Ben Folds Five leaves a pair of indie acts in its wake, having defeated Aimee Mann in Round One with 60% of the vote and Vampire Weekend in Round Two with 75%. Counting Crows enjoyed a unanimous victory against Morrissey in Round One before taking down the legendary David Bowie with 63%.
I know my readers are big fans of both bands, so I’m curious to see how this one shakes out.
One argument in the Crows’ favor is that they’re still actively touring and (maybe?) recording while Ben Folds Five broke up for a decade before reuniting for (maybe?) a one-off album. But even given that wide gulf in years spent as an active band, Counting Crows has released only one more studio album than the Five.
Another thing to consider: Ben Folds showed up in Round Two as a solo artist, but given that he was battling The Beatles I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler alert to say this is his only appearance in Round Three. So whichever act loses here is lost for good.
Interestingly, both artists have referenced the other in song. The Counting Crows song ‘Monkey’ contains the line “I got nowhere but home to go, got Ben Folds on my radio right now” while on Ben Folds’ experimental album Fear of Pop he starts the title song this way: “I can see me three stories tall floating high above the mall like Adam Duritz, my bedroom wall, I’m taking pictures, I’m lifting off.”
A member of a Ben Folds band that predated Ben Folds Five even went on to play bass for Counting Crows. Lots of connections between these two.
Anyway, I’m just postponing what in the end is a pretty easy vote for me. Both of these bands meant a hell of a lot to me in the 90s and I still love their music today, but Ben Folds Five was more than a discovery, it was a revelation. They get my vote here.
Shattered at dawn, so far for so long
Feeling newly baptized
Thinking I don’t want this thing to end
And all the blue sky
Where our stony paths meet
Looking down at pale knees with a cigarette
And my morning beat under the blue sky
Last night at the bar, I was wrong, I was only hurting
And you were acting too polite
When we held onto the pain, through the storms and the rain
Like a crumpled, empty, discarded Newports box
Ah, the blue sky
Ah, sky high
Pawn-shop billboard, We Buy Gold
Old dreams just fade and twist, it’s a heartache that never ended
The brightness of air
Out walking somewhere, and when they ask you
Just tell em that you knew me back when, under the blue sky
Ah, sky high
Ah, below the blue sky
Ah, sky high