Musae was born out of a session at SoJam. Lo Barreiro and Kari Francis hosted a panel discussion on women in a cappella and afterwards elected to start a new group.
They gathered top talents. Hannah Juliano from Pitch Slapped. Johanna Vinson from Divisi. Angela Ugolini from The AcaBelles. Courtney Godwin from UGA Noteworthy.
They had a mission. A little Sonos, a little Boxettes, and, quite decisively, all-female.
It didn’t quite work.
Barreiro and Francis have reprised their panel at SoJams since, and on more than one occasion discussed the process of discerning the group’s identity. That identity needed to be organic to not only their vision and to each individual member, but to the gestalt of the six women bound together.
(There Is No Easy Way) From the Earth to the Stars is the realization of that identity and the fruits of a young group’s labors.
In terms of song selection, the album plays like a tour of all-female a cappella over the last decade, spun in reverse--from an innovative take on “Without U,” to the anthems of all-female power in “I Am Woman,” “Ode to Donna,” to the softer side of “Top of the World,” and perhaps the most traditional female a cappella song of them all, “A Natural Woman.” While I would question this slate of songs from many groups, it feels almost inevitable, and almost perfect for a group that has grown out of the collegiate tradition, and is realizing a world of potential on a national stage right now.
The aforementioned “Top of the World” resonated particularly strongly for me. While the album on the whole is a production and mastering gem (kudos to The Vocal Company and Vocal Mastering), and I don’t mean to diminish the impact of those effects on this particular piece, “Top of the World” shines for the sheer simplicity of it—beautiful, straight forward, and tapping directly into the heart of the song.
Another brilliant song choice: Gotye’s “Feel Better.” It’s a contemporary song with an old school vibe, and as such slides quite cleanly into Musae’s wheelhouse and provides a welcome moment of levity amidst the heavier tail end of the of the album.
With all of that said, there is no track that better encapsulates where Musae stands today and (I hope) where it’s headed than the very first one, “Without U.” Dozens of a cappella groups have sung this song over the last year, but none have owned it in quite the same way as Musae. The group tapped into the bare nerve at the heart of the song—a story of loss and feeling lost. Better yet, after the gorgeously pained harmonies that open the song, they found their own way into the groove of the piece for a track that’s more emotionally complex than David Guetta’s original, and yet equally toe-tapping and fun for the final stretch. Simply sublime stuff, and I know of very few a cappella tracks by anyone that I’d rather use in trying to convert non-a cappella fans to giving the genre a try.
(There Is No Easy Way) From the Earth to the Stars is the tour de force that all-female a cappella has been waiting for. Don’t miss out.