Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Top Artists of the Decade

I waited a little too long to post this, and now every publication has posted their lists. So be it. But I've been working up to this since I posting my top artists of the last 20 and 30 years, and I am glad to post my top 10 artists of the decade.

1: U2 In retrospect, U2 ignited the music of this decade for me. Coming out of the 90's I was bogged down by Eminem, Britney Spears and the boy bands. Rock was looking for a new hero. What they got was an old one. The opening lines of "Beautiful Day" said it all for me: "The Heart is a bloom, shoots up from the stony ground." Rock wasn't dying, it was waiting to be reborn. Throughout the decade U2 provided that combination of spark and poetic lyrics that makes Rock the music that I love. A thank you to U2 for keeping it going 30 plus years after you started.

2: Cold Play It was really hard to choose between U2 and Cold Play. In the end, Cold Play is compared to U2, not the other way around. Chris Martin and company took a familiar sounds (guitar, piano, harmonies) and added their own passion to it. Their albums are great, and their singles are amazing as well. "Fix You" paints such a great picture you can really feel the emotion behind it. That will earn you a place in my music library any time.

3: Beyonce Talented. She can sing, dance, act, whatever you want. Yet what really sets her apart for me is that her songs are all wholesome in a way. When many artists are writing songs about how to score with the girls in the room, Beyonce comes with "Put a ring on it." She's never in controversies and is always smiling. And she has tons of great hits, and maybe the best video of the decade. Oh, and she was in a little group called Destiny's Child which had a pretty good career too. Pretty good decade. Here is her video for "Single Ladies" that Kayne West is such a fan of.

4: Justin Timberlake Justin is on here for all around talent. We found out from N'SYNC that he could sing and at least look good dancing. And between the boy band and his solo career he's had a good number of hits. But I've been most impressed with his work on Saturday Night Live. Seriously, he should be a permanent cast member. Not just the songs he sings, but how he has the comedic timing to pull each gag off is impressive. Remember, it's not common practice for pop star to poke fun of themselves on national TV! Here is a video of Justin on SNL with Beyonce none the less (ignore the first few seconds...and the end...)

5: The Killers I really thought they were a one hit wonder when I heard "Somebody Told Me." Turns out nobody told me how rocking these guys are. I love the passion Brandon Flowers puts into all his vocals on top of the driving music the band lays down. Every album is great loaded with powerful hits. In fact "Sam's Town" is for sure one of my favorite albums of the decade.

6: Snow Patrol I actually first heard Snow Patrol on a PS2 game. But when the hits of "Final Straw" started getting played on the radio I knew this group had something special. And as great as that album was, "Eyes Open" was special. It is the album from this decade I most enjoy listening start to finish with the way it ebbs and flows. A great band I hope to hear much more from.

7.: Green Day What I like the most about Green Day was their confidence to try new things in a big way. While their music sounded similar, their approach was different. "America Idiot" was supposed to be an album to show people Green Day's frustration with the Bush administration. Think about that, a punk group made a heavily political rock opera. AND it sounded pretty dang good. That's how I will remember Green Day.

8: John Mayer In a decade when songs started sounding predictable and trite, Mayer was able to raise the bar in my mind. His songs were a great blend of interesting chords and catchy melodies. And he has some skills on the guitar. The fact that I hear people complain that he rips off Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix tells me he's doing something right!

9: Radiohead As I have mentioned, I am still in the discovery phase as a fan of Radiohead. But what I can tell you is that I missed out on them, and I am making up for lost time. A great band full of outside-of-the-box songwriting.

10: The Strokes Why include a band that only had one great album? Because that album is a great example of alternative music of the decade. Gone were the riffs and screams of grunge, replaced by driving guitars and tactful guitar solos. I hear a lot of the influence of The Strokes in Snow Patrol and The Killers, so I must give props to a band that gave me hope for the decade. Ok, I wasn't thinking about the entire decade at the time, but it did give me hope!

Monday, December 7, 2009

BCS Playoff Plan - 2009 Edition (Updated)

The end of the college football season means another bowl season of questions. In previous seasons the question was "Which 1 loss team deserves to play for the championship?" This season we have FIVE undefeated teams, three of which cannot win the title. For shame.

Last year I wrote an extensive blog articulating a BCS playoff format. You can read it here. The goal of this model is to give every team a chance to win the championship every year via a playoff system. To summarize, it calls for a 16 team playoff including the 11 conference champions and 5 at-large bids based on the BCS rankings. Seed the tournament based on the BCS rankings as well. Use existing bowl games to play the tournament, half the bracket on Thursday nights and half on Saturdays. Play the semi-finals on New Years Day and the Championship a week later.

Since this is the second season I've been using this model, some interesting facts came forth putting this together. We have 11 returning participants with only five newcomers. I thought there would be much more turnover than that. The highest ranked newcomer is Oregon with the 7 seed. It just goes to show you how hard it is to win a NCAA Football Championship. I will also point out that in creating my fictional outcomes only three teams from last year returned to the Elite Eight with only one team (Alabama) returned to the Final Four. That seems very likely.

The teams who qualify by winning their conference championship are Alabama, Troy, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, TCU, Boise St, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Oregon, Texas and East Carolina. Wild Cards are Florida, Penn St, Virginia Tech, Iowa and LSU.

Here is this season's playoff schedule. Results are chosen for scheduling purposes.

First Round:
(1)Alabama (SEC) v (16)Troy (Sun Belt)
in the St. Petersburg Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(8)Ohio St (Big 10) v (9)Georgia Tech( ACC)
in the Little Caesars Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(5)Florida (Wild Card) v (12)LSU (Wild Card) SEC Showdown!
in the Meineke Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(4)TCU (Mountain West) v (13)Penn St (Wild Card)
in the Las Vegas Bowl Thurs Dec. 17th

(6)Boise St. (WAC) v (11)Virginia Tech (Wild Card)
in the New Mexico Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

(3)Cincinnati (Big East) v (14)Central Michigan (MAC)
in the Music City Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

(7)Oregon (Pac 10) v (10)Iowa (Wild Card)
in the Poinsetta Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

(2)Texas (Big 12) v (15)East Carolina (C-USA) Rematch from last year.
in the New Orleans Bowl Sat Dec. 19th

Round of Eight:
(1)Alabama v (9) Georgia Tech
in the Sugar Bowl Wed Dec. 23rd

(5)Florida v (4)TCU
in the Emerald Bowl Wed Dec. 23rd

(11)Virginia Tech v (3)Cincinnati
in the EagleBank Bowl Sat Dec. 26th

(7)Oregon v (2)Texas
in the Rose Bowl Sat Dec. 26th

Semi-Final Round:
(1)Alabama v (4)TCU
in the Orange Bowl Friday Jan. 1st

(3)Cincinnati v (7)Oregon (the Cinderella Story)
in the Fiesta Bowl Friday Jan. 1st

National Championship:
(1)Alabama v (7)Oregon
BCS National Championship game Thursday Jan. 7th

Using these bowl games would eliminate 14 of the current 66 teams set to play bowl games this season. I have already stated that 6-6 teams should not qualify for a bowl game, so the following 6-6 teams would be bumped this year: Wyoming, Texas A&M, UCLA, Minnesota, Iowa St., Florida St., Michigan St., and Marshall.

This leaves us needing six 7-5 teams to be cut. Since the bowl committees love big schools that can travel, I would imagine the following teams would be cut as well: Southern Miss, SMU, Bowling Green, Idaho, Air Force, Northern Illinois. While losing these schools is sad, I think the end result of a true national champion is worth it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. As a parting note, I want your opinion on something. The only tweak I am considering is making it a 14 team tournament. This would eliminate two wild cards (this year would be Penn St. and LSU) and would give the 1 and 2 seed a first round bye. So I ask you, which would be better? 16 seeds with more wild cards or 14 teams and rewarding the top 2 seeds?

Turns out 14 of my 16 playoff teams played another playoff team in a bowl game. Although it wasn't a true tournament it gave a little insight as to who might be good enough to advance. Just for fun, using my seeds here would be the match-ups of those teams who won their bowl games.

(1)Alamaba v (14)Central Michigan

(8)Ohio St v (10)Iowa in a regular season rematch

(6)Boise St v (11)Virginia Tech....which was a first round match-up. whatever.

(5)Florida v (13)Penn St

So I'd say it was a good showing from the Big 10 who has three teams on this list. Also, only 2 non-BCS schools made it. But that is a misleading stat because of the 5 non-BCS schools in the tournament, four of them played each other in bowl games. Also, four of the five Wild Card teams won their games. Not much I can read out of these stats except that it seems the Wild Card teams showed their quality and gives me something to think about for next season.