Call us traditionalists. Call us cheeseballs. Here at the ACB, we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving and trying to tap into the spirit of the day. No, not stealing land from indigenous people, slaughtering them, and eating turkey—but rather the worthwhile aftermath of all of this—that we have a day of thanks for that which we have.
With that, I give you a (far from exhaustive) list of five things I’m feeling particularly thankful for in the a cappella world in this moment.
1. Pentatonix Sure, this pick is obvious and not entirely original. It’s also undeniable.
When Pentatonix won The Sing-Off, there was plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the group’s potential. Just the same, there wasn’t exactly a clearly defined road for them to follow. Don’t get me wrong, because I think NOTA and Committed are fantastic groups that have done some cool things since their big victories on NBC. Just the same, they never quite broke the aca-glass ceiling to cross over and become sustainably successful acts for a mainstream audience on a national scale.
Pentatonix remained relevant. Rather than fading away, the group built upon its fan base and reputation with clever and musically pristine covers on YouTube. They toured. They released EPs and Christmas albums that sold very, very well.
2015 may go down as the year when Pentatonix advanced from red hot to nuclear. They (and Ben Bram) won a Grammy. They released a documentary. Oh, and their latest album, centered on original music? It sold its way to the number one spot on the Billboard 200 Chart.
Pentatonix has, therefore, transcended the role of great a cappella group, to emerge as the definitive ambassadors for a cappella for their generation. They are talented. They are cool. They are prolific. They are putting a cappella into a national spotlight. For all of this, I am so thankful.
2. ICHSA Quarterfinals This summer, Varsity Vocals announced the addition of International Championship of High School A Cappella quarterfinals this year. An additional round of high school competition bespeaks the rapidly burgeoning roster of uber-talented high school groups around the country. Moreover, in talking with Executive Producer Amanda Newman, I learned that one of the driving factors for the tournament expansion was the groups, directors, and families, who had previously been reticent to add more events to their busy students’ calendars, who by 2015 were the most eager supporters of moarrrr a cappella. The bigger and better high school a cappella gets, the better it bodes for collegiate a cappella, which bodes well for professional a cappella, which all adds up to bright future for the form. Thanks, Varsity Vocals!
3. The Vocal Company Particularly since The Vocal Company and Sled Dog Studios joined forces, some strange things have happened. You hear an awesome aca-album. You see an awesome aca-video. The live sound at an aca-show is pristine.
More often than not, you come to discover that The Vocal Company is involved.
With all due respect to companies doing similar (and similarly fantastic!) work, like our friends at Liquid 5th and A Cappella Productions, The Vocal Company has emerged at the fore of the most happening happenings in a cappella. They arrange. They record. They mix and master. They do live sound. And perhaps most impressively, they educate, under the leadership of aca-ed virtuoso Ben Stevens, providing in-person and video conferencing and their popular Next Level workshop events. The Vocal Company is among the key forces pushing a cappella forward in variety of directions.
4. Pitch Perfect 3 As I wrote in my review of Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel was weaker than the original. Just the same, it did have its moments, particularly when it comes to celebrating the value of original music to the a cappella world and getting that message to a mainstream audience. Now, part three is in the early stages of production, with writer Kay Cannon and director Elizabeth Banks back on board, and cast members including Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, and Hailee Steinfeld all signed. There is the possibility that the Pitch Perfect franchise will fall into the trap of movie series that overstayed their welcome into truly awful cinema, the likes of The Hangover or Godfather. But I remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a part three that’s worth our while—perhaps leaving the college a cappella scene behind in favor of a post-collegiate group? Regardless, a cappella is coming back to a national audience of moviegoers in 2017, and with that reality comes the potential to attract even more fans and practitioners of the a cappella form.
5. Our readers I conceded that we’re cheeseballs, right? Here’s the deal—The A Cappella Blog is a passion project. It has never yielded a significant financial profit. It has always been rooted in the principles of making information and insights about a cappella accessible to a general audience, and fostering a love of the form for anyone who might come across the site. That model only works if we have people coming to the site and checking out what we have to say. So thank you to our readers, our Facebook fans, our Twitter followers, and everyone else who has passed some time with our aca-musings. We appreciate you and wish you the best this Thanksgiving!