<![CDATA[The A Cappella Blog]]> http://acappellablog.com/ The A Cappella Blog en Copyright 2019 2019-02-23T06:31:21-05:00 <![CDATA[Soloists Who Don’t Look Like They’re Performing]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/soloists-who-dont-look-like-theyre-performing http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/soloists-who-dont-look-like-theyre-performing

Reason #188: Soloists Who Don’t Look Like They’re Performing

Some of the very best soloists in a cappella are those with stage presence—the ones who work the performance stage, connect with audience members, and come across as charming or as though they’re at least equally as much thespians as singers.

By contrast there are those soloists who come across as completely casual, and there’s something every bit as appealing about that dynamic. These are the soloists who sound terrific despite not making gesticulating wildly or hamming it up for anyone with a camera in the front row. They’re the soloists who could just as easily be singing in the shower as for a packed auditorium, given how at ease and mellow they sound while singing their part.

This style of performance doesn’t work for every singer or every song, but when it does, it can be refreshingly honest, simple, and compelling.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Complementary Soloists]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/complementary-soloists http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/complementary-soloists

Reason #187: Complementary Soloists

Sometimes, an individual soloist captivates the crowd, draws them into a story, and walks away as the single most memorable performer in a night of a cappella.

Sometimes, it’s a pair.

One of the most simple and effective ways of breaking up the monotony of a soloist stepping out from the group to sing with the group backing her for each song is the effect of two leads working in tandem. From an aural perspective, a pair of soloists can mix up the sound, whether they harmonize, alternate lines, or switch between verses. From a visual perspective, there can be a certain quality of performance that’s more natural with two soloists in conversation with one another, offsetting the artifice of performance when a single lead focuses his attention on the crowd.

When the right pair of soloists gel on stage, it can create a special moment in music and in performance, all the sweeter because twice as many group members are getting the spotlight for that song.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Sober]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/sober http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/sober

This week we present the University of Toronto's Tunes. Beats. Awesome. performing Lorde's "Sober."

<![CDATA[The Editing Room Floor]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/the-editing-room-floor http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/the-editing-room-floor

In this edition, our focus is on the editing room floor

As many readers know, I come from a more formal creative writing background than I do musical training. There’s an expression in writing I’ve heard time and again over the years, and come to embrace as my own—that sometimes you need to kill your darlings.

In writing, killing your darlings means letting go of your favorite material—an especially ornate phrasing, a stand-out scene, even a whole character that you love—in service to the larger manuscript. These moments the writer feels most attached to may also be the ones that call attention to themselves—the ones in which its clear the author is trying too hard, or being too precious with her work; or it might be that they resonate so well, so personally for the author that he’s blinded to how poorly they fit with all of the surrounding prose.

The same can be true in a cappella recording. Whether it’s your personal favorite song, a rare opportunity for a graduating senior to have had a solo, or a piece that is legitimately great but stands apart from the rest of your new album’s sound or themes, it may simply not be a track that should go on that album.

It’s hard to leave behind this sort of material that you or your groupmates may feel an emotional connection to, have worked hard on, or spent expensive studio hours recording. But in the end, you need to look out for the good of the larger project—is this track, this solo, even this aspect of an arrangement working in service of or at odds with your larger vision for the project? Killing your darlings can be a matter of objective quality, as well as a matter of <i>fit</i> for the recording at hand.

The material left on the editing room floor does not have to be erased forever, though. On the contrary, one of the benefits of the contemporary recording and social media landscape is that you can and should look for opportunities to take advantage of material you can’t otherwise use. Maybe it’s releasing the track as a free video or download in advance of your album release to stir up attention, or maybe it’s a matter of saving the track for a down period when your group is between projects but still wants to stay in your community’s collective consciousness. Maybe it’s a track you submit to very specific compilations for which it will be a better fit. Or maybe you even save it for your next album, when it will have a more natural place in the aesthetic of that project.

When it comes to recording, groups need to be ruthless about considering what is in the best interests of the album at hand. They can always find other ways to use unreleased material, and shouldn’t feel compelled to put it out in an unflattering light just because they already recorded it.

<![CDATA[“If You’re Out There” as Performed by The Stereotypes]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/if-youre-out-there-as-performed-by-the-stereotypes http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/if-youre-out-there-as-performed-by-the-stereotypes

Reason #186: “If You’re Out There” as Performed by The Stereotypes

The Washington University Stereotypes are a unique a cappella group with a unique identity. Granted, I haven’t had the opportunity to catch the group live for a number of years now, but there was a period in the early 2010s when I had the pleasure of encountering them multiple times at festivals, competitions, and ultimately at the ICCA Finals. I was consistently impressed with not only their musical precision and shrewd song selection, but a sense of unbridled energy and optimism. The Stereotypes weren’t the cool guys or the brooding guys—they were guys who came across as sincere, passionate, and loving what they were doing.

The group’s performance at the 2011 Finals stands out to me most of all. The guys capped this particular set with John Legend’s “If You’re Out There”—a powerful anthem of hope, a call to action. It was a perfect song for the perfect group, taking The Stereotypes one step more serious than the crowd had seen them up to that point and transforming them from entertainers to men on a mission, and a mission not just to win a competition, but to change the world. The group sold every line of this song with the utmost authenticity and letting their emotion pour over the stage on one final march forward to hit the audience with a wall of sound.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Feel You (Remix)]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/feel-you-remix http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/feel-you-remix

This week we present the Johns Hopkins University Octopodes performing Brayton Bowman's "Feel You."

<![CDATA[Fluid Transitions]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/fluid-transitions http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/fluid-transitions

Reason #185: Fluid Transitions

Over the last five years or so, the seamless set has become a staple in high level scholastic competition. One song bleeds into another, or one note holds out to provide a bridge. Microphones get passed subtly from one soloist to another and there’s no resetting the physical configurations on stage. No blowing the next note to prepare.

These fluid transitions have their risks in not providing groups time to settle down or really recover if something went askew earlier on in a set. Moreover, if songs don’t have a melodic or thematic link, the bridge between them can seem a little forced. Just the same, when executed nicely, the seamless set is one of the most exciting ways for a group to engage an audience with its full set—not giving them time to glance at their phones or for their minds to wander, but rather demanding attention through continuous performance, and creating not only a seamless musical performance, but a sense of narrative flow through one whole story. When done right, these transitions can be just the ticket to elevate a strong set to professional grade.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Throwbacks]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/throwbacks http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/throwbacks

Reason #184: Throwbacks

One of the great treats of hearing a student-run a cappella group (or even a post-collegiate group run by creative minds) is the degree to which these groups might eschew conventional thinking and the guidance that the establishment—a faculty advisor, or an inveterate director—might suggest. Among other things, this can lead to a group making off-beat song selections. Sometimes, that’s brand-new indie music. Sometimes, that means throwing it back.

When it comes to the competition setting, there is a legitimate argument that groups should keep their song choices, if not current, at least relevant—to have a way of making older songs their own or to pick truly forgotten gems. But in the campus of a less formal traveling or on-campus show, when the primary consideration is entertaining the crowd, there’s often times no better fit than a throwback to a decade or two before. For a college group, this is the kind of music that denotes their formative years, when they first start buying music and first start identifying personal favorites. One example: the proliferation of late-1990s boy band covers that sprouted up in the last five-to-ten years. The music of that period isn’t objectively great, but it does have a profound connection to a particular generation of people, and thus hearing these songs reincarnated, a cappella, can create a magical moment for audiences and performers alike.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Sorry Not Sorry]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/sorry-not-sorry http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/sorry-not-sorry

This week we present The St. Louis University Bare Naked Statues performing Demi Lovato's "Sorry Not Sorry."

<![CDATA[Requesting Reviews]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/requesting-reviews http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/requesting-reviews

In this edition, our focus is on requesting reviews.

There are a number of ways of marketing  a release, but I’d argue that one of the most effective ways to do so is to have an objective third party extol your work for you. One of the most straight forward conventions for doing so is to approach an established critic for a review.

When you think about soliciting reviews, your first step should be to consider why you’re seeking that review—what sort of audience you want for the review to reach, and whether you want a review from an expert in technical music, someone who specializes in a cappella, a more general critic without much background in the form, or from some other source. Different review outlets reach different readerships and have different effects—for example, if you request a review from your school or local newspaper, that may be an ideal way to engage your immediate local audience, but is not necessarily an effective way at staging a national marketing campaign. In addition, these are the sorts of critics who might be wowed by competent a cappella—or who might just not get why this music group isn’t using instruments. The A Cappella Blog (ACB) reaches a more national audience, but not necessarily from the most technical or academic perspective. The Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) does take the most formal approach in major a cappella media outlets, by which they typically have three reviewers with well-defined credentials appraise each recording. The latter two outlets may not create a buzz at your school or in your town, but do each have broader audiences that are interested in a cappella.

In addition to considering your audience and the credentials of your reviewer, you may also find it worthwhile to consider the aesthetic of a given critic or organization. This is the point at which it makes sense to read other reviews before you submit to get a sense of what the reviewers like or don’t like, and perhaps even what kind of impact their reviews have historically had.

Once you’ve identified whom you would like to review your work, the next step is to inquire about the process. Some critics and organizations have well-defined processes published for the world to see; others are less up front or more changeable about their practices. In either case, it’s worth querying the parties you’re interested in to see how they do business. When you query, you’ll want to be direct—don’t just tell them that you have a new album and hope they’ll connect the dots that you would like the review—volunteer a complimentary review copy, explain the different ways in which you can deliver the album to them (free download code, email files, mail a physical CD) and ask for their preference,  and ask if they’re interested in pursuing it. Keep in mind that when you write a critic, you are representing your group, and should aim to be professional about it—after all, this might be the first impression you are making on someone who will review your work. Along those lines, unless you’re certain that a given media outlet prefers, email is generally the most effective way to communicate everything you need to, rather than Facebook, Twitter, or other modes of social networking.

While I’ve focused on the benefits of getting your work reviewed so you can market it, another benefit is the more intrinsic reward of having someone listen carefully to your work and given informed feedback. Regardless of album sales or how you do in awards season, a great review is a nice way of celebrating your group’s recording accomplishments. And if the review isn’t great, then honest feedback from a third party is a great place to start when you’re thinking about how to make your group even better moving forward.

<![CDATA[A Balanced Competition]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/a-balanced-competition http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/a-balanced-competition

Reason #183: A Balanced Competition

Often as not, when there’s an a cappella competition, we get caught up in questions of which group was better than another. It makes sense. We all have our favorites and our opinions, and whenever placement and awards are going out, competitors and the audiences are going to have its dissenters, and their urges to develop their own rankings.

As someone who has by attended well over fifty live competitions, I can say that one of the joys of a competition comes when we sit back and take a more objective look at a show, and see a true diversity of acts—those moments when rankings and comparisons begin to fail on the very grounds that we really are comparing apples and oranges in the form of all-male, all-female, and mixed groups; in groups that stick to a genre versus ones that pride themselves on mechanics; in groups that focus exclusively on the music versus ones that stage full-blown visual performances.

Indeed, one of my favorite brands of competitions are the ones when I can, at least temporarily, forget it’s a competition at all in favor of consuming a balanced and diverse slate of performances.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Might Not Like ME]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/might-not-like-me http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/might-not-like-me

This week we present the Harvard Lowkeys performing Brynn Elliott's "Might Not Like Me."

<![CDATA[Such Great Heights]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/such-great-heights http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/such-great-heights

Reason #182: Such Great Heights

In the mid-2000s, “Such Great Heights” arrived as one of the coolest songs in indie rock, made all the cooler for the two versions of it making the rounds—The Postal Service’s raucous original, and Iron and Wine’s stripped down, slowed down re-imagining that was featured in Garden State.

I’m probably over-dramatizing a smidge, but once I had heard both versions of the song, they each felt incomplete—the original felt devoid of the emotional heart of the Iron and Wine version; the cover didn’t have that pulsing energy that makes the original so infectious. So what more could we hope for than a combination of the two?

All-Night Yahtzee gifted exactly this song to us all. In 2007, the group was on the top of its game, amidst a string of ICCA Finals appearances, and positively electrified the crowd with a version of the song that started as the Iron and Wine cover, then picked up into something much closer to the Postal Service original. This was the kind of performance that exhibits the potential for a cappella to put all manner of control and creativity into a skilled group’s hands, to not only reproduce popular music but rather take what’s already there, and truly make it the group’s own.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Skinny Love]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/skinny-love http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/skinny-love

Reason #181: Skinny Love

In 2014, The University of Michigan G-Men kicked off ICCA Finals. They didn’t lead off with a barn burner or a big dance number, but rather with just one group member on stage to lead off on the solo to Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” When you talk about vulnerability and leaving your heart exposed, it just doesn’t get much better from an aural or visual perspective than the pristine work on this lead, before the rest of the group came out to join him.

Soft, emotionally rich openers aren’t for every group, every time, but this was a case of exactly the right group building exactly the right performance to stick out and command the audience’s attention by making them all listen carefully and lean in a little closer to the masterpiece of a performance to follow.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Heartless/Stronger]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/heartless-stronger http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/heartless-stronger

This week we present Texas Christian University Horned Tones performing a mashup of Kanye West's "Heartless" and "Stronger.

<![CDATA[Theme]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/theme http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/theme

In this edition, our focus is on theme.

As more and more groups dive into the world of recorded a cappella, a sub-pattern has been espousing a theme around which to record—a love album, a futuristic album, an all-eighties album. Some of these themes are natural extensions of group identities, while some are more stand-alone representations of what interests the group at the time.

There are those groups reluctant to go the theme route. Indeed, embracing a theme can mean denying your creativity in other realms—not including or not even beginning to pursue an arrangement of a song that fits your group nicely but that doesn’talign with the theme, or feeling as though the final product of a theme album is contrived or forced.

The aforementioned concerns are not without merit, and I would not push a group to pursue a themed album at the expense of the group’s existing personality and preferences. There is a happy medium, though, at which point a theme is not constricting, but rather opens creative possibilities.

The theme can follow from existing songs. What patterns has your group already established and how can you tie them together? Alternatively, how many different ways can your group look at the same theme? Take advantage of the hive mind of your group membership to assemble a list of potential songs. Using a love theme? Yes, that album can include Bruno Mars’s “I Think I Want To Marry You.” You can also go retro with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” get into familial love with Ed Sheeran’s “Afire Love,” apply a contemporary lens to imperfect romantic love with Muse’s “Madness,” and explore any number of other genres styles and philosophies on love.

The point is that a theme should give your album a coherent feel and facilitate the creative process, not limit your group. Start brainstorming and you may be surprised with the results.

<![CDATA[Crimson]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/crimson http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/crimson

Reason #180: Crimson

The past seven years have seen an explosion in the number and quality of a cappella groups—professional, amateur, college, and high school. Based on this rapid expansion, it can be too easy to overlook the pioneering work of groups that came before television deals and major motion pictures. One such group is Cheyenne Mountain High School Crimson.

I covered my first ICHSA shows when the Finals were still merged with ICCA Finals in one big show, and one of the positive outcomes was the opportunity to first see Crimson grace the stage in New York in 2007. The all-female group immediately stood out for, despite its small size, achieving an excellent sound and putting on a tremendous stage show. I’ve had the opportunity to see the group now and again over the decade to follow, and have been consistently pleased to see them continue to evolve while retaining these core principles of producing a clean sound and putting on a great show, not to mention evolving with the times and even releasing fully produced music videos.

Continuity of excellence is particularly difficult for scholastic groups, for which there tends to be a ton of turn over at least once every few years. Crimson has remained a group to watch out for.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Cosmic Love]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/cosmic-love-1 http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/cosmic-love-1

This week we present the Rice University Philharmonics performing Florence and the Machine's "Cosmic Love."

<![CDATA[Soliciting Outside Feedback Before The Show]]>http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/soliciting-outside-feedback-before-the-show http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/soliciting-outside-feedback-before-the-show

In this edition, the focus is on soliciting feedback before the show.

Ask early.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of a cappella groups in my local areas ask me if I could sit in on a rehearsal to give feedback on their intended competition set. In principle, this makes a lot of sense—getting an outside, objective set of ears and eyes on your performance before you put it in front of the judges affords you the opportunity to fine tune and adjust, and sometimes someone from outside the group can “see the forest for the trees”—spotting big picture issues your group might be oblivious to because they’re just too close to the process of constructing the set.

Asking for outside feedback is great, but timing is key. First of all, there is sheer scheduling. We live in an age when people live by the calendars on their phones, and asking someone to come in with a just a few days’ notice to the final rehearsal before a competition means that you’re minimizing the chances of actually getting that guest to come due to scheduling conflicts and perhaps not even getting the message in time.

In addition to scheduling, you’ll want to get feedback in enough time for you to actually do something with the feedback. While there are a handful of perennial ICCA Finals contenders who can be confident that they have a solid set nailed down and really are looking for fine-tuning, rather than holistic advice, groups with less experience and more room to grow really ought to be looking for feedback sooner so that an outside voice who can point out a significant tuning issue that will take time for the group to correct, a point when the choreography is overwhelming the music, or, even more broadly, that that twelve-minute medley of every Michael Jackson song you can find might be a cool concept, but you probably want to put it on the shelf for competition. These are the kinds of changes that will take more than few days to plan around, so soliciting some of that feedback weeks, if not months before competition (rather than days, or hours) is key

Have questions in mind.

While general feedback is great, it can also be scattershot. Oftentimes, the best move is to have just a small handful of key points that you want observers to zone in on when they’re observing, to keep the feedback more focused and ensure you’re actually getting the kind of feedback you were interested in in the first place.

Be receptive to criticism…

The main reason to invite in outside observers is to get honest feedback. (Note: there are exceptions, when a group might legitimately just want a morale booster, in which case the group should make those interests clear.) Too often, I’ve seen groups shake off criticism from master classes or judges’ scoring sheets, citing aesthetic differences or that the expert didn’t know what she or he was talking about on a particular point. While I can understand that impulse, it’s also important to consider that groups rarely evolve and holistically improve in a vacuum. Groups should take feedback and think critically about it. Even if you don’t agree with every piece of advice, that advice might still point out significant areas in which the group should focus its attention.

Additionally, to head off non-credible feedback, it might make sense for the group to invite people it trusts, exclusively. If there’s someone whose feedback the group will dismiss anyway, it’s disingenuous bother asking for that person’s advice. 

…but don’t let feedback overwhelm you.

Everyone has an opinion, and the group that tries to serve every single critic likely will not be able to hone in and really respond to individual criticisms meaningfully.

As alluded to in the previous point about being open to criticism, it’s beneficial to keep the pool of critics limited—not inviting too many voices into the conversation. Moreover, while it’s important that groups be receptive to critique, it’s also fair for the group to decide you’re going to focus on no more than three large-scale criticisms in revising the set, to keep from growing too scatter-brained or from changing so much that the set loses pieces of its intrinsic character that are important to the group.

<![CDATA[Men of Note]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/men-of-note http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/men-of-note

Reason #179: Men of Note

Before enterprises like The Sing-Off and Pitch Perfect launched a full-fledged explosion of a cappella at every level, there were Men of Note.

That’s not to say that Men of Note has gone anywhere—the all-male group out of Cherry Hill West High School in New Jersey is, to the best of my knowledge, still singing—but there’s a particular magic that the group achieved in the late-to-mid-2000s that still sticks with me.

These were the years when the group was a dominant force in competitive a cappella, capturing three ICHSA Championships, besides recording, and ultimately sending a contingent to The Sing-Off.

We could debate whether and how this group fits into the scheme of all-time great groups, but what I’ll always remember most about them is a unique sense of style and class—a breezy, confident, fun showmanship that made their every performance irresistible. Plenty of a cappella groups strive for intense and brooding nowadays, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but Men of Note stand out to me as evidence that a group can thrive with a lighter heart and rock-solid harmonies.

I love it!

<![CDATA[New Rules]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/new-rules http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/new-rules

This week we present the Hofstra University Hofbeats perfroming Dua Lipa's "New Rules."

<![CDATA[Enormous High School Groups]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/enormous-high-school-groups http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/enormous-high-school-groups

Reason #178: Enormous High School Groups

In recent years, high school a cappella groups have inched closer and closer to their college counterparts in terms of song selection, staging, and number of group members. But there’s a history of much larger high school groups, some of which are still thriving in their local communities today.

I recall my first few ICHSA shows and seeing groups with as many a thirty to forty members on stage. Sure, the number is a little unwieldy, and can cause problems when it comes to quality control, tuning and blend, and figuring out an effective, dynamic visual presentation for so many people. Just the same, there’s a certain kind of joy that’s intrinsic to these performances and to these groups.

A cappella is a competitive medium, but particularly at the scholastic level, it should also be platform building friendships and community. The biggest groups also suggest the biggest hearts, for a mentality of helping everyone who wants to be involved find a spot, and embracing the joy of creating as one big community.

I love it!

<![CDATA[All We Got]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/all-we-got http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/all-we-got

This week we present Temple University Owlcappella performing Chance the Rapper's "All We Got."

<![CDATA[Aca-Couples]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/aca-couples http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/aca-couples

Reason #177: Aca-Couples

Don’t get me wrong—intra- or inter-group aca-dating can be problematic. The theatrics of relationship spilling over into any work or performance situation runs the risk posing a distraction and throwing larger group dynamics off-kilter. Moreover, for inter-group dating, there’s the potential for jealousies or conflicts of interest that can take a toll on a relationship.

But then there are the times when it works.

As I imagine most people who take the time read a post on The A Cappella Blog might agree, investment in the a cappella world is rarely a casual pursuit. What may start as an extracurricular or a hobby so often becomes the center of so many singers’ lives. Thus, having a partner who can instantly relate to the experience of rehearsals and competition, who can speak using the same musical vocabulary, and who actively wants to hear your old group’s old album, all add up to beautiful foundation for a beautiful relationship.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/rockin-around-the-christmas-tree http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/rockin-around-the-christmas-tree

This week we present The Virginia Gentlemen performing Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

<![CDATA[Groups With Unique Identities]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/groups-with-unique-identities http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/groups-with-unique-identities

Reason #176: Groups With Unique Identities

I’ll always remember my first trip to ICCA Finals, back in 2007. It’s a show that Noteworthy rightfully won, making a statement for all-female a cappella. A show that featured a raucous classic-rock-rooted set from The Binghamton Crosbys. It was the first time I heard a Christopher Diaz solo.

But for all of these amazing performances, one of the pieces that sticks out most was the set from Rocktavo. Yes, it was a very good set. But all the more so, it was a theatrical, imaginative set that sound like nothing else in contemporary a cappella in the year 2007.

I’m not here today to make an argument that Rocktavo was or is necessarily better than any other group competing in ICCA, but I am writing to emphasize how distinctive a set needs to be to stand out in the mind of critic ten years and over fifty competitions later.

Whether it’s song selection, sound, look, or the combination of these and far less readily labeled factors, a group with its own, unique identity stands out and stands a chance of accomplishing the kind of set that becomes the stuff of legend.

I love it!

<![CDATA[Stages]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/stages http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/stages

Reason #175: Stages

The year was 2015, when then-Ithacappella-member Dan Purcell married his love a cappella to his passion for film making. The result was Stages, a beautifully produced five-part musical that showed a character undergo the stages of grief against a backdrop of simply stunning music from Ithacappella. The sound was simply lovely, the cinematography professional, and the storytelling appropriately subtle while still clear.

What I may love most about Stages is that it was a project that showed the potential for what a cappella can do, well beyond the bounds of live performance, studio recording, or even a traditional music video. It was an ambitious, creative endeavor, and I’d love to see more projects like it in the years ahead.

I love it!

<![CDATA[You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/youre-a-mean-one-mr-grinch http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/youre-a-mean-one-mr-grinch

This week we present University of Wisconsin-Madison Fundamentally Sound performing, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

<![CDATA[Pocketappella]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/pocketappella http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/pocketappella

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!

<![CDATA[Lay Me Down]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/lay-me-down-1 http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/lay-me-down-1

This week, we present The Chapman University ChapTones performing Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down."