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Ultimate Song Tournament 1992-2007, or why “Under the Bridge” is the best song of the 90s and 00s.

2019.04.28 04:54 d8uv Ultimate Song Tournament 1992-2007, or why “Under the Bridge” is the best song of the 90s and 00s.

I was curious as to what the best song of the 90s and 00s would be. To figure this out, I created a massive 256-song tournament, and ran through it with my partner antarris

Our Filled Bracket

http://www.d8uv.org/misc/song-tournament-1992-2007-filled-out.png

What the hell is that thing up there

For each year in our tournament, I took the top 16 songs from Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 chart (which measures a song’s overall popularity over the course of the year), and seeded them appropriately (so that the more popular songs have a slight advantage). Then, I took the output of the 16 years, and ran a tournament to find the best song of the 90s, the best song of the 00s, then pitted those two winners in the grand final.
Note: In the filled-out bracket, we were mostly in agreement. When we absolutely couldn’t agree, we had to split. Splits are denoted by slashes; the song on top is d8uv’s choice, and the song on bottom is antarris’s choice.

Notes from the tournament

1992—Winner: “Under The Bridge”

d8uv: Note: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”–you know, the song that changed the entire rock genre—only got up to 32. And yet, “Just Another Day”, a song that you have never heard of, was the 10th most popular song. What the hell was wrong with the people of 1992? antarris: Not everyone was an angsty white suburban teenager, you know.

1993—Winner: “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”

antarris: I don’t even know who like a third of these people even are. “I Will Always Love You” nearly won my bracket.

1994—Winner: d8uv: “Whatta Man”, antarris: “Don’t Turn Around”

antarris: The Sign was the first album I ever owned. I sang “Don’t Turn Around” in the shower through my mid-twenties. Sorry-not-sorry. d8uv: This was the year of Ace of Base, and as much as I love my trashy eurodance, the sound hasn’t aged particularly well. antarris: I live for my trashy eurodance. Fight me.

1995—Winner: d8uv: “Waterfalls”, antarris: “Gangsta’s Paradise”

antarris: “Waterfalls” is just a touch behind for me, probably because my little sister played it incessantly. She was seven. d8uv: Antarris called “Gangsta’s Paradise” out as “the only rap song every white person knows”. This was meant as a compliment, but I know better.

1996—Winner: d8uv: “Tha Crossroads”, antarris: “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)”

d8uv: When pressed for comment, all antarris said was “... it’s a choo-choo train.” antarris: Pure fucking lyrical genius. “Tha Crossroads” is my second favorite, though. d8uv: Still, I found myself honestly surprised at how much I liked “Tha Crossroads”.

1997—Winner: “Wannabe”

d8uv: This—like 1994—was a surprisingly weak year. Every matchup other than the final was super easy, and even the final wasn’t that hard. antarris: “Semi-Charmed Life” was #17. It would have won my bracket. I probably should’ve bought it instead of recording the video off MTV.

1998—Winner: “How’s It Going To Be”

antarris: This year was also surprisingly weak. Lots of “this is my third favorite song from this artist.” d8uv: Elton John cheated with a mediocre song that made into two years of this tournament.

1999—Winner: “Livin’ la Vida Loca”

d8uv: This had the hardest matchup in the entire tournament. The seeding was unkind, and forced two songs that would have won the year if they didn’t have to clash. “No Scrubs” vs. “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. But, in the end, Ricky Martin just barely beat TLC. I’m still not sure if this was the right choice. antarris: If “No Scrubs” had won, it would have made it just as far as “Livin’ La Vida Loca” did. It’s that good. My mom thinks we made the wrong choice, though.

2000—Winner: “Smooth”

antarris: I honestly thought d8uv would fight me on this one. I remembered him saying he absolutely hated “Smooth”. d8uv: My dad only listens to Classic Rock. So, when Santana came out with new music, of course he had to Limewire it, and he loved those singles. I heard “Smooth” so many times my teeth fell right out of my head. Turns out, it’s actually a great song. Who knew?

2001—Winner: “Fallin’”

antarris: A garbage-ass year. I’m pretty sure I rounded third base listening to that Staind song, though. d8uv: I thought Dido would win, since I love that song and still play it. antarris: I think you mean “Stan”.

2002—Winner: “In The End”

d8uv: Hybrid Theory is the rare album that became better over time. antarris: Seriously. I hated this in 2002. Love it now.

2003—Winner: “Crazy in Love”

antarris: I had somehow never even heard “Crazy in Love” before. Wow. d8uv: This did not win because it was novel. Lord knows, these pop charts are filled with random songs that we’ve forgotten. Almost every single one was forgotten for a reason. antarris: To be fair, I think 2001 made me give up on pop music for like a decade.

2004—Winner: “Hey Ya!”

d8uv: Outkast was as popular as they deserve, for once. antarris: I was promised Enya. I got baby Adam Levine instead. What the actual fuck.

2005—Winner: “Gold Digger”

antarris: That’s not even the best song named “Shake It Off.” d8uv: Kanye can be very VERY good when he tries.

2006—Winner: “Crazy”

antarris: “Crazy” vs. “Ridin’” was hard for me. I’m still not sure if I made the right call. d8uv: Are you sure you weren’t thinking of the Weird Al version? antarris: Yes. Fuck off.

2007—Winner: “Umbrella”

d8uv: Here it is, the weakest year of the tournament. There’s like one, maybe two good songs in this list.

90s Grand Tournament—Winner: “Under The Bridge”

d8uv: This was harder than the individual years, because we love every single one of these songs. “Under The Bridge” vs. “Nuthin’ but A ‘G’ Thang” was particularly brutal for me. antarris: We started listening to high-quality versions of the songs here instead of just streaming YouTube. Coolio going over Ace of Base in my bracket surprised me.

00s Grand Tournament—Winner: “In The End”

antarris: “Umbrella” over “Crazy” and “Gold Digger”? Really? It’s like I don’t even know you! d8uv: Should I pack up and leave? Maybe head to the train station? antarris: I picked the song about choo-choo tr--oh, I see what you did there. Not cool. d8uv: This song was always great, it just took a few years for people to forget the stank of nu-metal.

The Grand Final—Winner: “Under The Bridge”

d8uv: They tried so hard, and got so far. But, in the end, it didn’t even matter. antarris: Afterwards, I looked up some of the history on “Under the Bridge”, and this makes sense. A funk-rock band wrote a song based on a poem and had it produced by Rick Rubin. It’s like catnip to both of us for completely different reasons. d8uv: The thing that clinched it for me was the realization that this song builds so beautifully. It’s dynamic in a way most pop songs are, but maintains being interesting even during the subdued opening. antarris: Yeah, I used an orgasm metaphor when I advocated for it. d8uv: Most of the songs on this list were pop songs that became art. This song felt like art that became a pop song. That’s pretentious to say, so just remember—I almost went with “Umbrella”.

Caveats

I chose these years because I needed to cut 4 years to get 20 years down to 16. Because of this, I excluded the two lowest-revenue (according to the RIAA, adj. for inflation) years from the 90s (1990 and 1991), and the two lowest-revenue years for the 00s (2008 and 2009). It might have been better to include them, but I didn’t want to.
Because the Billboard year ends in November, if a song is released during the winter, it’s likely that it won’t show up as a smash hit for one year; instead, it will show up as a mediocre hit across two years. Some songs can pull off charting highly in consecutive years, but that’s really rare.
It’s important to remember the wise words of Binary Star: Everything that glitters ain’t gold, and every gold record don’t glitter—that’s for damn sure. The Hot 100 measures popularity, not cultural relevance or quality. A lot of very good, very important songs didn’t make the cut for this tournament, while a lot of long-forgotten dross did. Ultimately, I’m fine with this. Most of the fun of filling out the bracket was running into songs I don’t remember and going “What the fuck are YOU, song?”
For singles with an A-side and a B-Side (ex: “Follow You Down / Til I Hear It from You - Gin Blossoms”) I chose the first song. This is a little arbitrary, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.
Some additional caveats (because antarris is an academic pedant): this obviously has too small and homogenous a viewing audience to be objective truth. While both of us have pretty broad taste in music, there are some genres—mainstream country and slow R&B in particular—that neither of us is super into. This probably skews our results significantly, especially in the 90s bracket.
Also, a better way to determine our sample of songs would be to take a page from Good Mythical Morning’s cereal tournament and set up a poll for each year. However, getting a survey sample that’s representative of the population at large would be extremely challenging with an internet poll and, let’s face it, we’re not getting grant money for this shit.

If you disagree, you should fill out your own bracket:

http://www.d8uv.org/misc/song-tournament-1992-2007.png
submitted by d8uv to Music [link] [comments]


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