CHIEF MADNESS: The Best Eric Church Song Bracket

If you’re like me, you’re really missing sports right now.

The bars are closed, concerts are cancelled and we don’t even have sports to watch while we’re sitting at home trying not to die. I was really bummed about not being about to fill out a bracket (which would have been busted in the first round anyway) this year, so I decided to fill out my own bracket – using Eric Church songs.

Methodology

The first thing I did was try to seed my top 64 Eric Church songs – which was no easy task, because the guy doesn’t make many bad songs. I limited it to songs on his 6 full-length albums, and I excluded bonus tracks (although “Lovin’ Me Anyway” probably would have made it pretty far). That left me with 68 songs to choose from, and I tried to spread out the seeds between albums as best I could, so that each album was fairly represented throughout the regions and seeding. Then, I just got to work filling out the bracket. No magic formula, no specific criteria – just which song I liked the best. There were quite a few tough choices and some upsets along the way, but with the help of my friend Jack Daniels, I finally managed to come up with a winner.

One Eric Church song out of 64 to take the top prize.

So, what were the results? Who were the winners, who were the losers, which albums did the best? Let’s take a look.

The “Outsiders”

Eric has released a total of 68 songs on his five full-length albums, so that means that four songs didn’t make the bracket – the outsiders, if you will. For me, the four that didn’t make the cut were “Without You Here” from Carolina, “Broke Record” and “Roller Coaster Ride” from The Outsiders, and “Hangin’ Around” from Desperate Man. None of these are terrible songs, which shows you how good and deep Eric’s catalog is – but if I had to leave four songs out of the tournament, these are the songs that didn’t make my cut.

Early Exits

As with any good tournament, there were some big names that exited the challenge early. The biggest upset came in the matchup between the 5-seed “Drink in My Hand” and the 12-seed “Lotta Boot Left to Fill.” It may just be that “Drink in My Hand” has been so overplayed, but I really enjoy the commentary on the country music industry from “Lotta Boot Left to Fill,” so that one gets my vote.

14-seed “Love Your Love the Most” was also an early exit vs. 3-seed “Monsters.” I’m sure some people will disagree with my seeding – after all, “Love Your Love the Most” is one of Eric’s earliest and biggest singles. But it’s never really done anything for me, and going head-to-head with “Monsters,” it was an easy choice.

There were also a couple of songs that should have made it farther, but were victims of tough first-round matchups. 11th-seeded “The Snake” could have made a run, but going up against 6-seed “Can’t Take It With You” from Eric’s debut album Sinners Like Me was just too tough of a matchup for “The Snake” to overcome.

The hardest first round choice for me, though, was 10-seed “Two Pink Lines” vs. 7-seed “Like Jesus Does.” I know that “Two Pink Lines” was never a huge hit, and it’s not one of the songs that Eric is really known for, but dammit I like it, and I like it enough to give it the edge in this matchup.

Album by Album

Each of his 6 albums were represented in the Sweet Sixteen at least once, with Sinners Like Me sending the most songs through. The big surprise, though, was Chief. Despite being one of Eric’s most popular albums, and one of my personal favorites, Chief only had one song, “Springsteen,” make it through to the Sweet Sixteen. Here was the final breakdown of this round by album:

Sinners Like Me – 5
Carolina – 3
Chief – 1
The Outsiders – 1
Mr. Misunderstood – 4
Desperate Man – 2

The Toughest Matchups

There were three matchups that really took some time (and some more Jack Daniels) to decide on a winner – and they all involved the same song. 2-seed “Mr. Misunderstood” vs. 3-seed “Knives of New Orleans” put two of my absolute favorite Church songs up against each other. It was like choosing which one of my children to sacrifice (if I had children). Ok, so it was more like choosing which bottle of my favorite whiskey to throw out. “Mr. Misunderstood” is such a damn good song – but in the end, “Knives of New Orleans” moved on.

And when it moved on, it created the next hardest matchup of the tournament when it faced 1-seed “Springsteen.” (I didn’t make this easy on myself). Eric Church’s biggest song, and one of my all-time favorite songs, “Springsteen,” vs. album-cut “Knives of New Orleans.” It was an outcome that’s probably going to upset some people, but for me, it was “Knives of New Orleans” moving on to the championship.

The Championship Round

The finals. The one matchup for all the marbles. The battle for the title of winner of the my Eric Church Madness.

It came down to a 3-seed vs. 1-seed, like all good championships do. “Knives of New Orleans” had some tough battles to make it to the final round, but 1-seed “Sinners Like Me” wasn’t really tested until its Elite Eight matchup with 3-seed “These Boots,” and here it is facing another 3-seed in the championship. “Sinners Like Me” is another all-time great Eric Church song that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. A deeply personal song, yet one that echoes an all-time classic country themes of family and the battle between raising hell on Saturday night and praising the Lord on Sunday morning. Just an incredible song.

How was I ever supposed to choose a winner between these two songs? Well, I had to do it, and after much deliberation (and a little more Jack Daniels, because he’s never steered me wrong), the winner was…

Knives of New Orleans.

Talk about an underdog. Beating some of the best that the Chief has to offer, “Knives of New Orleans” comes out on top for me. This song has it all. A killer, driving guitar riff, an ambiguous storyline that leaves me wondering exactly WHAT he did, and the ambiguous “I did what I did!” at the end where you’re trying to figure out whether he’s proud of what he did or whether he’s trying to justify it in his own mind. I love me a good country music story song, and the story in this one is what pushed it to the win. There are a lot of Eric Church songs from previous albums that I find myself going back to regularly, but none more often than “Knives of New Orleans.” It’s a real shame that this song was never a single – because it’s one of his best.

And because of that, “Knives of New Orleans” is the winner of my 2020 Eric Church Madness, brought to you with the help of Jack Daniels and the boredom that the Coronavirus has caused.

Each region broken down:

I know not everybody will agree with my seeding, and definitely my winners, so take a look at the entire bracket below and let me hear it if you think I’m full of shit. Hell, Eric Church has so many good songs that I may even agree with you.

That’s the beauty of music – and that’s the genius of Eric Church.

Check out the blank bracket below, fill it out with your favorite Eric Church songs, and crown your own champion. Tweet out your bracket or your Final Four, hell, even just your favorite Eric Church song… make sure to add #ChiefMadness, and tag us so we can follow along.

And remember, there are no wrong answers.

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