The Competitor's Edge

In this edition, the focus is mashups.

Mashups aren’t inherently good or innovative.

Mashups are en vogue in the music world. More and more DJs are producing them and advances in music software have made it increasingly easy for amateurs to get in on the game. Thus, it’s only natural that the a cappella world would hop on board.

Enter Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off, each of which featured mashups prominently and all of a sudden a lot of a cappella groups are trying their hands at mashups.

Mashups are still both new and challenging enough that it’s easy for groups to assume that the very act of bringing a mashup to competition will come across as an innovative enough novelty to win the favor of audience members and judges. The fact of the matter is that with so many groups performing mashups, the novelty is all but gone. Don’t get me wrong—groups that can arrange and execute with excellence, or that can be truly creative about the choice of songs or how to combine them, can still make magic out of mashups. But a group shouldn’t think of mashups as inherently impressive to judges.

Think about connections.

When groups consider mashups, they need to consider how the songs will function together melodically, rhythmically, and thematically. If the songs don’t fit aurally, there’s a real risk of a group losing all sense of smooth transitions and the cool gestalt effect of songs coming together, instead winding up with cacophonous noise. Similarly, if listeners can’t understand why these two (or more) songs are being linked, it can lead to a moment of confusion—that moment breaks the illusion of your set. The goal is to make the audience take a journey with you and lose itself in your music. If the general audience member stops to think critically about your set while it’s happening, it usually means they’re distracted from your performance.

How have you seen mashups contribute to a group’s success? When have you seen them go wrong? Let us know in the comments.