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?

Why Do People Hate Us?

I was talking to a reporter the other day—a guy working on a piece about the rise of collegiate a cappella. He asked me a question: Why do people hate on a cappella so much?

It got me thinking about a cappella stereotypes. Which led me to this hip hop medley from MIT's Resonance, which is so awesomely bad, that I love every second of it. Stereotypes be damned: These kids are having fun. And isn't that what it's all about?

Just dance.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Recession Hits A Cappella.

First, the 100th anniversary celebration of collegiate a cappella was canceled due to economic woes. Now, the recession is spreading to individual groups!

The Yale Daily News reports: Evan Gogel, Yale ’10, the business manager for the a cappella group the Baker’s Dozen, explained that the BDs have two main clientele: “private” clients requesting performances at parties, weddings and other events and “institutional” clients, such as schools, retirement homes and country clubs. “Certainly in the second group we’ve noticed a decline this year,” Gogel explained.

More from the YDN here.

ICCA Finals.

The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella finals are this Saturday night at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.

The competitors include:

AcaBelles, Florida State University
Beartones, Missouri State University
Ithacappella, Ithaca College
Fermata Nowhere, Mt. San Antonio College
Duke's Men, Yale University
Out of the Blue, Oxford University
Marjolein, University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa!)

This is the first year a group from South Africa will compete. Read more about Marjolein here.

There are good seats for the competition still available—at $50 and $75. (Click here for more info.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Better A Cappella.

Andy Bernard does it again. From last night's episode of The Office.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The First NSFW A Cappella Joke.

27 seconds in. Consider yourself warned.
(Note: Tech problems. Give this video a second to load.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anoop's Last Stand?

If Anoop Desai (formerly of the UNC Clef Hangers) is voted off of American Idol tonight, there may be an a cappella riot. The aca-chat rooms have been begging folks to "Save Anoop" all week. Their instrument-less prayers are with him.

In case you can't wait for this evening, here's some vintage Anoop—singing Timberlake's "My Love"—to tide you over.

Yanked Video Surfaces

Last week, Yale's Mixed Company got in some trouble for their take on Beyonce's "Single Ladies," a parody called "Single Asians." That video was quickly yanked from YouTube, but it surfaced this morning. Thoughts?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

'Growing Pains'

How did I forget about this? On the sixth season of Growing Pains, the producers swapped in an a cappella version of the theme song, performed by (I think) Rockapella.

For most of the seventh season (the one with Leo), they went back to an earlier version of the theme song. You know, one with instruments. Mistake!

Sara Bareilles: With or Without Instruments?

A few years back, as an undergraduate at UCLA, pop star Sara Bareilles was a member of Awaken A Cappella. She recorded an original tune with them called "Gravity," which wound up on the 2004 Best of College A Cappella compilation.

Years later, that same song—this time with instruments—made it to Sara's big studio album, Little Voice.

Two versions posted here. Is it strange that I prefer the a cappella version? Or just embarrassing? Decide for yourself here.

Without instruments:


With instruments:

Friday, April 3, 2009

We Didn't Go to Harvard

According to a new report, Harvard accepted just 7.1 percent of applicants—a record low. For those who were rejected, I offer some solace courtesy of Cornell's Cayuga's Waiters.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Concert Posters

On Friday, Cornell's Cayuga's Waiters (of which I was a proud member) celebrates its 60th anniversary.

I was in school for the 50th. And we debated poster ideas for hours. Eventually we settled on this faux WB idea. (I hated it.) Still, I woke up early, got dressed in my tuxedo, and drove over to the school art museum to take the group photo that we printed in a crawl across the bottom.

The previous poster was more successful. Also, we didn't have to wear tuxedos. Instead, it was casual, the Waiters assembling at the downtown McDonald's to pose as fries.

Back in the day, we'd wallpaper the campus with the posters. It seems groups spend less time (and thought) on posters these days. Though I'm digging the Waiters 60th anniversary poster, seen below.

Any good poster designs out there you want to share?

'Time Out New York' Rankings!

The editors at Time Out New York took a break from rating restaurants to rank the seven a cappella groups they hope to see on NBC's just-announced competition show, The Sing-Off.

That story is here.

Did TONY get it right? Talk back in the comments section.