(11) Yaz/Yazoo, "Only You"
This song is a contender because, unlike many of the other March Sadness choices, it’s not sad in an arch or philosophical or resigned way, it’s just...wretched and pathetic, to the point of being a little uncomfortable (please ignore the cop-out video). “All I needed was the love you gave / All I needed for another day / And all I ever knew, only you.” If I found out the song was actually about me, I wouldn’t be flattered or intrigued - I’d be double-checking those locks. It’s a song from the pits of despair, from the absolute worst night after the break-up, the nadir. It’s a song about actively resisting feeling better “I’m moving farther away, want you near me.” Despite all of this, Alison Moyet’s darkly beautiful voice gives the song dignity, which just makes it even sadder. “Looking from a window above / It’s like a story of love, can you hear me?”
(6) This Mortal Coil, "Song to the Siren"
Though this song only made the tournament by winning its conference championship, don’t discount how deeply it could go in the tournament. Here are two of three members of the Cocteau Twins—also considered for the bracket under their own moniker on their own merits—recording a Tim Buckley song as part of 4AD’s This Mortal Coil project. Though this is widely considered the pinnacle version of the song, since its release, it’s been covered by many including Sinead O’Connor, Bryan Ferry, George Michael, the Czars, Robert Plant, John Frusciante, and Dead Can Dance (Brendan Perry’s vocals on this are particularly excellent, we thought, and you might be surprised by the Bryan Ferry version; we were). It pairs a strange romantic devastation (“now my foolish boat is leaning / broken lovelorn on your rocks”) with the sight of death (“should I lie with death my bride?”), and flips the myth: here, having heard and having heeded her song, and thus rockstruck and demolished, we sing back to the siren. Elizabeth Fraser’s voice here is virtually unaccompanied except by hints of reverbed guitar that perhaps act as buoys. The voice does all the work. That all the other covers came after this one—and that this one discovers depths entirely unseen in Tim Buckley’s original—and that nearly all the other covers are basically covering the This Mortal Coil version of the song—suggests how far this version goes. And it goes real far and works its mysteries. Sometimes I feel this song cuts so deeply that it feels like it comes from somewhere underneath the earth and resists my attempts to reduce it to a meaning. That’s what art says, isn’t it? Screw the pop song structures and the arrangements and orchestration; jettison the rhythm section and everything other singers and other bands might need to move you, it says: here is the voice; it will be all you need to live: