(8) REM, "South Central Rain"
Tough selection—downbeat and plaintive—from one of the essential bands of the college rock era. The committee started with the more obvious “Everybody Hurts,” but listening to it decided that ultimately it is a song not of pain but of consolation, and you know, screw that. From there, it’s harder to isolate the saddest REM song. We suppose it depends what we mean by sad, but parsing that is the point of the whole bracket. Thought about "Country Feedback," "Man in the Moon," and about every other song in their oeuvre, all of which, barring "Shiny Happy People" could qualify. But rarely is REM as baldly sad as the chorus here: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Particularly in their earlier songs, even the sadness “Did you never call? I waited for your call” is cryptic and nested in less obvious lyrics: “The trees will bend, the cities wash away / The city on the river there is a girl without a dream.” The 8 seed represents the committee's unsureness about the song, not the band. There's no sadness in REM without complication. That's a good thing, we think, and we expect this song to go deep into the tournament.
(9) Mazzy Star, "Fade Into You"
How good did Mazzy Star make this particular variety of languorous melancholy seem? How pleasurable is it to immerse oneself in the slowness of the lost cause, and to luxuriate in the fullness of this sound? Never mind that until maybe three years ago some of the committee thought the lyric was not “Fade Into You” but “Baby I’m Dreaming.” That portion of this selection committee has never been one for lyrics, to be honest, which is embarrassing to admit, and which has led to some recent surprises. This is a fact that might bear some consideration: how can you call yourself open to sadness without attention to the lyrics? Well, how important are they here really? Isn't it the spell that the song casts that holds you, and not the exact words in the spellbook? And anyhow, how irreplaceable Hope Sandoval’s vocals seem now and how iconic this song's become. How effortlessly you're transported with the first fifteen seconds of the song to the experience of sitting in a pool on a blisteringly sunny day with a glass of warm tequila as the sun wipes out everything in your vision as you become one with the one you love. How narcotic it feels to be here in this song again. This bracket offers few easy choices. By listening here, what do you start to understand about your susceptibility and capacity for particular sorts of sadness? What are you capable of?