The Best I've Seen

The Best I’ve Seen: 2014 ICCAs, plus an Important Note on the Future of The A Cappella Blog

Note: An important update about the future of The A Cappella Blog, and particularly coverage of Varsity Vocals events appears at the end of this article.

The Best I’ve Seen highlights the very best in a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author. In this special edition, ACB Content Manager Mike Chin reflects upon the best of what he had the chance to see in the 2014 ICCAs. Please note that selections are limited to the 67 ICCA sets that Mike saw in-person this season.

The Best I've Seen: The 2013 ICCAs

Note: This is the penultimate regular post for this publication season. We want to extend a special thank you to Irene Droney, Eric Soriano, Keith Tripler, and all of our other guest contributors from this season. We also want to thank all of our readers for making us a part of your day, sharing your work, and contributing to The A Cappella Blog’s highest traffic season to date! Be sure to check back for a handful of news updates and features during the off-season. We will return to regular posting in September 2013.

The Best I’ve Seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author. In this special edition, ACB Content Manager Mike Chin reflects upon the best of what he had the chance to see in the 2013 ICCAs. Please note that selections are limited to the 54 ICCA sets that Mike saw in-person this season.

Best Set: It should come as little surprise that The Northeastern University Nor’easters earn top honors for the best ICCA set I saw in 2013. Combining unwavering intensity with raw emotion and original song selection; top tier soloists with premier vocal percussion; unbelievable swells of sound with sureness of movement--no other act could really touch the crew from Boston this year. The group delivered a set that, at once, aced nearly every category available on an ICCA scoring card, and won over audiences through the group’s palpable will to succeed. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Honorable Mention: The UCLA ScatterTones, Florida State University Reverb, The Cornell University Chordials, University of Birmingham, The University of Nebraska Bathtub Dogs

The Best I've Seen: The 2012 ICCAs

Note: This is the penultimate regular post for this publication season. We want to extend a special thank you to our staff members Andrea Aquino, Stephen Hutchings and Keith Tripler, and all of our guest our contributors from this season, including Colin Adams, Dave Samuels, and Alexa Gedigian. We also want to thank all of our readers for making us a part of your day, sharing your work, and contributing to The A Cappella Blog’s highest traffic season to date! Be sure to check back for news updates during the off-season. We will return to regular posting in September 2012.

The Best I’ve Seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author. In this special edition, ACB Content Manager Mike Chin reflects upon the best of what he had the chance to see in the 2012 ICCAs. Please note that selections are limited to the 58 ICCA sets that Mike saw in-person this season.

Best Set: In a year full of exceptional performances, this is one of the toughest categories to call. In the end, I have to give it to the act that I thought should have won the ICCA championship, University of Chicago Voices in Your Head. Rarely have groups implemented such innovative sound and visual presentation into a set, all the while singing so impeccably and so engagingly. Moreover, the set told a cohesive story, recalling visual themes over the course of the group’s 12 minutes on stage, and beckoning back to earlier sounds in the closing moments of the set. No, this is apparently not what the judges at Finals were looking for, and that’s fine, but in my mind, no group offered a better ICCA set this year Voices in Your Head.

Honorable Mention: The UCLA ScatterTones, The Florida State University AcaBelles, The University of Southern California SoCal VoCals, The Universtiy of Georgia Accidentals

The Best I've Seen: The 2011 ICCAs

Note: This is the final regular post for our 2011 publication season. We want to extend a special thank you to all of our guest contributors from this season, including Andrea Aquino, Jessica Bryant, Stephen Hutchings, and Michael Marcus. We also want to thank all of our readers for making us a part of your day, sharing your work, and contributing to The A Cappella Blog’s highest traffic season to date! Be sure to check back for news updates and coverage of the fall 2011 season of The Sing-Off during the off-season. We will return to daily posting in January 2012.

The Best I’ve Seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author. In this special edition, ACB Content Manager Mike Chin reflects upon the best of what he had the chance to see in the 2011 ICCAs.

The Best We've Seen: The 2010 ICCAs

Note: This is the final regular post for our 2010 publication season. Thank you to all of this year's contributors, and to all of our readers. Be sure to check back for news updates during the off-season. We will return to daily posting next season.

The Best I’ve Seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author. In this special edition, ACB Content Manager Mike Chin and ACB Production Manager Mike Scalise team up and, on more than one occasion, butt heads about the best they’ve seen in the 2010 ICCA season.

Best Set
Mike Chin: The easy, objective pick here is The SoCal VoCals--after all, the group that wins the international championship should have put forth the best set of the year. I’m veering a little off course on this one, though, to instead offer up my pick for the set I enjoyed most this season, which would have to be the one put forth by The Washington University Stereotypes at the ICCA Midwest Semifinals. The guys started with a spot of high energy musical theatre with “Seize the Day” from Newsies, before taking on some old school Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young “With Carry On.” It was a solid opening to the set, but the guys really were just getting started. In one of the top five solos I saw this year, the guys let loose “Your Song” in the style of Moulin Rouge, to be followed by an impossibly high octane version of “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire. Sets just don’t get much more fun than that. Although the crew didn’t make it to the finals, it sure as heck wasn’t for lack of effort.

Mike Scalise: The best set that I’ve seen in the 2010 season comes from The SoCal VoCals at the finals in NYC. The group, which is tremendously talented, delivered three solid songs sung with near perfection. They began with “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday. The solo was clear and professional-sounding. Couple that with a strong visual performance by remaining group members and you have a hit. They continued with “Crazy Ever After” by The Rescues. I wasn’t very familiar with this song, but after hearing a number of soloists sing their hearts out, I was really moved. It was an amazing performance. The group completed their set with “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder. What stood out to me about this song was the group’s entertaining and energetic choreography which consisted of free-style dancing, hand gestures, and even a raising of the soloist (who, in case you were wondering, was exceptional). The overall set was hand over fist better than the rest of the competition, and rightfully earned this group the title and bragging rights for the ICCA 2010 season.

Best Song
Mike Chin: The SoCal VoCals put together a set like an a cappella highlight reel, but I think what I’ll remember most was their innovative imagining of The Rescues’ “Crazy Ever After”. With rotating soloists and rotating positions on stage, the group cleverly created a sense of group unity, while at the same time asserting the individual talents of the group members. Better yet, the constant shifting fit the "story" of the song well, illustrating the shift's in the narrators' minds, and the conflicted feelings at play. Emotionally heart-wrenching, musically sound, and altogether interesting to watch, this was the best song I saw in the 2010 season.

The Best I've Seen: Best Closing Song

The best I’ve seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author.

This time, we share the best closing song to an ICCA set.

To those who have read Mickey Rapkin’s Pitch Perfect Brigham Young’s Noteworthy may come off as villains. At the least, they serve as dramatic foils for Divisi, one of the groups on which the book centers, and, as history would have it, one of the top groups for Noteworthy to overcome en route to the ICCA Finals.

The Best I've Seen: Best Opening Song

The best I’ve seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author.

This time, we share the best opening song to an ICCA set.

Over the years, Ithacappella has developed into one of the east coast’s top a cappella acts, and a perennial threat in the ICCAs. They have had plenty of memorable performances in competition, but no better opening selection than their 2008 rendition of “Get Ready” by The Temptations.

“Get Ready” is just such a smart opener. It’s upbeat and fun. It’s lyrically applicable, warning the audience and competition that they should get ready, because the group is on its way and packing heat. Furthermore, it’s the kind of song that will appeal to a wide audience, and mostly likely leave the judges warm. It’s old enough to be familiar to the more aged onlookers, but fresh enough in folks’ memories from car commercials and whatnot that you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know it—though they might not have thought of the song in years (better yet!).

In addition to being a good song selection, the guys executed the heck out of it. There was plenty of movement, with choreography that may have grown repetitive, but was nonetheless fun and engaging. The soloist was dynamic. The group was on. This isn’t the sort of song that really wows you with dynamics, or knocks your socks off with the complex arrangement, but it doesn’t have to be, and it’s the groups way of acknowledging that it will be accessible and draw everyone in from the start before moving on to more holistically impressive things. Great opener.

The Best I've Seen: Best 'Different' Song, from Fermata Nowhere

The best I’ve seen highlights the very best in collegiate a cappella, as seen in the admittedly biased and limited view of the author.

This time, we share the best use of a really ‘different’ song I’ve seen.

The scene is the 2009 ICCA Finals. We’re more than halfway through the evening’s competitors, and the men of Mt. San Antonio College Fermata Nowhere have already gone a long way toward stealing the show. Clad in their matching orange jumpsuits, the guys roused the crowd with Sergio Mendes’s “Magalenha,” then stole our hearts with Secondhand Serenade’s “Fall for You.” Those first two songs were enough to place them as favorites to take that year’s ICCA crown, but what was coming next simply out of this world.

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