MTV's Musical March Madness: Band Bracketology

We pit the top 65 rock bands in the business against one another, in Bigger Than the Sound.

Look, I love college. I love basketball. And I love gambling. So March Madness is sort of like Christmas, Thanksgiving and my 21st birthday all rolled into one. For one glorious month, I am overjoyed, overstuffed and frequently make bad decisions (like picking Baylor to go to the Final Four this year). And on Sunday, as I sat on my couch watching ESPN's apoplectic coverage of the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament bracket, I had a thought: What if I combined my love of those things with my other true passion, music? (Oh, and making superfluous lists too.)

Inspired, I spent the next few days compiling a list of the top 65 rock bands in the business — a task that was considerably (and sadly) much tougher than I had previously imagined (because, well, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but rock is sort of going through a rough patch at the moment). Frustrated, I checked the Billboard rock charts, listened to the radio and even read a blog or two, and finally, I had my field of 65. These are the bands that — in my best estimation — people actually care about, the ones who sell out arenas, lodge songs on the charts and manage to move units. Some of them I love, others I know nothing about, but they're all here.

MTV News' Band Bracketology

Next, I ranked them, based on my own personal foibles and some actual data too. I moved a few teams around based on geography (because no one wants to travel all that far during the tournament); weighed questions like "Would 3OH!3 be the second-place team in the WAC?" and "Do All Time Low belong in the ACC or the Atlantic Sun?" (strength of schedule matters, after all); stared at my list for about a day; and then set my field. I was determined. I was a selection committee of one. I am probably going crazy.

So here, after much consternation, is my Musical March Madness — my Band Bracketology (alliteration!). How do teams advance? I have no idea. What do they get for winning the championship? You got me. All I know is that I had to do this, and so it is done.

You can see my entire bracket here, and I've broken down each region to highlight key matchups and whatnot. Oh, and maybe we can turn this into some sort of contest or something. If you want to print out my bracket, fill out your picks, scan 'em in, then e-mail the bracket back to me. I'll select the most creative (and logical ... no 16 seed is gonna win it all) entry, which will win a prize of some indeterminate value. Maybe you could write some of this column one week — who knows?

Anyway, if you've got an insane amount of free time (like me) and are insane (again, like me), then you can send your brackets to

And, without further ado, let's let the (largely arbitrary) madness begin. Oh, and P.S., I spent waaay more time on this than I probably should have.

The #1 Seeds

Nickelback:The Canadian rockers landed the #1 seed in the Midwest region, if only because that's where their music is played the most (broad generalizations are essential when you're the sole member of the selection committee). Also, though their Dark Horse album came out in late 2008, it continues to dominate to this day, having sold more than 2.5 million copies. Someone you know owns it. You may not like them, but you've got to admire their consistency. Sort of like Duke.

Blink-182: The committee gave them the #1 spot in the West region based on the strength of their comeback tour and the never-ending hype surrounding their still-in-the-works sixth album, which could come out in time for them to grab a #1 in next year's tournament (but probably won't). Also, Mark Hoppus is a nice dude. That goes a long way with the committee. A band with a storied history and a solid track record. So ... Kansas?

Coldplay: Still one of the hugest bands in the world, despite not releasing a new album last year, Coldplay are #1 in the East region (it's closest to their native England, and geography always plays a part in seeding). The debate rages if they'll play in their home uniforms (tattered military jackets, epaulets and ribbons) or their away (tattered military jackets, epaulets and ribbons). A classic finesse team, Coldplay won't beat you into submission, but they find a way to win. They are Kentucky. Brian Eno is their Adolph Rupp.

Kings of Leon: #1 in the South — and practically everywhere else — the Kings enter the tournament as my top-ranked team, based largely on their massive 2009. They finally broke through to U.S. audiences, after years of scrumming and slumming. The committee loved their strength of schedule, unyielding work ethic and grinding style of play. In other words, they are Syracuse.


The so-called "flyover states" get a bracket positively brimming with appropriate bands, including fifth-seeded Slipknot, 10th-seeded Breaking Benjamin and 11th-seeded Shinedown (once again, broad generalizations are the rule of the day come tourney time). Muse is the surprise #2 seed, since they keep hanging around on modern-rock radio. Not sure why Cobra Starship ended up out here, but Saporta and company better bring their A-game for their opening-round matchup against Shinedown. The Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers are name picks, making the field despite all evidence to the contrary (sort of like Michigan State). The Pete Wentz/ Patrick Stump tussle should be a barn-burner. The Hold Steady grabbed the automatic bid as champions of the Mid-American Conference and because something like 90 percent of their songs are set in the Midwest. Possible sleeper? OK Go at #12, still riding high on the success of their "This Too Shall Pass" video.

(1) Nickelback vs. (16) The Hold Steady

(2) Muse vs. (15) Red Hot Chili Peppers

(3) Foo Fighters vs. (14) AFI

(4) The White Stripes vs. (13) Rise Against

(5) Slipknot vs. (12) OK Go

(6) Cobra Starship vs. (11) Shinedown

(7) 3OH!3 vs. (10) Breaking Benjamin

(8) Pete Wentz vs. (9) Patrick Stump


A bracket loaded with talent (probably the second-toughest field in the tournament), nostalgia (the reunited Sublime and Soundgarden, both former tournament champions looking to reclaim past glories) and good vibes (thanks mostly to fourth-seeded Jack Johnson), the West region is solid from top to bottom. Key first-round matchups include the top-seeded Blink taking on feisty 16 seed Angels & Airwaves (these two have a history), a battle for Pacific Northwest supremacy between Death Cab for Cutie and Soundgarden (upset alert) and a tough draw for fifth-seeded (yet scuffling) My Chemical Romance, who take on the upstart Gorillaz. Panic! at the Disco and the Young Veins are co-champions of the Mountain West Conference, in case you were wondering.

(1) Blink-182 vs. (16) Angels & Airwaves

(2) Green Day vs. (15) Panic! at the Disco

(3) Jack Johnson vs. (14) The Young Veins

(4) Pearl Jam vs. (13) Hollywood Undead

(5) My Chemical Romance vs. (12) Gorillaz

(6) Weezer vs. (11) Sublime

(7) Death Cab for Cutie vs. (10) Soundgarden

(8) Modest Mouse vs. (9) 30 Seconds to Mars


The self-proclaimed "intellectual enclave" (OK, I just made that up, but I bet someone from the Upper West Side has said this at some point) gets the "blog bracket," packed with buzz bands, aging indie acts and, well, U2 (I had to put them somewhere). Animal Collective are the #2 seed in the East, something that will come as a surprise to 99 percent of the U.S. but not the blogging elite, who probably wanted them as the #1 (or, deciding that they like Panda Bear's solo stuff better, not have them in the tournament at all). Also making appearances are finesse bands like Owl City, Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear and Phoenix. The Radiohead/Spoon matchup should have the thin-and-pasty set glued to their seats, and fifth-seeded Phoenix faces a tough test from #12 seed the National. Also, inexplicably in as the #15 seed, Faith No More could bully their way past AnCo then terrify the winner of the MGMT/ Arcade Fire matchup and wind up in the Sweet 16. But, really, this bracket is Coldplay's to lose. Oh, and Tokio Hotel are the #16 seed on the basis of their last album, so deal with it. The committee cannot overlook cold, hard facts.

(1) Coldplay vs. (16) Tokio Hotel

(2) Animal Collective vs. (15) Faith No More

(3) Owl City vs. (14) The Gaslight Anthem

(4) Vampire Weekend vs. (13) Pavement

(5) Phoenix vs. (12) The National

(6) Grizzly Bear vs. (11) U2

(7) MGMT vs. (10) Arcade Fire

(8) Radiohead vs. (9) Spoon


The bracket of death. Huge talent will go head-to-head down South, where the field is so stacked that Nick Jonas only got in as a #12 seed. But the real wild card here is Lil Wayne, who nabbed a #4 seed despite only sorta being a rock act. If he shows up (and showing up isn't exactly his strong suit), he could run the table here. I probably should have flipped Paramore and the Dave Matthews Band, but I already filled out the official bracket in ink, so, too late. Huge first-round tilts include the 8/9 game, which pits Kris Allen against Adam Lambert in a rematch of last season's "American Idol" finale, John Mayer versus Nick Jonas (an old-fashioned "heartthrob-off") and Phish vs. My Morning Jacket, which could possibly make the jam-band universe explode. The top-seeded Kings get the winner of the Against Me!/ Creed play-in game, an all-Florida matchup of good versus evil. I've just decided that Phish grabbed the automatic bid as champions of the super-stony America East Conference, btw.

(1) Kings of Leon vs. (16) Against Me!/ Creed

(2) Paramore vs. (15) Coheed and Cambria

(3) Dave Matthews Band vs. (14) Them Crooked Vultures

(4) Lil Wayne vs. (13) Alice in Chains

(5) John Mayer vs. (12) Nick Jonas & the Administration

(6) Phish vs. (11) My Morning Jacket

(7) All-Time Low vs. (10) Mastodon

(8) Kris Allen vs. (9) Adam Lambert

Questions? Concerns? Brackets? Hit me up at Or, let us know some your picks in the comments below.