Pitch Perfect 2 comes out today, which, if you’ve been living in a cave since 2012, is a film franchise about competitive college a cappella groups. A cappella has had a revival of sorts since then, with shows like The Sing-Off also providing a platform for a cappella groups to score record deals.
But since we’re both nerds, we’ve appreciated good a cappella for years. In 2011, I think we both found this video by Swedish girl group Erato on our own separate Internet journeys and appropriately fangirled when we realized we were equally obsessed. And then the lovely Lennon and Maisy, pre-Nashville fame, did a cover of it and subsequently got 10 times more famous. Hey, what are you gonna do. Either way, this cover of Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend is fantastic, and is just one example of how lovely and powerful a cappella can be. In the spirit of Bechloe and Fat Amy’s return, here are some of our favorite amazing sans-instrument performances, from real life a cappella groups.
Berklee College of Music’s Pitch Slapped – Medley
In Pitch Perfect, the Barden Bellas’ main goal is to win the national a cappella championships. This is not made up. This is a real thing that college kids do. If you went to a school that was serious about a cappella like the one I went to, you understand. The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) is what it’s called IRL, and it’s very serious. In 2014, Berklee’s Pitch Slapped won the ICCAs with this medley. In college, I went to a like, 10 hour (approximate time) college a cappella concert, and Pitch Slapped was one of the better groups. Sometimes you’ll find that not all soloists in these groups are the greatest, however every single person who sings a solo in this is amazing. Plus each arrangement is full of impressive harmonies and the transitions between songs are flawless. No wonder they won.
Duwende – Love Never Felt So Good by Michael Jackson
Just a quick side note: I found this group about a year-ish ago online and went through all their music videos, and when compiling this playlist, I promptly forgot what the group name was and all I remembered was that they sang a lot of R&B songs and the bald lead singer was freaking hot. Through intense internet research, I finally found them, and here they are! These guys (and gal) do a bunch of great Michael Jackson covers, including this one, you know the track released after MJ died and with JT.
Hyannis Sound – Unchain My Heart by Ray Charles
When I first found out about Hyannis Sound, it was when I still lived in Boston and I went to Cape Cod to visit my friend who was there for the week with her family. I don’t remember how they found out about these boys, but apparently they’re an all-male a cappella group that tours the Cape and New England every summer with their fantastic voices. Most of them are college kids who spend their summer break singing, and it’s great because it’s basically some of the best a cappella singers in the U.S. After going to their concert, I immediately watched all the videos on YouTube I could find because I’m an insane person who fangirls over college a cappella groups. But this soloist’s voice doe *emoji of praise hands*…
Firedrill! – If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys
Speaking of fangirling… I saw Firedrill!, a Boston-based all-male a cappella group at the 20 hour long concert that I was talking about earlier (the length of said concert gets longer everytime). They closed out the concert as the ‘special guests’ and THIS GUY who is singing lead… I pretty much died when I heard this live. How am I even alive right now?
Fermata Town – Ain’t It Fun by Paramore
Hi, my friend is the girl singing Hayley Williams’ part, so, full disclosure. Good thing they’re fantastic.
University of Southern California’s SoCal VoCals – The Wire by Haim
I’m cheating because we usually only pick five songs, but it was super hard for me to narrow it down (see: Honorable Mentions). Despite the fact I still don’t understand what’s happening in this video (why are they birds, tho? oh USC film students), the vocals on the SoCal VoCals’ version of The Wire are on point and I love this arrangement. Plus, it helped them win the ICCAs this year, so if Elizabeth Banks says it’s the best, I do too.
Once – Gold
Is it cheating to include an a capella number from a Broadway musical instead of by a bona-fide a capella group? Or is it just the beautiful marriage of the two cheesiest musical forms: a capella and musical theater? Sometimes I get a huge kick out of a capella and sometimes I cannot deal with how corny it is (come on, everyone, you know it’s true). Anyway, this is refreshingly low on the “bum bums” and “shooooom” sound effects.
Sonos – White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes
What I love about Sonos: yes, they are an a capella group, but their arrangements are more reminiscent of really beautiful choral music (that is: also fairly low on the bum bums and shoooooms). This is gorgeous and if I weren’t compiling a post on a capella music, I would have to remind myself that this was even a capella.
ShireiNU A Cappella of Northwestern University – A-Punk by Vampire Weekend
Some music really lends itself to a capella performance. See, e.g.: James Taylor; anything on the doo wop spectrum. Maybe it’s because they remind me of Cape Cod and overall preppiness and so does a capella, but I’d absolutely put Vampire Weekend on that list. Music for boat shoes and GTH pants (JK I hate GTH pants).
Harvard LowKeys – Chicago by Sufjan Stevens
Again, this sounds as much like a really solid choral arrangement as it does a capella – there’s some beat boxing … can you call it beat boxing when it’s Sufjan Stevens and Harvard? … but the soprano part sounds more like a liturgical descant than a chirpy a capella “oo, oo” thing. We already told you we’re nerds, you had to know we were going to toss in things like “liturgical descant.” A pitfall of a lot of a capella groups is keeping the volume in the 9-10 range the whole time, but this group plays with the dynamics instead.
Broad Street Line – Grace Kelly
Once upon a time, when I lived on the Broad Street Line and attended Temple, I had never heard of this group. Shame on me, I totally missed out! Anyway, remember how we were all really into Mika? Let’s do that again.