ICCA quarterfinals are done. Over the next three weekends, a cappella fans across the US are going to be treated to a series of six ICCA semifinals, the winners of which will progress to the ICCA Finals in New York City. But which semifinalists are the best? Which groups have the best shot at Finals? Of winning the entire tournament? In this special feature, I’m taking my shot at predicting the top 35 groups remaining in the ICCA tournament.
In the interest of full disclosure, there are many groups in the tournament I have not seen live this year, and there are some I have not even seen video of. The rankings are based on a combination of my experiences with the groups, the groups’ past track records, word of mouth, quarterfinal scores, and a healthy dose my personal opinion and intuition. This is not a scientific process, and is intended for entertainment purposes. Please feel free to chime in with your own rankings on Facebook and Twitter (@acappellablog).
1. The Northeastern University Nor’easters The Nor’easters are quite arguably the most accomplished group not to appear at ICCA Finals in recent years. Persistence just might pay. Fresh off a huge victory in the collegiate competition at SoJam X, The Nor’easters and their diverse, at time monstrous sound, look poised to emerge from a revamped Northeast region for their first run at Finals. With so few recent finalists left in the tournament, they have every chance of going all the way.
2. The UCLA ScatterTones Look at the facts: 1) in the past six years, only one group has topped The SoCal VoCals in ICCA competition—The Scattertones, and 2) the only group that could top The Scattertones in competition last year was… The SoCal VoCals, who entered Finals through the backdoor and became the first Wild Card group to win it all. With The ScatterTones’ top LA rivals not competing this year, after finishing first among college groups at the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival scholastic competition this February, and winning their ICCA quarterfinal, The ScatterTones are making a serious claim to being the most dangerous group in the tournament right now.
3. The Florida State University AcaBelles The AcaBelles and their hard-hitting, seamless sets have become a veritable institution in the ICCA South, and a perennial threat for Finals. The group aims for its third Finals berth in six years, after narrowly missing the cut last year. Could this mark the first time since 2007 that an all-female group wins the whole tournament? This is not a group to sleep on.
4. University of Oregon Divisi Speaking of all-female powerhouses, how about (arguably) the original one of the modern era in ICCA? Not to get overly sentimental about it, but how cool would it be for the group that indirectly inspired Pitch Perfect’s Bellas to win its first ICCA championship in the same year their fictional counterparts brought a cappella to the silver screen? Stranger things have happened. After winning their quarterfinal, Divisi may have just enough momentum on their side to carry them all the way back to New York this April.
5. Emory University Dooley Noted Dooley Noted edged out The AcaBelles at the Clemson University quarterfinal this year in a set rich with complex arrangements and killer soloists. A new force may be rising in the ICCA South.
6. Florida State University Reverb Speaking of forces in the ICCA South, after their debut run in the semifinals last year, the men of Reverb have booked a return trip to Nashville. Their unabashed optimism and nerd power won over the crowd last year, and with a set highlighted by a dramatic reinvention of Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart A Break” the sky seems to be the limit for the gentlemen in bowties.
7. University of Rochester After Hours When folks talk about a cappella at the University of Rochester, you’ll often hear of groups like The Yellow Jackets who appeared on The Sing-Off, The Midnight Ramblers who went to the ICCA Finals in 2005, or Vocal Point with its 40-year-plus history. As such, After Hours has quietly developed in the background. They’re far from background players anymore, bringing a killer set, infused with drama and tremendous movement to the ICCA Mid-Atlantic. The group first broke semifinal barrier three years ago. Might now be the time for the co-ed crew to take the next step?
8. The Penn State University Statesmen I don’t know that there’s any collegiate group competing this year with a more stellar set of soloists than The Statesmen. Consider: two Statesmen shared Outstanding Soloist honors at their quarterfinal—and it was the third soloist who I had pegged for soloist of the night. This is more than a group of stellar front men, though, as their set is also powered by tremendous use of dynamics, percussion, and choreography. After Hours edged them out by one point at their quarterfinal. Expect big things from The Statesmen at semis this year.
9. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bathtub Dogs When you talk about pure point totals, The Bathtub Dogs’ 435 Points at their quarterfinal was tops among all groups in all regions this year, and bested their closest competitor that night by 84 points. Along the way, the group picked up honors for Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Choreography, each for the full set. In 2013, this group has come to play.
10. The Fordham University Ramblers New York City is now a part of the Mid-Atlantic region, and the boys from Fordham are representing the Big Apple proudly at semifinals, wearing pastel-colored jeans and using a diverse set of songs and high octane choreography to own the stage.
11. The Carnegie Mellon University Originals The Great Lakes region is opening the door for a number of former Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast groups to make a new impact. Carnegie Mellon’s favorite sons thrived at their home quarterfinal, breaking the 400 point barrier and picking up Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Choreography superlatives along the way. Expect big things from the all-male crew at semis.
12. The Brown Derbies After a prolonged leave of absence from the ICCAs, one of the more iconic college a cappella groups in the world is back in action. They kick-started their return with a first place finish at their quarterfinal in front of a home crowd. Can the guys sing their way to their first ICCA Finals berth since 1997? I wouldn’t count them out.
13. Pacific Lutheran University PLUtonic There’s no shortage of groups this year covering “Some Nights.” Far fewer are those that mix it with “We Are Young” and fewer still are those that thread the needle to medley these numbers up with a song by One Direction. PLUtonic is one of the most inventive all-male groups in the tournament and will make a case for itself at the West semis this year.
14. The Johns Hopkins University Octopodes The Octopodes have become a perennial threat in the ICCA South. After dominating their quarterfinal in Baltimore, taking first place, Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Arrangement the group is headed back to Nashville to shore up their place among the region’s elite.
15. University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana No Comment The men and women of No Comment had plenty to say at their quarterfinal, taking home the prizes for Outstanding Soloists for “Breathe Again” and getting recognized for the whole set’s choreography. They’re a promising group in a Midwest region just waiting to crown new champions.
16. Arizona State University Priority Male Over the years, Arizona State has quietly developed a vibrant a cappella scene. Priority Male won its quarterfinal in Tempe with a set including a mashup called, “What Is This DJ’s Love That We Found In a Hopeless Place,” in addition to picking up top honors for their choreography on a Bon Jovi number. Keep an eye out for these guys at semis.
17. Florida State University All-Night Yahtzee After dominating the ICCA South in the mid-late 00s, the prodigal sons and daughters of the region are returning to the semis fresh off of Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Choreography nods at their quarterfinal. Groups with traditions of excellence know how to thrive on the semifinal stage. It will be interesting to see what the co-ed group can accomplish when it shares the stage at Vanderbilt with two other FSU groups.
18. The Cornell University Chordials The Chordials took body percussion to new extremes, stomping their way to thrilling victory at the Nazareth College quarterfinal, with a set featuring material OPB Kimbra and The Black Keys. After a lengthy absence from competition, this group has every chance at being a major factor in the wide open Mid-Atlantic region.
19. Indiana University Shades of Hue In its very first competition, Shades of Hue struck gold at the Centreville High School quarterfinal. The six-person group brought a unique five-song set to the stage, earning the Outstanding Soloist award in the process.
20. Northwestern University Extreme Measures Fresh off the release of their debut studio album this past fall, Extreme Measures went on to win the final Midwest quarterfinal, earning Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Arrangement honors along the way.
21. Northeastern University Pitch, Please! Though the group was only founded this past fall, Pitch, Please! Has made an immediate impact on the Northeast with a decisive victory in their quarterfinal, at which they earned top marks for Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Arrangement.
22. The Belmont University Beltones Hailing from Nashville, The Beltones will have the closest thing to home field advantage at their semifinal at Vanderbilt. They won the quarterfinal at Duke and looked primed to turn heads in the second round.
23. The UCLA Medleys The ICCAWest expanded to five quarterfinals this year. The Medleys came out on top at the last show, garnering Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Soloist awards while they were at it. Keep an ear out for them at USC.
24. University of Delaware Vocal Point After years of competing in the ICCA South, Vocal Point is back in its more natural geographic region—the Mid-Atlantic. The co-ed group, known for star soloists, edged out ‘Til Further Notes to win their quarterfinal at Rutgers. Now the group will return to New Brunswick to make their case for a trip to New York.
25. The UNC-Chapel Hill Loreleis An all-female resurgence has been afoot in the ICCAs, and what group is better equipped to bolster that charge than the original all-female champions, the group to win the very first ICCA tournament (before it was even called that!) back in 1996. The ladies finished just a shave behind The Beltones in their first round competition. They’ll have a shot at reclaiming glory in Nashville.
26. The University of Michigan G-Men The ICCA Midwest mainstays have carved a new niche for themselves toward the head of the class for The Great Lakes region. The guys won their quarterfinal and won Outstanding Soloist for “Settle Down.”
27. The Michigan State University Accafellas Michigan State groups swept the top three places at their home quarterfinal, but it was The Accafellas who stood tall, winning first place. The all-male crew picked up Outstanding Choreography honors along the way for their rendition of “Everybody Talks.”
28. University of Toronto TBA Last year, TBA took home Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Choreography honors while finishing third the Northeast Semifinals. This year, they’ll ply their trade in the brand new Great Lakes region. They picked up Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding VP awards at their quarterfinal already this year, and are certainly a group to watch in Michigan.
29. The Missouri State University Beartones The Beartones edged out the competition in a startlingly close quarterfinal in St. Louis, where just 18 points separated first and third place. Fresh off the release of their new album BTZ the all-male group is primed to continue its ICCA quest, competing once again at Washington University for semis.
30. Skidmore College Drastic Measures In the past two years, Drastic Measures has established itself as a group that puts its own spin on classic songs. The approach landed the group first place at the Woodland Concert Series quarterfinal, including Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Arrangement honors.
31. Pacific Lutheran University HERmonic HERmonic gave its sibling PLU group, PLUtonic, a run for its money at the Western Washington University quarterfinal, and took home the award for Outstanding Soloist for “Independent Woman.”
32. Northeastern University Distilled Harmony Northeastern University played host to an exceptionally close quarterfinal this year, with just nine points separating the top three groups. It was home group, Distilled Harmony that finished first and they took home the Outstanding Soloist superlative for “Feelin’ Good.”
33. Rochester Institute of Technology Eight Beat Measure The authors of the opening track of this year’s Best of Collegiate A Cappella compilation (“Party Rock Anthem”) turned in a memorable set at the Nazareth College quarterfinal this year, finishing second overall and winning an Outstanding Vocal Percussion superlative.
34. The Arizona State University Pitchforks The all-female Pitchforks won Outstanding Soloist for their take on “Bottom of the River” at quarterfinals and finished second only to their sibling group, ASU Priority Male. Now the ladies head to California for semis.
35. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Xtension Chords Midwest mainstays The Xtension Chords were first runners up at a tough quarterfinal at Illinois State this February, and won Outstanding Arrangement in the process for “Swallowed in the Sea.”