In Measure for Measure, an A Cappella Blog contributor takes a look at both sides of a controversial issue in collegiate a cappella.
This edition’s topic: It’s a good idea for collegiate groups to compose and perform original songs
True: It can be a very difficult thing to rise above the a cappella landfill and have a truly different repertoire from your peers. One of the most surefire ways to avoid performing the same music as other groups is to arrange original songs. Granted, this is by no means a small task to take on, and yet it is the inherent challenge of this task that makes it so rewarding. In creating its own music, a group becomes more than no-instruments cover band, and progresses into the realm of original artists—demonstrating true creativity, talent and independence. Sure, not every song will be a hit, but if you do score big with an original song, you just might end up the next Sara Bareilles, defying “Gravity” en route to stardom.
False: While performing original material does ensure that you won’t repeat the same songs as the group to perform before you, it does not mean that you’ll necessarily, or even likely be better liked. The fact is that a cappella audiences have a tendency to connect best with songs they already know—forgotten favorites, new songs they never imagined would translate so well, and even standards that perhaps make them nostalgic about other shows they’ve seen. What’s more, the notion that ‘all the good songs have already been covered’ is pure bunk. The contemporary music catalog is wide and deep, and if you look, there will always be something different for a group to cover.