Waiting on the World to Change

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Centerville High School Forte, featuring Matt Bloyd, performing John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.”

Personal Style

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #153: Personal Style

With thousands of a cappella groups plying their trade today, it can be tough to stand out. Being good, being innovative, and being entertaining are all well and good, but one of the most surefire ways for a group to really stand out, and one of the great joys for an a cappella spectator is to see a group with its own clear, distinctive style. 

Whether it’s bass heavy intensity of The Northeastern University Nor’easters; the horror a cappella stylings of University of Maryland Faux Paz; the raw intensity of The Florida State AcaBelles; the accessible pop sound of Baylor University VirtuOSO; or the breathy, off-beat, intrinsically bohemian sound of The NYU N’Harmonics, some of the very best and most memorable groups singing in the last decade have anchored their identity around a unique aesthetic.

 Yes, some groups do thrive via their range, but groups that can cultivate their own personal style hold a special place for honing in on their spots as can’t-miss acts that can’t be duplicated.

I love it!

The Robot

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #152: The Robot

When it comes to over-the-top, cheesy dance moves, we’ve all seen The Sprinkler, The Shopping Cart, or The Running Man. All these moves pale in comparison, however, to the most immediately recognizable, oft-used, and sure to amuse Robot.

The Robot fits a cappella well.
Each are forms of entertainment that are superficially nerdy and that folks
might feel a little self-conscious about performing. When performed well, each
are infectiously fun.

More than comic relief, though,
as groups have made advances in aca-choreography, we’ve more often seen the
deathly serious robot—movements woven into otherwise more austere and
complicated motions, or infused into songs to enhance a moment of slowing the
tempo or switching to a more electronic style.

The Robot isn’t for everyone, or
every performance, but when applied adeptly it can offer up one of the most
amusing, impressive, or otherwise entertaining moments in an a cappella

I love it!


Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Chelmsford High School’s Crescendos performing Clean Bandit’s “Tears.”


Tuesday Tubin'

Per tradition, in this final edition of Tuesday Tubin' for our 2017-2018 publication season, we present the reigning ICCA Champions. It's the University of Southern California SoCal VoCals performing Charie Puth's "Attention."

On The Rocks, Sunset Blush

CD Reviews

There are all-male collegiate a cappella groups, and then there’s the all-male collegiate a cappella group. I don’t mean to put the University of Oregon’s On The Rocks on too high of a pedestal, nor do I mean to diminish the accomplishments of the many great all-male collegiate a cappella groups doing amazing things out there in the world. However, if you’re looking for an archetype of what this specific type of group is like, or perhaps should aspire to be like in 2018, I think we’ve got our platonic ideal right here.

On The Rocks Sunset Blush Front Extended

Some context. On the Rocks made one of the definitive viral videos of a cappella in 2008, with their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” They owned their identity as a prime example of what men’s college group looks like in representing their community on The Sing-Off in 2010. If these steps weren’t enough, 2012 saw the release of Pitch Perfect. It would be easy enough to think the great aca-movie of our time utterly unrelated to On the Rocks, except for the Barden Bellas being loosely based upon Oregon’s Divisi, which would make The Treblemakers a lot like Divisi’s all-male campus counterparts, On the Rocks (to be fair, The Treblemakers are probably more fairly assessed as an amalgam of On The Rocks, The Beelzebubs, and The Hullabahoos who were featured in the source book, but these identities are intertwined in party-hard, competition-winning, aca-institution).

Thus have On The Rocks shaped the world’s understanding of all-male collegiate a cappella, and thus can we understand their new album, Sunset Blush as the group’s honors thesis, both encapsulating and pushing a quintessential sub-genre of the a cappella form through keen song selection, sound, and multiple original song tracks.

On The Rocks benefits from a ton of raw vocal talent, arrangements from no lesser luminaries than Tom Anderson and Ben Bram, and mixing by veritable legends in the field Ed Boyer and Bill Hare. In short, the group has a ton of tools at its disposal and capitalizes nicely.

But let’s talk what makes Sunset Blush such a definitive album. There are the opening tracks to start—Justin Timberlake’s “Senorita,” followed by his “That Girl” and “Pusher Love Girl.” Like Timberlake himself, the guys ooze sensuality and charm, doing a brilliant job of translating live a cappella charisma and showmanship into a purely audio, studio format.

From there, it’s off to the races with Bruno Mars’s “Gorilla.” This is exactly the kind of song choice you’d expect college guys to go for, if only for the refrain of “you and me baby, making love like gorillas.” The group does one better, though with lush flourishes of sound that keep the track from being dismissed as comedy, not to mention the swank production effects to refresh the sound constantly and hook listeners over and over again.

While I could do without yet another a cappella cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” the guys offer up a sterling rendition of it, and the song choice does fit my suggestion of this album encapsulating the what groups are singing these days. Moreover, “Feeling Good” offers a fine transition to a pair of tracks written and with solos by music director Jasper Freedom—“You Lift Me Up” and “ Crown Royal”—each with a purity of sound and old school vibe that nicely encapsulate a classy, mature style .

“You Lift Me Up” and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” each capture a key quality of today’s scholastic a cappella, too, for On The Rocks not silo-ing itself off from its campus community, but rather indulging in collaboration, first with University of Oregon Gospel Singers, then with sibling a cappella group Divisi for a particularly rich sound and fine spotlight on soloists Jordyn Brown from Divisi, and Clay Attig.

Speaking of Attig, he shines for offering both solo work and vocal percussion on a number of tracks, most notably his own original, “Embers.”

On The Rocks doesn’t shy away from in vogue tracks like “Colder Weather” and “Love on Top,” as well as a classic like Earth, Wind &Fire’s “September,” and comes across the better for straightforward, polished takes, without huge frills or surprises. Beyonce’s “Love On Top,” in particular, underscores why the On The Rocks franchise made such a smash covering Lady Gaga in the first place in 08. Sure, there were the bells and whistles of the guys going all in on comedy and dramatic interpretation, but all the more so, the group took the music seriously and demonstrated polish on an unconventional song choice for dudes. The song choice itself is the easy part; doing it legitimate justice is what distinguishes a group like this one.

I appreciated the group’s nod to Eugene, OR in the lead-in to its first track, and cover of Matt Kearney’s “Coming Home (Oregon)” for the acknowledgment of who the group is via where they’re from. It’s easy for a group of national standing to eschew these more personalized choices, but embracing them to, instead, explore the unique creative opportunities they afford is a fine choice for a group of this stature, and a step back toward more traditional collegiate style I’d love to hear more groups return to.

So it is that Sunset Blush arrives as far more than a flavor of boxed wine, but a stunning rendering of something equal parts nostalgic and forward looking—something unmistakably beautiful as it captures the present in moment in a cappella.

Next Page
Waiting on the World to Change
Personal Style
The Robot
On The Rocks, Sunset Blush
The Great Escape
Front Row Seats
R&B Medley
Balcony Seats
Elastic Heart
Zero to Hero
Transitions on Your Playlist
I Miss You
Law School Groups
I Don't Think About You
Incorporating Foreign Languages
Evolution of Hollywood
Adele Medley
Technicolour Beat
Raw Solos
Boy Problems
Connecting With a Song
There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back
A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement