Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The AP does Straight No Chaser

The Associated Press has a story today about Straight No Chaser's current promotional push. (Full text here.)

Oddly, the piece seems to exist in a bubble, ignoring the fact that there was just a nationally televised competition show with a mission to find an a cappella crossover act.

Anywho... if you're new to the Straight No Chaser story, here's the feature I wrote about them for the New York Times back in 2008.

Post Script: 'The Sing-Off'

Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen the finale of The Sing-Off (and don't want to know which group won) stop reading here. Otherwise, continue.


So, The Sing-Off concluded its four-episode run last night. And while my heart goes out to the Bubs—whom I got to know during a year reporting Pitch Perfect, out on the road with them in Los Angeles, in the studio with them in New Hampshire, and on campus with them at Tufts—I wasn't surprised that NOTA took the top prize. And I'm guessing the executives at Sony (who award the winner a record deal) are relieved at the outcome. Because sending six grown men out on the road to tour is easier than shipping out 12 undergraduate students (with pesky midterms and papers to write).

The series was well produced, and a thrill for a cappella fans. But I have to say: There was a funny misstep in last night's finale. Just before the winner was announced, the two remaining groups—the Bubs and NOTA—joined judge Ben Folds in a rendition of "Why Can't We Be Friends?" The problem: Folds accompanied them on the piano. And whenever you introduce an actual instrument into an a cappella show, there is the unfortunate consequence of reminding listeners of what they've been missing. In short: The piano upstaged eighteen singers just at the moment NBC had convinced viewers that pop music was better without instruments.

Oh well. It's a small quibble. Here's the Folds-NOTA-Bubs performance to judge for yourself.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Team Bubs.

The Sing-Off finale airs Monday night (live) on NBC. Currently, some 20 alumni of the Tufts Beelzebubs are en route to Burbank, California for the taping.

It's been a thrill to watch the Bubs—whose story and legacy is featured in Pitch Perfect—thrive in competition.

One thing the The Sing-Off hasn't addressed is how a cappella has changed over the last two decades, and the role the Bubs have played. If you're new to collegiate a cappella and are looking for a primer on how this genre has evolved, give this NPR story a listen.

And pick up a copy of Pitch Perfect for the holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2009

He's the Mann

Chris Mann (an alum of Vanderbilt's all-male Dodecaphonics) was riding high earlier this year. He was a solo artist signed to a major label, Sony/Victor. He was finishing up his debut album. He met Prince! And then, a snag: His label folded and he had to reboot his career. “I was crushed,” Mann says. “And had what I now refer to as The 72 Hours of Darkness.”

Eight months later, he’s back in the studio writing some of his best music to date and fielding fresh offers. Oh, and he’s got a side job. “I’m a studio singer for Glee.

Mann speaks:

Dude, how did you get involved with Glee?
I play tennis. One of my tennis buddies is the music director on the show. We played tennis for a year. He asked me if I wanted to sing on this new show. It ended up being Glee. This was before Glee was Glee.

What do you actually sing on the show?
Technically, the cast sings everything. But there are back-up singers. There are eight of us, and we sing on the soundtrack, too. It’s the job to have in town. I stood behind Jane Lynch at the Post Office. I’m like, “Hey, I sang on your song!”

What’s the song?
I’m not sure I can say. It’s an iconic pop song by an iconic pop artist.

Musicals are hot right now. As an a cappella alumnus, what do you think of The Sing-Off?
Ben Folds said something so real on the show. Another judge commented that someone’s pitch was off. Ben said, ‘No, it’s not off. We’re just not used to hearing actual live singing.’ Everyone is so faked-out now. Everything is fake. I appreciate that they’re singing. I was actually in the running to host the show. I had meetings six or eight months ago. My agent sent me in.

Really? Did the casting department know you had a cappella experience?
No. I went in for the meeting. I said, ‘You don’t know this, but I have this huge background in a cappella.’ I was in the Dodecs. I told them all about my experience. They were really wondering about judges at the time. They were hoping to get Ben Folds, which they did. I suggested they talk to Sara Bareilles. They didn’t realize that she had that background, too.

Yes, she sang with UCLA’s Awaken A Cappella. Tell me about your time with the Dodecs. Was the group well-respected on campus?
We were a big deal. We had that frat-y factor. There was a lot of swagger going on in that group, for sure. Girls would freak out. We sang at the high schools around town. As dumb as this sounds, we had to have a police escort to get away from a show once.

A police escort?
It was ridiculous.

That’s unreal. Did the group travel much?
We did a little bit. But honestly, that frat factor won out. We stayed in town on the weekends and partied. We were really good, but we were kind of half-assed. We were the a cappella group that would rather get drunk.

What was your big solo?
“Anytime” by Brian McKnight. We also had the sex medley—that’s we called it. It was a mash-up of 80s and early 90s hip hop songs about sex.

Why do you think Glee has taken off? The show just received a bunch of Golden Globe nominations.
Glee is just so fresh. Aside from the fact that it’s hilarious, it warms your heart. It’s a story about normal kids who can do extraordinary things. I tear up over it and laugh my ass off.

You’re back in the studio working on your own music. What’s the vibe on the new disc?
It’s kind of like retro George Michael.

Like, Wham-era George Michael?
It’s like George Michael but with a 60s cool hipster vibe on it. It would be more like Wham/George Michael, with a little bit of Faith. But with my spin on it. It’s more me than what I was doing at Sony. They wanted me to be an adult artist.

In the vein of Josh Groban?
That’s what they signed me for. That’s the record I made.

Your label shut down before your album was released. How did you get over the disappointment?
I was crushed. I was a wreck. But I had this really random encounter that made me realize that it’s still in the cards. I ran into Clive Davis on the street. He’s like, ‘Come on up!’ I had a meeting with him immediately. And I felt like I was going to bounce back. I spent about six months writing for other people, getting stuff out of my system. Then I went to London and in ten days I wrote 14 songs—like it was nothing. The songs just fell out. And it’s the best stuff I’ve ever done. I got a lot of exposure last year. I have a couple of offers on the table. I’ll finish the record first and see where it goes.

Check out Chris Mann’s music—including an unlikely cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless”—at http://chrismannmusic.com.

Preview: Monday Night's 'Sing-Off' Finale

Ben Folds's A Cappella Manifesto

Ben Folds posted a 1,000-word a cappella screed on his website.

An excerpt: "The term 'street credibility' is not something that we need to banter about about with a cappella. Its irrelevant. 'Cred' (latin root credo) is fickle and can be manipulated, and those most concerned with it are marketing people and ex indie rockers going through mid life crisis. I’d prefer to concentrate on the concept of integrity. A cappella is all about musical integrity if nothing else and it will keep us honest."

Nice. The full story is here (courtesy of The Daily Swarm).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Smokey Robinson Joins the 'Sing-Off'

A string of special guests have just been announced for Monday's live finale of The Sing-Off. They include: Natasha Bedingfield, Bobby McFerrin, Boyz II Men and Smokey Robinson.

It's too bad that BYU's Noteworthy was kicked off already, because they do a great cover of Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'The Sing-Off' Is a Hit

From a story just posted on Variety:

Airing from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., "The Sing-Off" (2.3/6, 6.9 million) gave NBC its top 18-49 numbers since Sept. 28. While there was a predictable dropoff for "The Jay Leno Show" (1.5/4, 4.8 million) at 10 p.m., "Leno" still bested every ABC broadcast in the demo Monday: "Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas" (1.2/3, 5.6 million), "Find My Family" (1.4/3, 5.4 million) and "Castle" (1.1/3, 4.3 million).

Full story here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Bubs: Before 'The Sing-Off'

Congratulations to the Tufts Beelzebubs on making it through to the second episode of The Sing-Off. Glad to see the judges were, ahem, nicer to the Bubs than David Letterman had been a few years back. If you're new to the blog, check it out:

Before Ben Folds was on 'The Sing-Off...'


...he was on the radio (with me) talking about a cappella.

In anticipation of tonight's premiere of NBC's The Sing-Off, it seemed like a good time to revisit Pitch Perfect's coverage of Ben Folds.

Here's the two of us interviewed together on WNYC's Soundcheck—talking about the rise of collegiate a cappella. (Give the clip a second to load.)



And here's Ben's interview from this blog, back in June 2008.

Is Wyclef an A Cappella Fan?

Have you seen the ad for the T-Mobile myTouch 3G? Check out these images. It seems that Wyclef is using the phone as a pitch pipe. Any a cappella groups out there doing this?





Check out the commercial here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poker Face. Again. And Again. And Again.

When it comes to ironic pop/dance inspiration, Lady Gaga officially replaces Beyonce. Here's Berkeley's Noteworthy...

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Cappella Stage Musical Set for 2010

In Transit—an a cappella musical about twentysomethings in New York (we wrote about the workshop here)—will get it's professional premiere in September 2010 at Primary Stages in New York.

The full story is here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

First NBC Promo

The Jungle Book!

What is A Cappella?

Unintentional comedy from eHow.com.


What Is A Cappella?

Here Comes the Judge

Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls will be a judge on The Sing-Off. But can she, you know, sing a cappella herself? You be the judge!

Who Spiked the Egg Nog?

PBS's Straight No Chaser special just started airing. Check your local listings. My mom called to tell me she cried when she watched it.

Here's a sneak peek.

Monday, November 23, 2009

'Sing-Off' Groups Revealed!

The eight groups in NBC's The Sing-Off—competing for $100,000 and an Epic Records/Sony recording contract—will be:

The Tufts Beelzebubs from Boston, Massachusetts
Brigham Young's Noteworthy from Provo, Utah
Face from Boulder, Colorado
Maxx Factor from Baltimore, Maryland
Nota from San Juan Puerto Rico
The SoCals from Los Angeles, California
Solo from Omaha, Nebraska
Voices of Lee from Cleveland, Tennesse

It's on.

Nick Lachey To Host "The Sing-Off"



Nick Lachey, one-time member of 98 Degrees, will host NBC's upcoming series The Sing-Off. He tells People magazine: "There is nowhere to hide when you're doing an a cappella song. There's no band behind you and dubbing. It's just you. It's just them naked on stage and what they have done to prepare is what will show through in that moment."

The show premieres on December 14th, and the Tufts Beelzebubs (covered extensively in Pitch Perfect) will be one of the few collegiate groups in the competition. The question remains: Can they win with "Big Pimpin'?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.

Straight No Chaser's second album, "Christmas Cheers," is in stores today. The group is bullish on their success these days—a far cry from the hesitation they exhibited when I first interviewed them for the New York Times back in October of 2008. (That story here.) I'm thrilled to see them selling albums and selling out venues.

The full SNC tour schedule is here:

NOVEMBER

3 Pittsburgh, PA Club Café

5 Ridgefield, CT Ridgefield Playhouse

7 Milwaukee, WI Potawatomi Casino

8 Minneapolis, MN Fine Line Music Café

11 Toronto, ON, Canada Queen Elizabeth Theatre

12 Belleville, ON, Canada The Empire Theatre

13 Montreal, QC, Canada Cabaret Juste Pour Rire

14 Schenectady, NY Proctor’s Theatre

15 Buffalo, NY Center for the Arts - University at Buffalo

18 Atlanta, GA Center Stage

19 Birmingham, AL WorkPlay Theatre

20 Charleston, SC Charleston Music Hall

22 Bel Air, MD Hartford Community College

27 Seattle, WA Benaroya Hall (Nordstrom Recital Hall)

28 San Francisco, CA Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

29 Los Angeles, CA Wiltern Theatre


DECEMBER

1 Canton, OH Palace Theatre

3 Louisville, KY Brown Theatre

4 Piqua, OH Edison Community College

5 Indianapolis, IN The Murat Centre

6 Royal Oak, MI Royal Oak Music Theatre

7 Iowa City, IA University of Iowa, Hancher Auditorium

8 Iowa City, IA University of Iowa, Hancher Auditorium

9 Arkansas City, KS Cowley College

10 Bartlesville, OK Bartlesville Community Center

11 Junction City, KS C.L. Hoover Opera House

12 Lawrence, KS University of Kansas, Lied Center

13 Chicago, IL Park West

15 St. Louis, MO Harrah’s VooDoo Lounge

17 New York, NY Nokia Theatre Times Square

18 Glenside, PA Keswick Theatre

19 Boston, MA Berklee Performance Theatre

21 Alexandria, VA Birchmere

22 Alexandria, VA Birchmere

23 Raleigh, NC Progress Energy Performing Arts Center

Monday, November 2, 2009

'Invictus'

The HD trailer for Clint Eastwood's next film, Invictus, just went up. Morgan Freeman stars as Nelson Mandela, healing the wounds of apartheid (in part) through a rugby contest.

Fast forward to the end of the trailer for some excellent mbube music. Inspirational a cappella, baby!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Whiffs, Live on Studio 360!

The Whiffs talk about 100 years of a cappella, live on Kurt Andersen's awesome radio show, Studio 360. Catch up with the show here:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bubs on NBC.

It's official. The Tufts Beelzebubs—featured heavily in Pitch Perfect—will compete on NBC's upcoming a cappella competition show, The Sing-Off. And word is, they will be the only collegiate group on the show. More from the Tufts Daily here.

Let's hope it's a friendlier environment than this Bubs appearance on national TV...

Perez Hilton on NBC's A Cappella Show?

Today, Perez Hilton referred to NBC's upcoming a cappella competition show as "American Idol for nerds." (Link here.)

Are you offended? Happy for the attention? Respond!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Psych!

The special a cappella episode of Psych is just up at Hulu.

I talked to star Dule Hill about the episode for GQ.com. The big revelation: “I wanted to call [our a cappella group] The Incognegroes,” he says. Full item from GQ here.

Enjoy the streaming episode here:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dave Coulier Discovers A Cappella.

Dave Coulier (aka Uncle Joey from Full House) posted an a cappella medley of sitcom theme songs to his Twitter feed today. Uncle Joey: Cut. It. Out!

Here's Divisi covering the Full House theme way back in 2007.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

U2 A Cappella Playlist...from The Washington Post?

Read the full list here. Love the Hullabahoos shout out, which mirrors a section of Pitch Perfect.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Is How We Do It...

Love the idea. But they couldn't come up with a better name for the group?

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Cappella? 'Psych'

Folks, set the TiVo for USA Network. September 25th. And an all-new episode of Psych.

Why? Because it's revealed that Dulé Hill's character was in, yup, an a cappella quartet. With Keenan Thompson and Urkel! No joke. The group's name? Blackapella.

Here's a free sample of dialogue from the episode to whet your appetite: "There will be no reunion—unless Jesus volunteers to manage the group."

Record!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who Sang it Better?

The 2005 UNC Clefhangers sing "Gold Digger."



The 2009 cast of Glee does "Gold Digger."

Small Campus A Cappella

A thriving a cappella scene at the University of Mary Washington? Read on. Songs in The Key of Live

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, August 31, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Glee: The Music, Volume 1 will be in stores on November 3rd.


The full track listing:

1. “Don’t Stop Believin’”
2. “Can’t Fight This Feeling”
3. “Gold Digger”
4. “Take a Bow”
5. “Bust Your Windows”
6. “Taking Chances”
7. “Alone”
8. “Maybe This Time”
9. “Somebody to Love”
10. “Hate On Me”
11. “No Air”
12. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
13. “Keep Holding On”
14. “Bust a Move”
15. “Sweet Caroline”
16. “Dancing with Myself”
17. “Defying Gravity”

And because it's not getting old:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

'Mad' For A Cappella

UPDATE: The actor who plays Graves is named Miles Fisher. And yup, he's an alum of the Harvard Krokodiloes. (See his website here.)

Anyone catch Mad Men tonight? Excellent a cappella reference. Peggy Olson and Paul Kinsey are called in to the office on a weekend to work on a campaign for Bacardi. For inspiration, they decide to get high. Kinsey calls an old Princeton buddy of his named Graves, who is marginally employed as a drug dealer. They argue. And the following ensues:

Graves: "You're arrogant. And you know what else? You can't sing."

Kinsey: "Take it back. Take it back, Graves."

Graves: "Fine, I guess they kicked you out of Tigertones because you were too tall?"

Kinsey: "Graves, We're done here. And by the way, I left the 'Tones because I had mono."

Graves: "Fine, Why don't you sing a little and let them be the judge?"

Kinsey: (clears his throat, then sings) "Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal, send me a kiss by wire, baby my heart's on fire..."

(applause)

Kinsey: (putting his hand out to Graves) "If you refuse me..."

Graves: (forced to join in) "Honey, you'll lose me..."

Both: "Then you'll be left alone. Oh baby, telephone and tell me I'm your own!"

(beat)

Peggy: "I am so high."

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Cappella Violence on Martha's Vineyard!

UPDATE: Full story here.

Watch this clip. The a cappella throwdown comes 3:15 in.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

'The Sing-Off'

This press release on NBC's The Sing-Off just landed on my desk. Enjoy.


NBC'S NEW A CAPELLA SINGING COMPETITION SERIES 'THE SING-OFF' TRAVELS TO FOUR CITIES IN SEARCH OF THE MOST TALENTED GROUPS IN AMERICA

Auditions To Take Place in New York City (Sept. 12), Chicago (Sept. 14), Atlanta (Sept. 16) and Los Angeles (Sept. 19)


Universal City, Calif. - August 18, 2009 - "The Sing-Off," NBC's upcoming a capella singing competition series, will be traveling to four U.S. cities in September searching for the most talented a capella singing groups to compete on the series for a chance at an Epic Records/Sony Entertainment recording contract. Auditions will take place in New York City (Sept. 12), Chicago (Sept. 14), Atlanta (Sept. 16) and Los Angeles (Sept. 19).

A capella music has been the basis and inspiration for many top musical acts on the charts from Motown to Boyz to Men. Recently it has been the focus of national tournaments and exploded in popularity on college campuses all over the country. With a strong fan base and largely untapped talent pool, it has never been the center of a musical competition until now. The best of the best are going to compete on a national stage. From Joel Gallen's ("America's Best Dance Crew") Tenth Planet Productions, Outlaw Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television, "The Sing-Off" will feature the country's top a cappella groups performing popular songs like you've never heard them before. There's no lip-synching, back-up bands or safety net. They'll be singing for America's vote with the winner walking away with the ultimate prize: an Epic Records/Sony recording contract.

The casting call dates, times and locations are as follows:

NEW YORK, NY
Saturday September 12
SIR Studios
520 W. 25th St. (Between 10th & 11th)
New York, NY 10001
www.sirny.com
Line Starts at 8am Doors Open at 9am

CHICAGO, IL
Monday September 14
Superior Street
2744 W. Superior St
Chicago, IL 60612
www.superiorst.com
Line Starts at 8am Doors Open at 9am

ATLANTA, GA
Wednesday, September 16
Avatar Events Group
471 Glen Iris Drive NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
www.avatareventsgroup.com
Line Starts at 8am Doors Open at 9am

LOS ANGELES, CA
Saturday September 19
Musicians Institute
1655 N. McCadden Pl.
Hollywood, CA 90028
www.mi.edu
Line Starts at 8am Doors Open at 9am

For further information, please log onto http://www.nbc.com/casting or http://www.myspace.com/thesingoff. Groups must consist of four to ten members, made up of any combination of males and females. Applicants must be 18 years and older and each member must bring a copy of valid ID to audition.

"The Sing-Off" is from Joel Gallen's Outlaw Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television. Joel Gallen, Deb Newmyer and Sam Weisman are executive producers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pet Sounds.

DUDES. Check this out. Amazing, vocals-only tracks from The Beach Boys's landmark album, Pet Sounds. If you don't love this, you don't have ears.

"God Only Knows"


"Sloop John B"


More at YouTube!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SNC on PBS. OMG.

From the Straight No Chaser site: "Literally right now while you read this, the whole group is currently in New York City rehearsing for our very own PBS Special! That’s right – we are going to be filming a live concert on Tuesday, 8/18 which will air during the PBS December Pledge Drive. And we want YOU to be a part of it! We are currently looking for audience members, so if you live in the NYC area and would like to attend, please email atlanticrsvp@wmg.com by Thursday 8/13. Tickets are FREE and you may request up to 4 tickets, so email now with STRAIGHT NO CHASER in the subject line to reserve your space! Seats will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis."

Click here for more info.

Monday, August 3, 2009

'The Sing-Off' Auditions

An update on auditions for NBC's upcoming a cappella competition, The Sing-Off.

A rep from the casting office just sent this e-mail out: "The Sing-Off is a new primetime NBC singing show seeking a cappella groups to compete for a recording contract with Sony Records. We are looking for groups with 4-10 members, all male, all female, or co-ed as long as everyone is 18 years of age or older (no age cap.)  We've just begun our casting process so we're still finalizing our audition locations and dates.  We do however know we will be auditioning during the month of September in the following cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and a Southern City TBD.  For the audition, groups should come prepared with  2 to 3 songs no longer than 3 minutes each.  One of the songs must be a recognizable cover song and you are also welcome to do a medley. I'm setting up priority audition appointments at this time.  We would love for your a cappella group to attend our audition in New York City.  Please contact me asap to set your appointment. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me.  Look forward to hearing back from you! Lacy Forrest, lacy@mcnultycasting.com"

Who's auditioning?

I'm On a Bike.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mosaic's 'Got Talent'

The a cappella group Mosaic (who make a cameo in Pitch Perfect, talking about a Las Vegas run-in with Prince) made it to the Top 40 on NBC's America's Got Talent. The live shows begin August 4th. Congratulations, gentlemen.

One question: Is it strange that Mosaic previously won MTV's Top Pop Group title? (That story here.)

Anywho...here's a clip of Mosaic from an earlier round of Talent.

Demetri Martin's A Cappella Joke

Important Things with Demetri Martin
Coolness - Some Jokes About Coolness
www.comedycentral.com
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Straight No Chaser.

The men of Straight No Chaser—whose story is included in the expanded paperback edition of Pitch Perfect, on sale here—have a new EP coming out next week.

They've just posted a few clips on their site. Give it a spin. Good stuff!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vintage George W. Bush A Cappella!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bush's Hanukah Celebration
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Will Emma Watson Join an A Cappella Group?

So, Emma Watson—Harry Potter's Hermione—is off to Brown University this fall. (Paste magazine has that story here.) The burning question: Will Hermione join an a cappella group?!

And more importantly, Which group should she join? The co-ed Higher Keys? The all-female Chattertocks? The upstart Harmonic Motion?

We're guessing she'll be in high demand, despite this audition:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Hyannis Sound

Pretty darn good.

One complaint: Will someone please re-arrange "Signed, Sealed, Delivered?" This may be the most overdone song—and the most overdone arrangement of said song—in collegiate a cappella.

Vintage NBC A Cappella!

From season 4 of NewsRadio. Plot description (courtesy of Hulu): "Dave's old singing partners arrive to reunite their a cappella group." Sit back and enjoy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Yale the "Gay" Ivy?

The editors at Yale's alumni magazine are wondering.

New York magazine's blog linked to the Yale story today, offering up their own commentary: "Some would say it's all the a cappella, but then you get into the whole 'chicken or egg?' question."

The Yale alumni mag story (with references to a cappella) is here.

The New York mag blog is here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dick Gregory: Redux


Last year, we conducted an interview with Dick Gregory—the man responsible for the original arrangement of "The 12 Days of Christmas." You know, the one that Straight No Chaser turned into a massive YouTube hit, the one that led to that group's big record deal.

Anyway: Dick Gregory and the a cappella group he started, Williston Northampton's Caterwaulers, had a big reunion in June. There was much singing. There was much revelry. Now, a video has surfaced of the men singing "The 12 Days of Christmas," as originally arranged by Dick Gregory. Check it out here!



Read more about the Caterwaulers reunion here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson.

Sad sad day. A tribute: Here's Cayuga's Waiters doing "Man In the Mirror."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Toto's "Africa?" Even big in Slovenia!

An a cappella choir from Slovenia, Perpetuum Jazzile, along with The Real Group, perform their take on Africa's "Toto"—now officially the most overdone song in a cappella. Still, this is kind of awesome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Serenade

On Saturday, the New York Times reports, Emily Allen married Samuel Hornblower.

Why include that here? Because Mr. Hornblower's a cappella group made it into the report.

The Times describes the early days of the relationship: "Mr. Hornblower took Ms. Allen to campus parties and serenaded her onstage during a performance of the Krokodiloes, a Harvard a cappella group he belonged to. 'It was all very undergraddy,' Ms. Allen said of their courtship."

Congratulations!

The full (and very sweet) story is here.

Need An Arrangement?

If you sing in an a cappella group, or would like to start one, you're gonna need a few good arrangements. There are books of arrangements out there, plus arranging services and listening tapes, etc.

And now there's a website, started by a Michigan undergrad, called Better A Cappella—which offers a database of information about existing a cappella arrangements. Does your group want to sing "Accidentally In Love?" I don't know why you would, but let's say you want to! Go to Better A Cappella. Search for the song title. Find the contact info for a dude with an existing arrangement. And shoot him an e-mail.

Of course, doing your own arrangements is a good learning experience. But for those short on time (or ear training), check out Better A Cappella.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Back to the Music.

Sometimes we forget the world of collegiate a cappella is actually about the music! To that end, I offer the ladies of Divisi singing "Eugene," a great little song I'd never heard about a woman scorned.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Enter the Kleenex.

Have you been watching The Alzheimer's Project on HBO? I think it's still in rotation (if not, it's available on HBO OnDemand). I'll paste below, too.

In the first episode, a 78-year-old man named Woody Geist reunites with the Grunyons, his a cappella singing group. Geist has been suffering from Alzheimer's for 14 years, and often doesn't recognize his own family. But the filmmakers capture him singing along with the Grunyons—the lyrics and vocal arrangements embedded in some untouchable corner of his mind. Clip is here, 49 minutes in. Heartbreaking.



Thank you to Mark for the tip.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'USA Today' discovers a cappella trend.


Thanks for the shout out!

PS: I didn't know you could write "ear rape" in USA Today.

Click here to read the story in today's paper.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Honda Cappella

Does someone at Honda love a cappella?

Because here's the new Prius campaign, featuring Petra Haden's "Let Your Love Flow":



And then there was this Honda ad, from two years back:

Just click on it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NBC's 'Great American Sing-Off'

Details announced! NBC's a cappella competition show, now called The Great American Sing-Off, will premiere at Thanksgiving. Eight episodes. Eight a cappella groups—ranging in age from collegiate to geriatric. Want in?

For more info on applying, e-mail: Sing@McNultyCasting.com
Read more: http://www.myspace.com/TheSingOff.

Number 2 on iTunes?


Yup, the Glee a cappella-ish rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Glee, Again.

Fox just announced that a Glee soundtrack, including a cappella renditions of "Don't Stop Believin'," will be up on iTunes. Sweet.
Read more here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What a cappella people are Twittering about now.

Glee.

Glee premieres on Fox tomorrow night. I've seen it. Verdict: You'll love it.

Listen for the transitions between scenes which (on the preview copy, anyway) were scored with a cappella music. And then of course there's this:

Ball In The House on NBC.

Ball In the House, arguably the hardest working dudes in pro a cappella, try out for a slot on America's Got Talent. Hopefully they'll fare better than The Fault Line, an a cappella group that made it to primetime two years ago, before getting the boot.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen.


There are no words. Watch a dude try to buy a house for his a cappella group. Effing amazing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wanna be on MTV?

Folks, MTV is in the midst of casting its a cappella competition show. Think your instrument-free music group is good enough to compete?

Here's all the info you'll need to apply, direct from the casting department at MTV. Who's submitting? Let me know in the comments.

Please note: The deadline is May 14. So get on it!

THE INFO:

MTV’s A CAPPELLA CASTING
Video Submission Instructions

Thanks for your interest in our MTV casting call. We’d love for you to submit a video audition so we can get a full sense of what makes your group special!

In the video, be creative and help us get a good feel for your group and what your lives are really like. PLEASE make sure the video images are clear and the audio is good!

Part I:

Perform one full song (in stage costume, with choreography if possible)—make sure it is a song that best highlights your group’s vocal abilities.

Part II:

Choose two or three members of the group to answer the following questions on tape (one of the members answering these questions should be a soloist):

• Start off by introducing yourself and the name of the group: “Hi my name is _______ and I’m a soloist with (Group Name).
• Tell us about being part of this A Capella group:
o How often do you guys have to rehearse?
o What are some of the challenges of being part of this group?
o What are the best things about it?
o Tell us a brief story about a funny, crazy, or nerve-wracking moment while being part of the group. (for example: you were stalked by fans after a performance or a rival group tried to sabotage you)
• How would you describe your group’s image?
• Tell us why you wanted to sing with this group and what the audition process was like for you.
• Why is being part of this group important to you? Do you want to become a professional singer?
• What are your group’s strengths and weaknesses?
• Tell me about any awards or competitions that the group has been a part of? (yes, this is the time to show off so go ahead and brag!)
• Tell us some things about your life outside the group – are you part of a sorority, are you aspiring to become a lawyer, are you dating the band leader (yes tell us all the good stuff & the drama if there is any!)
• What do you hope to gain from being on MTV?

Part III:
Now that you’ve finished your interview, send it to us on a DVD along with a group photo and contact information. Or you can send a video link via e-mail to: Sandra.Phillippeaux@mtvnmix.com

Send to:

Sandra Philippeaux
ATTN: MTV’s Acapella Casting
1515 Broadway, Office 2333
New York, NY 10036
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: May 14, 2009 (packages must arrive at MTV by this date)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Paste Magazine on A Cappella.

Paste magazine, a serious cred music mag, has got a nice piece on the Ben Folds a cappella album today. Folds goes track by track, discussing the album.

Check it out here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pork Flu and A Cappella.

Nothing but pork flu and a cappella in CNN's Top 5 today.

If you want to read more—about a cappella, that is—here's a link to the CNN piece.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ICCA Redux.

All of this talk about the ICCAs (and MTV) got me thinking back to this pod that Current TV recorded last year. Definitely worth a second look. Or a first if you haven't seen it! This is basically a template for what an a cappella competition series could be.

More Ben Folds Press.

Nice story in today's Baltimore Sun. Link here.

Acapellapocalypse

My ears are still bleeding. Hit play. I dare you.

A Cappella Commercials.

My friend Miles—himself an a cappella alum—sent me a note last night: "New commercial for Vagisil uses girl group a cappella as backing music. Growth in popularity may not be such an amazing thing after all."

Anyone have a video of that ad? Seen it? Comment below. Please.

In the meantime, this one never gets old:

"The Simpsons..."

From Sunday night's all-new episode of The Simpsons.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

'Daily News' Calls A Cappella "Green."

UPDATE: The full Daily News story is here.

There was a great piece in the New York Daily News today about the onslaught of collegiate a cappella in the mainstream media.

One thing I'd never heard before: a cappella referred to as part of the green movement. "No electricity," Jim Farber of the Daily News writes.

Love it.

The piece isn't up on the web yet, but here's a snippet.

Farber writes: "There’s a lingering image of glee clubs—as glassy-eyed geek squads grinning their way through music as antique as a barbershop quartet and as corny as a hootenanny. You can hear the snickers over this collegiate, a cappella style in running jokes on TV shows like The Office and Saturday Night Live as well as in movies like Jennifer Aniston's The Break-Up. But is this condescending image set for a serious makeover?
It certainly looks that way, given a host of new projects hellbent on changing a cappella's dorkish aura.
They include:
A rash of a cappella albums on the way from groups covering songs by artists as edgy as Vampire Weekend and Bjork.
A major, NBC reality-TV singing competition show fetishizing the style (The Sing-Off), coming this fall.
A Fox comedy show based on the phenom, previewing next month and running in prime time by September ( Glee).
A feature film set in this demimonde, produced by Sony Pictures
A film comedy from Universal Pictures, inspired by a book about the movement ( Pitch Perfect)."

Farber interviewed Joel Gallen, the director of the upcoming Sing Off show. In the piece, he quotes Gallen as saying: "I found myself enthralled by how they 'sing' all the instruments. On YouTube there's a version of (The Who's) 'Baba O'Reilly' where those opening synthesizer chords are done by voices... When people see the talent level that's there in these groups, they'll be blown away."

I'll paste the link here if the story goes up online.

Bernie Madoff: The A Cappella Musical.

Oy.

Earlier this week, the Yale Daily News reported: "Magevet, Yale’s coed Jewish a cappella group, did its part to shame America’s latest white-collar crook on Sunday night with its spring jam, Bernie Madoff: The Musical. Nothing unusual happened in the first moments of the show. The 17 members filed in, men donning tuxes and women wearing the strappy black dresses traditional for a cappella jams. Seniors and alumni stepped forward, and the approximately 80 audience members—parents, friends and prefrosh alike—applauded. During the first three songs, no one referenced the billed topic of the evening. But after a few Hebrew tunes, one member of the group ran to the back of the room to shut off the lights as another member turned on a slide show titled 'The Story of the Worst Homestay in Magevet History'."

The full story is here. Let's hope the reception is better than the last Yale a cappella attempt at here.

Susan Boyle. A Cappella.

Anderson Cooper convinced Susan Boyle to sing a little for him, a cappella.

That video is here. Well played, Coop.

'Boston Globe' On The Rise of A Cappella.

Today's Boston Globe examines the growth spurt in a cappella.

Check out the Globe story here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

'Wall Street Journal' on Ben Folds

Today's WSJ takes a look at the new Ben Folds a cappella record, due out next week.

The piece mentions Folds's popularity among college a cappella groups. John Jurgensen writes: "Mr. Folds didn't discover his standing among vocal groups like the Yale Spizzwinks(?)—the (?) is part of the name—and the Columbia Clefhangers until about two years ago, when a friend sent him a YouTube link to one of his songs, rendered in a snappy multipart student harmony. That clip led Mr. Folds to dozens more—and to the concept for his next album."

Read the full story here.

Want more? Listen to me and Ben Folds talk a cappella here.

Finally, here's the Spizzwinks (?) singing Ben Folds's "Landed."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Backstage with Ben Folds

Ben Folds on iLike - Get updates inside iTunes

Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! isn't in stores for another week. But the album was on sale at the ICCAs. Have you given it a listen? What do you think? Respond in the comments section.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fermata Nowhere Reacts to MTV!

Check out the post below. Fermata Nowhere took home the ICCA title on Saturday night, with a high energy performance complete with acrobatics and Rhianna covers. MTV filmed the competition, with the hopes of turning the event into an a cappella series.

One of the quirks of the evening: an MTV announcer (one of Disney's Cheetah Girls) who appeared on stage at the end of the night to announce the winner (replacing Dave Brown, the ICCA host who conducted the show up until that point). MTV dubbed the men of Fermata Nowhere the "underdogs." Now some in the a cappella community are questioning whether the presence of MTV affected the outcome.

Joseph of Fermata Nowhere writes in to the Pitch Perfect blog: "I can't believe the fact that we were pigeonholed so crudely. I'm speaking for myself, but I bet most of the guys in Fermata would agree with me that we worked very hard to get to where we are, and we don't consider ourselves the "underdogs" of collegiate a cappella. As long as I can remember, we've at least placed at our ICCA quarterfinals, and in 2004 came in 2nd at the finals! I feel like we deserved our win, but now people may debate about how much our win was influenced by the MTV angle. And that's something that none of us want to deal with."

I said, in my previous post below, that Fermata deserved to win. They may not have delivered the best technical set, but I'll celebrate entertainment value over complex arrangements any day.

What do you think of the MTV situation? Respond in the comments section below.

Here's a clip of Fermata Nowhere at the 2009 semi-finals.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

MTV Filming An A Cappella Pilot

So, I just got home from the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Much to discuss.

First, a crew from MTV was on hand filming the show. Apparently this will serve as a potential pilot for an a cappella competition series. MTV signed a deal with Varsity Vocals, the organization behind the ICCAs. It's all official, in writing, etc. I wonder if this is the same show Mark Burnett was producing alongside MTV alum, Jesse Ignjatovic?

Anywho, before the competition began, a host from MTV, Adrienne Bailon (Wiki says she's one of Disney's Cheetah Girls) filmed intros for each group.

"Please welcome Ivy league's finest, the Dukesman!"
"Representing the heartland, here are the Beartones!"
"Give it up for the a cappella fratboys, Ithacapella!"

Well, as soon as Adrienne said: "Please welcome a cappella's underdogs, Fermata Nowhere," well, I was pretty sure I knew which group would win the competition. And they did. Come on! It was a storyline too good to resist. Fermata Nowhere, a community college group from California (singing a hip hop medley of Lady Gaga and Rhianna, no less) was up against established groups from Yale and Oxford? Come on! Community college! Lady Gaga! These guys perform in orange jumpsuits! That's damn good TV!

I have to say, I'm glad I wasn't a judge tonight. Because there was no clear winner. Fermata Nowhere was probably the most entertaining collegiate group, so I was happy to see them snag the title. I'll take entertainment value over perfect phrasing any day. They had good song choice. High energy. Acrobatics. (Seriously.) True, there were some rough spots with their first song (something not in English). But nothing some good old fashioned MTV editing can't fix!

Undoubtedly, there's a debate already raging over at RARB about who was robbed, and what influence MTV played in the decision tonight. (I'll call a judge-friend tomorrow to see what went on in the room.) The truth is, Who cares? The groups were basically indistinguishable from each other (we heard "Umbrella" three times; "Single Ladies" twice). If any single group had shown any real innovation, they could have walked away with it.

When I got bored, I just looked around, taking in every inch of Lincoln Center's new Alice Tulley Hall. The place is gorgeous. It'll look great on MTV.

More tomorrow on my night at the ICCA finals...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The First Ben Folds Review

It's in! And it's good!

Paste magazine writes: "Ben Folds returns with an entourage—they intonate their voices at breathtaking levels, overlapping in a seamless harmony throughout the album. The singer/songwriter takes the back seat and lets the college kids channel their inner Folds, and they successfully do so—often stealing the spotlight away from Folds."

Read the full review here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cue the Gospel Choir!

Every few years, my old a cappella group, Cayuga's Waiters, decides that the only way to end their big spring show is to invite a gospel choir on stage. You know, to lend some credibility to a song 15 white guys shouldn't be singing in the first place. Let alone, without instruments.

Well, this year, for the 60th anniversary, the Waiters did not disappoint! (Proof below.)

Any other groups out there doing this?

More News on NBC's "The Sing-Off."

Back in March, NBC announced an a cappella competition show, The Sing-Off. It looks like the show will launch this fall.

Think your group has what it takes?

A note from the producer on how to apply: "Hello Everyone! This is Casey Elliott, assistant to the Executive Producer of The Sing Off, the a cappella reality competition show that will air on NBC this fall. We're currently looking for groups to submit DVDs of their best performances, along with a one sheet describing what their group is all about. These submissions do not guarantee your group a spot on the show, but help us to remember your group and will be given to our casting department. We will be having official auditions at some point this summer, but specific dates have not yet been released. Please send your dvds and one sheets to: Casey Elliott, Tenth Planet Productions. 833 N. La Cienega Blvd. Suite 200 Los Angeles, CA 90069."

Who's auditioning?