I'm so tired of saying "It's been a while since I last blogged," almost every time I've written an entry this year but it really does feel that way, even now. Still, I'm glad I've come across something in the past two weeks that made me put my fingers to the keyboard for this one.
This story is actually courtesy of the fact that YouTube exists. As I (and most probably millions of others do) was searching for nice covers of popular hits, I came across a video that I'd actually stumbled on a year or two ago but totally forgot about since then.
A cappella group Dartmouth Aires were performing their rendition of R Kelly's Ignition remix. It was the first vocal-only live performance I'd seen on YouTube and I liked it quite a bit. Watching the video, I found out they were performing on this show on NBC, called The Sing-Off. As you've probably figured out by now, its a singing competition not unlike The Voice and American Idol except there's no band or background music, you have to make it yourself. That's the beauty of a capella after all.
After searching and watching more videos of The Sing-Off, I discovered a name that's actually quite popular on YouTube right now, Pentatonix, winners of the most recent season of The Sing-Off. Pentatonix really showed how a capella music has evolved, especially with the influences of hip-hop beat box and electronic dance music. It was totally incredible to see Pentatonix, a group of just five people sing, vocalise drum beats and incredible remix-type sounds in a single performance:
Being totally hooked after that, I started watching performances of other groups on the show. That's when I discovered my favourite group, Afro-Blue (now called Traces of Blue). They didn't come first, that went to Pentatnoix, but surprisingly to me, they didn't get second or third. They had to settle for fourth place, but they're my favourite group by far.
Afro-Blue has this really jazz and soulful feel about them, yet it feels very vibrant. I just loved so many of their performances, here are some to name a few:
Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Estelle - American Boy
Janet Jackson Medley
Sam Cooke - A Change is Gonna' Come
Lady Antebellum - I Need You Now
Here's my favourite one from them, although it was really hard to single one out for me:
With ten members, their arrangements of songs always sounded very full, nice bass lines, and more than one person could do lead vocals. All of them were just great. I just love their sound and they seem like a nice bunch of people. I guess I just kind of gravitate to groups like that.
Then, I found the winners of the previous season, Committed. While not so modernly flamboyant, every performance I watched was just so smooth. It's so interesting because Committed is actually a group of guys who come from a traditional background of singing choir in church. Explaining their name was very simple, "We came up with the name Committed because we're committed to God, to our music and to each other"
Apparently they'd never sung Billboard hits before and had been singing only hymns and gospel music, but they never looked out of touch in any performance I saw them in. Just see this rendition of One Republic's song Apologize and you'll get what I mean:
If you watch the video, you'll notice Ben Fold's is just speechless and I haven't seen that happen for any other top performances on the show that I've seen.
After seeing all these amazing groups, I just started downloading the videos, songs where I could get them. There're at least 10 songs in Sing-Off style being put to loop in my car the last few days! I guess the last week of watching all these amazing performers gave me one of those moments where its like those memes that go 'take my money now!' and there's this picture of someone throwing money at the computer screen because he's seen something so incredible but he just can't get his hands on it.
Then, while looking for more, I found a more humbling story. I didn't know much about the history of Jerry Lawson until I did a little research. I don't want to dwell too long on his story, but just imagine a man who was in a popular a capella group back in the 70's that got onto the Billboard charts even. Having dropped out of the a capella scene because of some troubles, he fell on hard times and he said on the show that through faith and God, he pulled through, found a new group so compatible with him and was invited to participate on The Sing-Off.
In everything new I've come across through The Sing-Off in the last week or so, what I loved most was actually how people like Jerry Lawson and even Committed acknowledged God as important to them. In the second last episode of season 2 where Terry from Committed was asked what it would mean to them if the judges sent them through to the final, I think he mentioned God twice in the same sentence and that just about sums it up for me. I just think its great when people thank the Creator for being the source of their talent and success, that's all really. =)