All credit to Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) for creating this bracket.
There has been this tweet gaining a lot of attention that put 64 songs by legendary artist Kanye West against each other in a March Madness-style bracket, so that is what I am here to do today. No, I will not be analyzing every matchup, only the tough ones, but here we go with my picks for “Kanye Madness.”
North West Region
Round of 64
16 Amazing over 1 Can’t Tell Me Nothing
For starters, though I think the effort to make this is incredible, the seeds for these songs are rough, and that starts off with the very first matchup. Both of these tracks are highlights on their respective albums, but Amazing pulls the UMBC of this tourney for the mood, the Young Jeezy feature and the chorus that just barely edges out the catchy production and great flow on the top seed of the group.
14 Famous over 3 Flashing Lights
The other major “upset” came against another song from “Graduation,” as Famous just earned the edge. Famous is simply the better song in chorus, production, especially production, and in Kanye’s delivery, but this was still tough as Flashing Lights is a tremendous song that got screwed in a tough matchup.
Round of 32
12 Hey Mama over 4 Devil in a New Dress
Definitely the toughest decision in the entire group came from these two juggernauts, each showing a very different aspect of the greatness of Mr. West. Though the Rick Ross feature, outstanding production and amazing Kanye verse at the end are hard to match, I think Kanye’s ode to his mother is so endearing, so emotionally powerful and so well-crafted that it takes the incredibly slight edge over a fan favorite from “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
2 Through the Wire over 12 Hey Mama
After waltzing through the first two matchups and getting a semi-difficult victory over New Slaves, Through the Wire comes out of the North West region a deserving champ. This track is a favorite off “The College Dropout” for good reason, as it is beautifully produced, has Kanye giving an impressive flow, and the lyrics are potent, especially when Kanye is delivering them with his jaw wired shut. This is a powerful and impressive song and is enough to beat Hey Mama in a game that came down to the final possession.
Round of 64
9 Heartless over 8 Monster
This bloodbath of an 8-9 matchup went two overtimes, but Heartless is simply too iconic to overcome. Monster benefits from some outstanding features, but Heartless is the biggest song from “808s” for good reason. It’s a song that is so smooth, so catchy, and one that shows Kanye’s range as an artist.
4 Runaway over 13 Blood on the Leaves
There’s always that potential Cinderella that, on paper, seems like they could go the distance. Blood on the Leaves is that song, but why did it have to go up against Runaway. The magnum opus of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” simply has to win the matchup against two severely under-seeded tracks, but I’m not happy doing it.
2 All of the Lights over 3 Good Life
This one was really tough, but, even with Good Life’s incredible beat and upbeat mood, it missed pivotal free throws down the stretch, and All of the Lights moved on due to its fire chorus and simply better verses. I swear I love “Graduation,” but another one of its top-tier tracks went down to the hands of another album.
4 Runaway over 2 All of the Lights
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” won this region, and “Runaway” is the king of all songs on the album, so yeah, it moved on.
Round of 64
4 Stronger over 13 Black Skinhead
Poor “Yeezus” is getting stuck with these obscene 13 seeds. Whoever made this is really acting like they’re coming from the MAC, because Black Skinhead is one of Kanye’s hardest songs with one of the hardest beats, but how am I supposed to pick against Stronger? I can’t, as it is just too good, even over the pure intensity of the lower seed.
Round of 32
14 No More Parties in LA over 6 Gold Digger
No More Parties dances its way into the Sweet 16 with an upset victory over one of Kanye’s most successful songs. It’s catchy for all the right reasons and Jamie Foxx is great on the feature, but is he Kendrick Lamar? No, no he is not. Kendrick kills it in the opening half, and Kanye comes in with an equally impressive verse right after. Gold Digger is a classic, but No More Parties is the better song.
1 Jesus Walks over 4 Stronger
There’s a reason this was the hardest region to fill out, as each round had a matchup that broke my heart in two, this matchup being potentially the hardest of them all. Stronger is amazing for so many reasons to the Daft Punk beat to Kanye’s flow and chorus, but the meaning, beat and sampling used in Jesus Walks is just too much to deal with. This matchup went multiple overtimes and was decided by a late layup, but I had to go with the younger, more passionate Kanye here.
1 Jesus Walks over 2 POWER
Jesus Walks comes out of this region after being torn apart in back-to-back matchups, because POWER is no slouch of a song. I think POWER actually holds an edge in the production and the chorus, but once again the impressive lyricism and delivery that Kanye has on one of his first hits holds slightly more weight in this contest.
Round of 64
13 Dark Fantasy over 4 Diamonds from Sierra Leone
Diamonds may be forever, but not in this matchup. Sure, Diamonds is another classic song from “Late Registration,” but the opening to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” could not have been more epic in scale if it tried. Perfectly opening the album and all of its complexities up with an insanely beautiful chorus and outstanding verses, it beats a classic in the opening round.
14 Homecoming over 3 Gorgeous
A pick that I will surely not be respected for, Homecoming is a personal favorite of mine for many reasons, but mainly because it shows that Kanye can pull off literally any feature he wants and make an absolutely amazing track from it. Yes, Gorgeous has great features too, especially from Kid Cudi, but I find the Chris Martin chorus to work even more, the beat to hit even harder, and Kanye’s verses to work just a little more on Homecoming, and enough to pull off a major upset.
Round of 32
1 Touch the Sky over 9 Otis
Both great songs, both amazing beats, both very different songs, but I went with the funkier Touch the Sky over the aggressive Otis, as it sticks in my mind more and has better bars to look back on. The “Watch the Throne” highlight certainly has its merits, but Touch the Sky is a top seed for a reason and manages to avoid an early bounce by the groove of the track.
12 Ultralight Beam over 2 N****s in Paris
There’s always one 12 seed that makes a run, and Ultralight Beam, which should be a one or two seed, is that 12 seed. This is simply one of the most impressive songs Kanye has ever created, all the way down to Chance the Rapper’s historically amazing verse. Paris is intense, head-bumping and incredible in its own ways, but it is simply no Ultralight Beam, not in production or scope.
4 Runaway over 2 Through the Wire
Sorry Through the Wire, you just can’t beat the best. All the incredible lyrics, excellent production and amazing concepts can’t top the better lyrics, better production and better concept presented on Runaway, which makes it an easy choice for the finals.
12 Ultralight Beam over 1 Jesus Walks
A much closer battle involving two of Kanye’s most religiously-charged anthems, this one hurt to choose. Jesus Walks hits harder on lyrics, but I lean towards Ultralight Beam’s production. The flows are tough because Kanye is certainly stronger on Jesus Walks, but Chance the Rapper sets the song on fire during his verse. I ended up narrowly picking Ultralight Beam because of its scope, as the song feels huge from start to finish, and it manages to have a stunningly beautiful and impactful conclusion, which gives it an extremely slight nod.
4 Runaway over 12 Ultralight Beam
Much like our top 10, this one was a runaway (haha). But seriously, Ultralight Beam is incredible, but Runaway is the best song off of Kanye’s best album, plain and simple. Everything works from start to finish, the message is powerful and self-reflective, the autotune works, the Pusha T feature is terrific and Kanye’s brutally honest ode to himself is his best work to date. I’d love to make a hot take here, but I just can’t, because Runaway is like a UCLA team in the 70s, it can’t be beaten.
What Kanye West song would you pick to win? Comment below with your thoughts.