Thursday, March 21, 2013

'The Sing Off' is Returning: Celebrating the A Cappella craze that continues to sweep the nation

   A Cappella nerds, you can now relax. In honor of Music in Our Schools Month I have a very exciting announcement for you: The Sing Off is coming back!!! Last week, it was confirmed that NBC's best reality singing competition show will be returning for season 4. The ratings may not say it's the best but as someone who loves hearing people that can actually sing and have to prove that by singing a cappella every week, this show is THE BEST. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, it is a singing competition for a cappella (singing without music, or to quote Pitch Perfect "it's all from our mouths!") groups where each week they must arrange and perform a cover of a song that fits within the theme of the week. They also have to incorporate choreography but that mostly just means moving around on the stage, not actual dance moves. As long as they can put on a show and sound good doing it, it works. Also, returning to The Sing Off will be host Nick Lachey (former 98 Degrees frontman), and judges Ben Folds, Sarah Bareillis, and Boys II Men singer, Shawn Stockman.

The Sing Off season 3 winners, Pentatonix

   Lucky for me, and other true music lovers, a cappella singing has become much more prevalent in today's pop culture than it used to be. College a cappella groups have been around for ages but over the past few years, our eyes have been opened to the wonders of live beat-boxing mixed with some mighty fine harmonies. Glee, the musical, drama-filled, hour-long comedy, which follows a high school glee club, (they also call themselves a show choir but they are NOT a show choir), started the latest phenomenon of a cappella fever in the fall of 2009 and everything else soon followed. The Sing Off also premiered in 2009, as a part of NBC's winter line-up (NBC probably didn't want FOX to get the one-up on this new musical craze, but alas, they did). While Glee has created their own chart-topping hits (mostly because of Lea Michelle's Broadway pipes and Darren Criss's mere presence, let alone his beautiful voice), The Sing Off knocked it out of the park with season 3 winner, Pentatonix. If you haven't heard the completely insane arrangements this group has done, get ready for your mind to be blown. I'm serious, what this group is able to do is not humanly possible. The best part about them? IT'S ONLY FIVE PEOPLE. In a regular college a cappella group you usually have somewhere around 12 people, with multiple people on each part. They have 1 person on each part (vocal angels Kirsti Maldonado, Scott Hoying, and Mitch Grassi), a bass, the wonderfully deep-voiced Avi Kaplan, and the most ridiculous beat-boxer you've ever heard in your life, Kevin "K.O." Olusola. He can beat-box, and play the cello at the same time. He also speaks chinese. Did I mention he's awesome? You can check out their website and their YouTube channel if you don't believe me. But just incase you don't want to click those links, let me show you some examples of their awesomeness right here:

They can arrange medleys like nobody's business
"As Long As You Love Me/Wide Awake"

They can follow the trends of today's music
"Thrift Shop"

They can show some old school love
"N*SYNC Medley"

They can make a song suspenseful
"Dog Days Are Over"

And they can make R&B songs simple yet the most powerful and sexy thing you've ever heard
"Let's Get It On"

Let's be honest, if you don't have chills running through you after those last two, you shouldn't be on this earth. 

   Following the need of more a cappella in our lives, the 2012 hit comedy Pitch Perfect was released, which tells the story of Anna Kendrick as Beca, a rebellious DJ who turns the super traditional Barden Bellas, a female a cappella group at her college, completely upside down. The movie was not just a hit because of the crazy good cast (Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Adam DeVine, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, I could list everyone in the credits), but also because of the amazing music that it provided. The movie is still making profits even after the DVD release back in December, the album has stayed in the Top 50 (reaching number 1 for soundtracks and number 3 in Billboard's top 200) and has has 3 chart-topping singles. The most popular, "Cups", sang by Kendrick and accompanied by herself and a plastic cup, has now been rerecorded for the radio.

   The movie also gave some fame to a local (well local for me) college a capella group, the University of Virginia Hullabahoos (they're the guys in the khakis and crazy shirt robes things singing "The Final Countdown"). UVA is known for having some of the best a cappella groups (one of their female groups, The Sil'hooettes, is one of the top a cappella groups in the nation right now) but they aren't the only school to produce national award winning groups. James Madison University has The Madison Project, Exit 245, and The BluesTones; Tufts has Beelzebubs (their fame started on The Sing Off and they went on to become "The Warblers" on Glee), Yale has The Whiffenpoofs, Oregon has On The Rocks, Brigham-Young University has Vocal Point, I could go on forever.

The UVA Hullabahoos posing with Elizabeth Banks

Seeing the way people have embraced this new (but really not so new) style of music has warmed my heart and given me some faith that not all hope is lost (especially when I see artists like Taylor Swift are still selling albums). Let's keep celebrating the truly talented people in the music industry! Make everyone sing live all the time, get rid of auto-tuning, have every artist produce at least one a cappella song on every album and play it on the radio all the time! Keep shows like The Sing Off on the air and kick American Idol and The X Factor off! (The Voice can stay for now but only because I love Adam Levine and those super cool chairs) Ok, I know most of that will never happen, but what's wrong with having a little hope? We need to support the talent that is hiding away on our college campuses, even in our high schools, and keep music, good music I might add, available to the young people of today.

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