead of breaking these polls into brackets, we'll be voting from now on in one big chunk. I will try to embed new videos (that haven't already been embedded), but consider familiarizing yourself with as much as the artists videography as you are able. I will post some links, but never expect my suggestions to be exhaustive. Voting will be available until the end of the weekend, and will only be extended in the case of a tie needing to be broken, in which case I will repost on social media and you will have another chance to voice your opinions. Oh yes, and image above contains a link to the updated brackets if you want to see where everyone's journey so far.
And with the ground rules out of the way, let's see the new match ups!
UPDATE: These polls have been closed! Scroll down to see the results, and prepare for the Elite 8 round!
Well, ain't this match-up pure fire. Both these women have set new standards for what we expect from music videos, and fought tooth-and-nail with their opposition leading up to this moment. Beyoncé may be queen of the world, but after a relatively close win over Paula Abdul, she barely squeezed out a win over Sia. Similarly, Missy was able to knock out both the protege (Britney) and the original (Madonna), pulling out ahead of the 80s video matriarch after being tied for the first couple days of the second round polls. Missy Elliott's choreo is not something you want to mess with. Even now, a solid 20 years into her career, Missy remains completely true to her visual aesthetic without ever looking tired, delivering us fresh moves and ideas every single time. (e.g. the exercise ball routine from last year's "I'm Better" video). Beyoncé may be in the choreo brackets, but, especially over the last few years, she has also been building and growing her video vocabulary to wow us (and ask deep historical and philosophical questions at the same time - see "Formation"). Not only do they stand alone as individual videos, but in the case of Beyoncé and Lemonade, they also hang together in a larger narrative, which I don't believe is equalled by anyone outside of a particular Jackson clan. It's about to go down. But do you know how everyone can win? A new collaboration from these two would be very nice.
This is the most poetic match-up of all. I think we all know that Michael is a clear favourite to win this entire competition, so allow me to make a case for Janet. While her brother was expected to do great things from the time he was 4 feet tall, Janet had the odds stacked against her. At first, she found herself in the shadow of her entire family, and escaped this only to find herself in the shadow of her international superstar of a brother. Even though Michael often gets singular credit, together with Janet, these two siblings set a standard for video choreography, and created a culture of dance jobs for generations. Honestly, as much as "Thriller" rocked the planet with production values and moves that everyone loved to learn, Janet's "Rhythm Nation" was about great dancing, a clear setting, and about moving her viewers to not only be entertained, but to give a damn about social justice. Her move into adulthood saw her consistently reclaiming her identity, and exploring conversations around gender and sexuality - even talking about BDSM on Velvet Rope before 50 Shades made it mainstream-cool. I am not trying to downplay the fact that MJ is a complete legend. I am only trying to remind you that Janet is also legendary. Never forget that it was both of them that gave us one of the all time greatest (and most expensive) videos of all time in "Scream" (embedded below).
Yes, they are all just going to be this tough. In the conceptual category, both these contenders have been victorious underdogs (most recently against Kanye and Kendrick, respectively), but in my books, they are the cream of the crop. They do ultimately have very different approaches. Radiohead's videos tend to take a simple concept and play it out through the whole track (such as in "Karma Police"), while M.I.A. takes big ideas and turns them into mini-big-budget films (such as in "Born Free". Watch that one at your own risk!) Both artists have been at this thing for a while, having established themselves as the kind of musicians who have something to say with not only a mic, but also a camera.
I can't help but be so happy about this surprising match-up. Neither of these quirky ladies ever misses an opportunity to challenge our expectations of what a music video does. They're masters of using their visuals to invite the viewer to reflect more deeply on their lyrics. St. Vincent hasn't been around as long as any of her competitors so far, beating out Coldplay first, and then the Foo Fighters, which was a very close match, but still shocked me as a fairly equal fan of Dave Grohl. As for Bjork, she had no problem in the first round against Fatboy Slim, but then managed a win of only one vote over the old school video legend, Peter Gabriel! While I embed my personal favourite videos from each below (which are both from earlier in their careers), here are the links to their most recent videos: St Vincent's "Pills," and Bjork's "Arisen My Senses".
This Canadian band has now taken out the #1 seed (Guns and Roses) and Hayley Kiyoko (who has been dubbed the "lesbian Jesus"), so what can't they do? Bowie has yet to be an underdog in this competition, easily snuffing out Mary J. Blige first, and Beastie Boys second. I'll be honest and say that I don't know what I will do, nor what I want to happen here. Arcade Fire have been treating the music video medium as an experiment, playing with technology and stretching the idea of passive observation to new levels of engagement in videos such as "We Used to Wait". But Bowie has been been using videos to play with identity, gender, and human expression since the 70s, with videos like "Ashes to Ashes". The choice is up to you!
Lord have mercy on me, a music video fanatic... here we have P!nk face off against the Prince of Purple. Part of Prince's low seeding is because of his hesitation to make videos available on YouTube (so their viewing numbers are low) and because of the less reasonable fact that MTV never gave him the Vangaurd Award. He still managed to find success over both Bon Jovi and Sigur Ros, but now goes up against an artist who is not only seeded at #2, and more popular than the previous competition, but is also someone who makes particularly clever and interesting videos. Prince is clearly a storyteller, with some of his most memorable videos drawing from the films the song is connected to ("Purple Rain"). P!nk tries hard not to take herself too seriously, employing humour at every chance she gets (as in "So What"). Here are some other videos to make this decision even more difficult:
This is so great. Diva against diva, video legend against video legend. These two find ways to present to us a variety of packaging in videos that are styled to perfection. Both of these stars dabble in every form and genre you could imagine, from narrative drama, to mesmerizing choreography, to juxtaposed imagery that hints at deeper/darker themes and metaphors. Rihanna has shown that she can master everything from colourful EDM ("Only Girl") to creepy stoner soul ("Consideration"). Similarly, Lady Gaga is known both for something as weird and dramatic as "Paparazzi," and as simple Country as "Joanne". Neither of these artists has come anywhere close to being knocked out of this competition, even when RiRi went up against The Elusive Chanteuse herself, Mariah Carey. Either way this goes, I think it's going to be a tight race until the end.
And so we end this competition with the strangest match-up - certainly in this round - possibly in the entire competition. Janelle Monáe would be a force to be reckoned with, with or without music videos, but chooses to give us insight into her world of imagination and stories by setting her songs to mini-films, as in her first mainstream video, "Tightrope". Somehow she beat out Jay-Z to be here in the second round and is about to face off against OK Go, four artists who are more video artists than they really are a band. They set up elaborate plans and machines to pull of spectacles that have us glued to our screens until the end of the videos (see "I Won't Let You Down"), even if we might never notice the song in the background. You decide.
Time to vote! May you speak your truth now, or forever resent these brackets and their outcomes! Check back early next week for results and the Elite 8!