The Selection Committee:
Megan Campbell & Ander Monson
Raquel Gutiérrez & Gabriel Palacios
Raquel Gutiérrez was first introduced to the politics of space when in 5th grade got dropped off at the Music Plus in Lakewood, California to stand in line for Guns 'N' Roses tickets only to realize she was a different kind of fan. A former life involved working for a Soundscan competitor back in the pre-MP3 days and now Gutiérrez is a poet and essayist pursuing her MFA degree in poetry at the University of Arizona. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she writes about space and institutionality and publishes chapbooks by queers of color with the tiny press Econo Textual Objects, established in 2014. Her work has found homes in FENCE, Zócalo Public Square, ASAP Journal, Huizache, The Portland Review, Los Angeles Weekly, and Entropy. She received an MA in Performance Studies from New York University and a BA in Journalism and Central American Studies from California State University at Northridge.
Gabriel Palacios is a poet and musician from Tucson, where he is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arizona. His poems study the present-day imprints of colonial violence in the region of southern Arizona and northern Mexico known in the Spanish Colonial era as the Pimería Alta. The voyeuristic shortcomings of the work itself usually surfaces as a second subject. At ten he begged his parents to buy him a Skid Row T-shirt bearing a cartoon image of the Mona Lisa in tattoos and a nose-chain. “IT AIN’T ART IT’S ROCK ’N’ ROLL,” the shirt declared.
March Badness is brought to you by the team who brought you March Vladness (the Goth bracket), March Shredness (Hair Metal), March Fadness (90s One Hit Wonders), and March Sadness (Best/Saddest Songs of the College Rock Era). (Here's an essay about Sadness by one of the Committee Members.)
If you’re here for March Vladness, it’s been archived, as we shift over to 2020’s theme, March Badness, featuring the best bad songs of the 1970s and 1980s.
March Badness is the most recent iteration of March Xness, a series of yearly March-Madness-style tournaments of essays about songs. Our writers each select a song from the tournament field, they write about it in whatever way they choose (praise, condemn, close-read, memoir, riff, stan, condemn, write about its cultural context, engage in nostalgia or memoir, etc). Each March we play the tournament off, essay vs essay and song vs song. Each game runs for one day and is decided by popular vote. The winner advances, and we repeat, until we crown a champion at month’s end.
The champions of previous tournaments: Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” (2016’s March Sadness), Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” (2017’s March Fadness), Loudness’s “Crazy Nights” (2018’s March Shredness), and the Cruxshadows’s “Marilyn My Bitterness” (2019’s March Vladness). Who will prevail in 2020? You will decide.
The winner is what we’re after, but the journey and the difficult decisions are the real important part of this endeavor. To that end you can—and should!—read all the essays archived under each year’s tournament. There’s some brilliant writing and thinking in there. Consider playing past tournaments out with only you or someone you love or maybe are just interested in as the deciders, and see where it takes you.
Plus we have more original ESSAYS and POEMS relating to our current or previous Xness themes. Hit em up above.
2020’s March Badness features the worst songs to crack the Top 5 of the US Billboard Hot 100, 1970-1989.
This year’s tournament is a little bit different, in that the Selection Committee selected 128 songs for the long list. We have more folks interested in writing for the tournament than slots available, so we will do a lottery for those 64 tournament slots. Once a lottery number comes up, the writer may choose any of the songs from the long list that have not yet been picked. So the 64 songs in the tournament represent the 64 songs selected by our contributors, not necessarily the definitively worst songs of all time.
Selection criteria: badness and an appearance in the Top 5 of the US Billboard Hot 100, 1970-1989.
Because we do not generally repeat songs included in previous tournaments, the Committee tried to avoid including one-hit wonders (so as to preclude future Fadness songs). However some were so bad that they truly merited inclusion. The Committee also relied, to some extent, on popular perceptions of these songs. So some of the songs on the longlist are songs that we did not feel were the worst, or even bad, but they’re commonly perceived as being bad.
We also tended to try and pick songs that were interestingly bad (or seemed like they’d be more interesting to write about) rather than songs that are simply limp or boring.
Many people love many of these songs! We love some of these songs! We hate some of these songs! We love to hate—or hate to love—many of these songs. What does badness even mean, anyway?
For us it doesn’t just mean cheesiness. And it doesn’t just mean songs that are out of date by contemporary sensibilities. So much of what we love—or hate—about music is tied to who we were when we heard the songs, and to lots of other subjective or cultural baggage.
So for a song to be included in March Badness, the Selection Committee required it to be bad along a couple of different axes, including, but not limited to:
Lyrical Weakness or Emptiness
Songs that Aged Extraordinarily Badly (racist, creepy, bad gender politics)
Poor Instrumentation, Production, Musicianship, or Arrangement
Failure to Achieve (especially for greatly talented acts, such as the Michael Jacksons and Paul McCartneys of the world)
Musical or lyrical incoherence
Popular Perception of Badness
Regrettable Cultural Impact
Insincerity, Cynicism, or Condescension
Betrayal of a Band/Musician’s History/Musical Legacy
Here’s the longlist as it is, though it’s still under construction.
We will do the lottery for spots in the tournament in July, so if you want to put your name in for a possible spot, let us know ASAP by tweeting at us or hitting us up on email.
We also have a waitlist in case folks bail later, too, so you can get on that if you miss the draft. Or if you want to write an essay for us to run outside of the tournament, query us!
Signed, The March Xness Selection Committee