How does this year-end bracket work, and who wrote for it? Explore below.
How It Works
Best Song Bracket Battle is a bracket-style tournament in which the year's biggest songs are placed against each other in head-to-head battles until one song emerges victorious as the strongest pop smash of the year. The winner of each battle is determined by the individual votes of music critics composed of Billboard.com staffers and contributors. Majority rules, so if Song A is pitted against Song B, and Song A receives three votes compared to two votes for Song B, Song A advances to the next round. It's that simple!
We (Jason Lipshutz and Steven Horowitz, associate editors at Billboard and diehard pop fans) asked our colleagues and a handful of our favorite music writers to sign on for this one-of-a-kind year-end experience by sending them a series of Song A vs. Song B match-ups and asking them, "Which song do you prefer, and why?" We started off with 64 hopeful songs, and after six March Madness-esque rounds, one unstoppable single was crowned the Best Song Bracket Battle 2014 Champion. Along the way, we were sent some of the most incisive, hilarious and thoughtful pop music writing we've read all year, which we'll be rolling it out on Billboard.com all week long. Love "critics picks" season but bored with the standard Top Singles of the Year lists? Best Song Bracket Battle is for you.
The idea for BSBB dates back to 2012, when we launched an independent blog called Don't Stop Pop That that similarly asked music writers to determine that year's best pop hit through a bracket-style tournament (Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" earned the crown). Best Song Bracket Battle was also inspired by The Singles Jukebox, a fantastic music site that aggregates critical opinions of pop singles but does not pit songs against each other in a no-holds-barred battle.
Song Selection/Bracket Arrangement
The songs competing in this year's Best Song Bracket Battle are the 64 songs that peaked the highest on Billboard's Hot 100 chart from the beginning of 2014 to the chart week dated Nov. 8, which is when we began putting the tournament together (sorry, Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" -- you just missed this year's cutoff. But you'll be there in 2015!). Compiled by Billboard's charts team, these songs represent the most ubiquitous Hot 100 hits of 2014: the music that ruled radio, soundtracked that can't-miss viral video and was played at seemingly every awards show. We wanted to know: out of the most universally recognizable singles of the year, which song do we love the most?
The BSBB bracket does not abide by any "seeding" or formal arrangement -- the match-ups in Round 1 were determined randomly. By doing so, we organically created heavyweight match-ups (and shocking upsets) in the first round of voting and beyond.
Best Song Bracket Battle will be rolling out one round per day beginning on Monday, December 15 until the Final Four match-ups and Finals match-up are unveiled on Friday, December 19! At the end of the tournament, we'll also be asking readers to vote for THEIR Bracket Battle champion, to see if it differs from the critics' pick.
Jason Lipshutz is an associate editor and the Pop Shop blog editor of Billboard.com. He hosts Billboard's weekly Pop Shop Podcast, loves the Philadelphia 76ers and will fight anyone who speaks ill of Diddy-Dirty Money's Last Train to Paris.
Steven J. Horowitz is an associate editor at Billboard and he loves Run the Jewels 2 so much that he made his mom listen to it.
Jem Aswad has edited and written about stuff for a bunch of places.
Megan Buerger is a staff writer for Billboard magazine focusing on industry news and electronic dance music.
Jeremy D. Larson is the editor of Radio.com, whose writing has been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, NME, Pitchfork, Vice, and elsewhere.
Jamieson Cox lives in Canada and writes about music for Pitchfork, Billboard, and TIME.
Jillian Mapes is a New York-based, Ohio-bred culture writer who's currently the music editor of Flavorwire, as well as a contributor to Pitchfork, Billboard, Medium, and more.
Chris Payne, Billboard.com correspondent/alternative and rock music guy, has been getting bugged by Jason Lipshutz for music-related content since their days co-hosting a radio show together at the College of New Jersey.
Myles Tanzer is a freelance writer who lives in Ridgewood, Queens and whose work has appeared in BuzzFeed, Gawker, and The New York Observer.
Caitlin White is the weekend editor for MTV News. Don't insult Beyonce in front of her.
Kristen Yoonsoo Kim is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in VICE/Noisey, Myspace, and Sad Girls Guide.
Nick Williams is an assistant editor at Billboard Magazine.
Erika Ramirez is a senior editor and the Juice blog editor at Billboard.com.
Maura Johnston lives, writes, and teaches in Boston. .
Craig Jenkins is a New York based freelancer for Pitchfork, Complex, Spin and more who's just here looking to turn his Strawberrita dreams into champagne realities.
Erin Strecker is a correspondent for Billboard.com.
Ernest Baker is a poptimist living in New York City.
Meaghan Garvey is a Chicagoan currently residing in New York. Her writing and illustrations have appeared in Pitchfork, Fader, Billboard, Complex, the Village Voice, and elsewhere.
Harley Brown is Billboard's indie reporter. She lives in Brooklyn, favors moccasins, and has taken to drinking Jameson neat during the long winter months.
Alex Gale is a senior editor at Billboard, where he runs the Beat and Reviews sections, drinks whiskey, has a standing desk and lives, for the most part.
Joe Lynch is a senior writer at Billboard.com. Prior to that, he started a New Wave music appreciation club in college.
William Gruger is the social/streaming charts manager for Billboard. He writes about the intersection of music and technology for both Billboard.com and Billboard.biz. Gruger has worked at online music analytics provider Next Big Sound and digital agency Carrot Creative.
Denise Warner is the editor of Billboard.com, formerly of Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Life and AOL.