march badness: the bad bracket (1970s/80s edition)

If you’re here for March Vladness, it’s been archived, as we shift over to 2020’s theme, March Badness, featuring the best bad hits of the 1970s and 1980s.

find the longlist of badness tourney songs is here

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)

  • Being Boring

  • Insipidity

  • Absurdity/Stupidity

  • Musical or lyrical incoherence

  • Popular Perception of Badness

  • Regrettable Cultural Impact

  • Insincerity, Cynicism, or Condescension

  • Shitty Cash-in/Sellout

  • 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

Complete youtube playlist 💀💀💀 Spotify (mostly complete) playlist.

past games / results

(all games begin and end at 9am Arizona time)

the consolation match — april 1

(3) Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween” scared off (10) Chameleons, “Swamp Thing” 105-101

the championship — MARCH 29

(13) The Cruxshadows, “Marilyn My Bitterness” defeated (11) The Creatures, “Exterminating Angel” 1294-214
& are crowned Champions of March Vladness!

final four — MARCH 27

(13) The Cruxshadows, “Marilyn My Bitterness” beat down (3) Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween” 1042-234

final four — MARCH 26

(11) The Creatures, “Exterminating Angel” dropped the curtain on (6) Christian Death, “Figurative Theatre” 168-137

the elite 8 — MARCH 25

(13) The Cruxshadows, “Marilyn My Bitterness” drained (10) Chameleons, “Swamp Thing” 1206-225
(3) Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween” toppled (1) Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Cities in Dust” 158-155

the elite 8 — MARCH 22

(11) The Creatures, “Exterminating Angel” staked (1) Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” 138-133
(6) Christian Death, “Figurative Theatre” put to bed (5) Peter Murphy, “All Night Long” 184-182

the Sweet 16 — MARCH 16

(10) Chameleons, “Swamp Thing” swatted (6) The Cramps, “Human Fly” 111-87
(1) Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Cities in Dust” beat (5) Cocteau Twins, “Blood Bitch” 116-97

the Sweet 16 — MARCH 18

(1) Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” downed (4) The Church, “Reptile” 130-78
(6) Christian Death, “Figurative Theatre” outlasted (2) Nine Inch Nails, “The Perfect Drug” 121-81

the Sweet 16 — MARCH 19

(11) The Creatures, “Exterminating Angel” defeathered (7) Swans, “Let It Come Down” 105-54
(5) Peter Murphy, “All Night Long” swatted (9) Birthday Party, “Release the Bats” 162-66

the Sweet 16 — MARCH 20

(3) Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween” dropped (15) Sex Gang Children, “Dieche” 150-53
(13) The Cruxshadows, “Marilyn My Bitterness” toppled (1) Sisters of Mercy, “Lucretia My Reflection” 1617-1567


(11) The Creatures, “Exterminating Angel” exterminated (3) Depeche Mode, “Fly on the Windscreen” 110-86
(2) Nine Inch Nails, “The Perfect Drug” held off (7) Tones on Tail, “Go!” 104-96
(6) The Cramps, “Human Fly” buzzed past (14) The Wake, “Christine” 96-80
(1) Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Cities in Dust” dusted (8) Shriekback, “Nemesis” 142-102


(4) The Church, “Reptile” defeated (5) Dead Can Dance, “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” 124-113
(15) Sex Gang Children, “Dieche” upset (7) Type O Negative, “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All) 82-81
(5) Peter Murphy, “All Night Long” outlasted (13) Tear Garden, “In Search of My Rose” 193-123
(10) Chameleons, “Swamp Thing” toppled (2) Joy Division, “Dead Souls” 109-80


(1) Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” crushed (9) The Damned, “Shadow of Love” 147-30
(6) Christian Death, “Figurative Theatre” outlasted (3) Echo & the Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon” 152-142
(13) The Cruxshadows, “Marilyn My Bitterness” silenced (5) Mazzy Star, “Mary of Silence” 502-82
(5) Cocteau Twins, “Blood Bitch” soaked (4) The Cult, “Rain”First Round 79-62


(7) Swans, “Let It Come Down” smashed (2) Smashing Pumpkins, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” 96-68
(9) Birthday Party, “Release the Bats” cured (1) The Cure, “The Hanging Garden” 209-203
(3) Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween” converted (6) Fields of the Nephilim, “Preacher Man” 216-198
(1) Sisters of Mercy, “Lucretia My Reflection” beat down (8) This Mortal Coil, “Kangaroo” 110-38

First Round — March 1

(4) The Church, “Reptile” defeated (13) 16 Horsepower, “Black Soul Choir” 118-42
(1) The Cure, “The Hanging Garden” defeated (16) The Bolshoi, “By the River” 156-52
(6) Fields of the Nephilim, “Preacher Man” defeated (11) Lords of the New Church, “Dance with Me” 173-153
(6) The Cramps, “Human Fly” defeated (11) The Cranes, “Starblood” 99-52

First Round — March 2

(3) Depeche Mode, “Fly on the Windscreen” defeated (14) The Grinning Plowman, “Koo-ka” 115-63
(7) Tones on Tail, “Go!” defeated (10) Inkubus Sukkubus, “Vampyre Erotica” 86-58
(15) Sex Gang Children, “Dieche” upset (2) Marilyn Manson, “Beautiful People” 99-83
(8) This Mortal Coil, “Kangaroo” edged (10) Xmal Deutschland, “Mondlicht” 101-91

First Round — March 3

(11) The Creatures, “Exterminating Angel” upset (6) The Mission UK, “Deliverance” 130-53
(13) Tear Garden, “In Search of My Rose” knocked off (4) Concrete Blonde, “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” 105-101
(1) Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Cities in Dust” crushed (16) London After Midnight, “Kiss” 157-31
(5) Mazzy Star, “Mary of Silence” defeated (12) Death in June, “Little Black Angel” 91-68

First Round — March 4

(5) Dead Can Dance, “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” shrivelled (12) Virgin Prunes, “Baby Turns Blue” 121-47
(5) Peter Murphy, “All Night Long” buried (12) His Name Is Alive, “How Ghosts Affect Relationships” 163-60
(8) Shriekback, “Nemesis” edged (9) Q Lazzarus, “Goodbye Horses” 100-95
(1) Joy Division, “Dead Souls” held off (16) 45 Grave, “Procession” 140-106

First Round — March 5

(9) The Damned, “Shadow of Love” downed (8) Clan of Xymox, “Louise” 94-45
(2) Nine Inch Nails, “The Perfect Drug” nailed (15) Ghost Dance, “A Deeper Blue” 117-50
(7) Type O Negative, “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” exsanguinated (10) The Sisterhood, “Colours” 79-50
(14) The Wake, “Christine” toppled (3) Rob Zombie, “Dragula” 109-106

First Round — March 6

(1) Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” exsanguinated (16) Switchblade Symphony, “Clown” 156-49
(3) Echo & the Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon” eclipsed (14) Rosetta Stone, “An Eye for the Main Chance” 124-43
(5) Cocteau Twins, “Blood Bitch” defeated (12) Specimen, “Returning from a Journey” 114-54
(10) The Chameleons, “Swamp Thing” swamped (7) Alien Sex Fiend, “Now I’m Feeling Zombified” 170-111

First Round — March 7

(2) Smashing Pumpkins, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” smashed (15) Nosferatu, “Diva” 110-75
(6) Christian Death, “Figurative Theatre” killed (11) March Violets, “Snake Dance” 104-58
(4) The Cult, “Rain” extinguished (13) Legendary Pink Dots, “The Light in My Little Girl’s Eyes” 107-54
(13) The Cruxshadows, “Marilyn My Bitterness” overshadowed (4) Nick Cave, “Red Right Hand” 690-453

First Round — March 8

(7) Swans, “Let It Come Down” defeated (10) Daisy Chainsaw, “Hope Your Dreams Come True” 77-64
(9) Birthday Party, “Release the Bats” foreclosed on (8) Modern English, “Black Houses” 105-49
(3) Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween” torched (14) Kommunity FK, “Something Inside Me Has Died” 113-37
(1) Sisters of Mercy, “Lucretia My Reflection” held off (16) A Certain Ratio, “Flight” 155-94

And while you’re here, check out some of our pre- and post-tournament essays on goth-adjacent material. Or if you want to write about something goth-adjacent, we’ll be publishing essays through the early summer, so pitch us.



The bracket is set. we welcome discussion.

And if you'd like to write for the tournament, hit us up on twitter or email ASAP. At this point we’ve already assigned all the songs for the 2019 tourney, but we sometimes need backup folks in case someone bails on their assignment. We also welcome essays and poems on songs not included in the bracket, or goth-adjacent subjects. Pitch us, as we'll publish essays and poems in the months leading up to the tournament. 

We welcome submissions or pitches for essays and poems relating to goth or any of these bands, or arguing for a band's (or song's) inclusion. We publish original essays and original and reprinted poems on related subjects before the tourney starts, so hit us up with your arguments for Valor-era Christian Death or why the Sisters of Mercy totally sold out after First and Last and Always, or essays about classic goth clubs or experiences or trying to make sense of this brilliant era of music and lifestyle and fashion and ethos.

Have a pitch or a suggestion? Hit us up on twitter or email.

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