The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—is a little jam-packed today. (The schedule and results so far are here; the full, updated bracket is here.) Here, we return Downtown for a battle of the frontmen, as Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground match up against Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. Check out the arguments in favor of each below, and vote at Facebook for your favorite.
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS/STEPHIN MERRITT
Stephin Merritt was born on a train. Stephin Merritt doesn’t believe you. Stephin Merritt is the luckiest guy on the Lower East Side. Stephin Merritt can’t speak because of your strange powers. Stephin Merritt is the zombie boy. Stephin Merritt is not your dancing bear. Stephin Merritt writes fictions that feel like elemental truths. Stephin Merritt has the best rhyme schemes, and the saddest love scenes. Stephin Merritt will keep the art of Classic American Songwriting alive by himself if he has to. Stephin Merritt wrote The Book Of Love, because he realized that no one else was going to do it. Stephin Merritt has music in him. Some of it is transcendental.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND/LOU REED
Whether solo or with The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed has spent a career forcing us to reconcile with things that, before he came around, were simply not supposed to be in songs, from lyrics about S&M and copping drugs to atonal screeds of feedback meant to rip the paint off the walls. Maybe it’s just how he gets his jollies, or maybe there’s a part of him that’s touchy about his ability to write heartbreakingly beautiful songs like “Pale Blue Eyes,” but Reed is rock’s master provocateur, and his game is as sharp as ever. Lulu, his wildly obtuse ode to existential German prostitutes-slash-album-length collaboration with Metallica, was the most hated album of last year. It would surprise no one if Reed was pleased that more than five decades in to his career and in a fractured climate where no one agrees on anything, he still knows how to push people’s buttons.