200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Pocketappella

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #174: Pocketappella

Some friends and I started casually using the term “pocketappella” in the mid-2000s in reference to the bevy of a cappella performers—particularly male soloists—who had a tendency to put their hands in their pockets and assume a sort of aw shucks casual posture as they took the lead on a song.

Pocketappella is not necessarily good—there’s a very real argument that it undermines the soloist’s potential to really emote or otherwise perform a song. I’m not altogether disappointed to have seen the trope die down a bit in recent years. Just the same, it’s a distinctive piece of a cappella culture—a pattern that showed up often enough to emerge a recognizable part of the community, and to do so in a time before YouTube had really took hold and performers could be so directly influenced by one another on a large scale.

 It’s simple. It’s a little silly. But just the same…

I love it!

Off-Beat Openings

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #173: Off-Beat Openings

Though more and more a cappella groups have started performing and recording original music, covers remain a staple of the form. It can be particularly pleasing to the ear when a group doesn’t only settle for covering a popular song, but goes the extra step to make the song their own in the early going before launching into a more straightforward cover.

Off-beat openings—turning the intro or even whole first verse into a slow jam, or otherwise altering the tempo or texture—can provide a creative slant on a popular song, not to mention making it all the more satisfying when the more conventional cover takes hold, after the audience was struggling to try to place it, or just starting to want to hear the familiar tune. These openings surprise the audience, freshen song selections, and allow an a cappella group to show its personality.

I love it!

The One Person Rocking Out the Hardest

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #172: The One Person Rocking Out the Hardest

We’ve all seen it. At the dance club. In the children’s choir. On stage for the community theater musical. There are people who are grooving. People who look a little awkward. And that one person. That one person who may or may not be a great dancer, but who is clearly taking this party to the next level, animated, pumped, threatening to break the bounds of their body with their super-powered moves. 

A cappella does not escape this phenomenon, when there’s often times that one group member who appears a little more hyper or a little more emotionally invested, and through whatever confluence of these visual factors stands out from the pack—passionate, proud, and completely unable to contain her or his excitement on stage.

I’m not saying that having a group member stick out visually like this is the best idea for a competition, but in the context of an everyday performance, these special singers can elevate routine exhibition to engaging performance that’s more memorable, more exciting, and keeps people talking about it.

I love it!

The End to Controversy on the Internet

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #171: The End to Controversy on the Internet

In the preceding edition of 200 Reasons to Love A Cappella, I discussed the benefits of Internet controversies because they demonstrate just how passionate, opinionated, and in informed the a cappella community can be.

Just the same, controversies over Facebook, Twitter, and the comments sections of web posts—particularly when they get drawn out and heated—have a tendency to get ugly, as people grow personal, digging skeletons out of closets, devolving into name-calling, and creating hard feelings.

Thus, one of the great joys of being an a cappella enthusiast on the Internet is the moment when controversy dissolves and we move on with our lives. The thing is, at its best, the a cappella community can be remarkable for how readily people support each other—sharing advice, sharing feedback, or just plain sharing each other’s music to broadcast it to a wider audience. When controversies settle into the background, the a cappella community has a tendency to bounce back, stronger for the experience.

I love it!

Controversy on the Internet

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #170: Controversy on the Internet

This selection for the reasons I love a cappella may seem counterintuitive. After all, who likes controversy on the Internet? Many of the world’s sane citizens have taken to dodging comments sections or “hiding” friends on Facebook whose posts they know will only rile them up.

But here’s the thing about controversy on the Internet, particularly as it applies to the contemporary a cappella world: there’s controversy because people care.

When no one cares, no one gets angry. But when people engage in a heated debate about who did or did not win a competition or award, about best practices in engineering live sound, about mixing and mastering technique, or about who was left off of a high-profile countdown,  it all points toward a passionate community. Yes, these controversies can be petty or grow mean spirited, but as long as they’re rooted in a place of knowledgeable, invested parties participating in a discourse, that’s the sign of a healthy a cappella scene.

I love it!

Improvisation

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #169: Improvisation

In an a cappella world that can seem increasingly planned--in which more and more groups choose to choreograph at length, and in which more and more recordings are meticulously produced, it can be refreshing every now and again to hear a group improvise.

A cappella improv comes in many forms. Whether it’s a group messing around behind the scenes en route to an innovative new sound, improv-ing as a live performance art a la Bobby McFerrin, or the riff-off concept popularized by the Pitch Perfect movies (albeit not as successfully managed in real-life practice) improv necessarily adds a level of unpredictability and excitement to a performance, for both the audience and the performers itself. There’s something pure about the sound of music not transcribed to paper, not rehearsed, and not even discussed.

I love it!

Next Page
Pocketappella
Off-Beat Openings
The One Person Rocking Out the Hardest
The End to Controversy on the Internet
Controversy on the Internet
Improvisation
Start-Up Groups
The Diversity of Acts In a Competition
Rediscovering an Album
Bringing Alumni on Stage
Big Crescendos
Big Crescendos
Fun Encores
Soloists Who Sound Like the Original Artist
The Wall of Sound
When Someone Nails a Stevie Wonder Solo
Building a Personal Connection to a Song
Dedications
Subtle Movement
Adapting to the Audience
Adapting To The Environment
Embedded Solos
Personal Style
The Robot
Front Row Seats
Balcony Seats
Transitions on Your Playlist
Law School Groups
Incorporating Foreign Languages
Raw Solos