Monday, August 29, 2016
Friday, August 26, 2016
We start at UPenn with Off the Beat (OTB). Rohan says that since semi finals are soon, they are having a pizza party to discuss things. Jasmine says she was music director last year when they got first at quarterfinals, and this year they got second so she takes some of the responsibility for that. She tells the group that "Ain't No Sunshine" got raves from the judges and the only complaint was that it was short, while the judges felt "Simple and Sweet" was flat and had soloist issues. She says they all agree they need to change the set for semifinals, and that she has decided they will swap out "Simple and Sweet" for "End of an Era".
My armchair analysis here, is that I don't disagree with any of the choices that Jasmine is making, but I also want to note that sometimes when judges say things like I wish song A had been longer, and Song B shorter, what they really mean is, I liked Song A, and Song B not so much. But that doesn't sound professional critique-like, so they wrap it up in specifics about the song. I mean we all know our faves are problematic, but issues in performances you overall enjoyed don't bug you as much as those in ones that hadn't grabbed you.
Rohan feels he has overcome his solo issues and should have been consulted before his song was cut, while also acknowledging that no one likes having their song cut.
At UMass, S#harp Attitude (S#arps) are excited to have a party bus for quarterfinals. Archie tells the camera she kind of never got around to telling them about how it's a shared bus. She in fact waits until the bus gets on the road, and then starts to re-enter campus and the women start wondering if the driver is lost to mention that they had to make some compromises. And yeah, Brandon apparently also didn't tell the Hexachords so they note it's a big bus and then get on to see it's got people on it.
They get right down to the, as Sam calls it, "elephant on the bus". Sam says the song dedication hurt. Linnea explains she meant it to acknowledge the tension, not increase it, because she loves them. Linnea is in tears as she explains that freshman year as a voice major was so hard, and she spent much of the year incredibly sad and had to figure out how to make some changes that would make her sophomore year happier. The S#arps are really touched, and there are hugs and Melinda says she's really glad that Linnea is happier now and that that's important. Brandon wants both groups to move forward at quarterfinals. Melinda is hoping for a UMass sweep.
The quarterfinals are being held at MIT. It looks like the Hexachords and S#harps might have been the last groups to arrive. They select their performance orders. Craig is hoping for 6th or 10th since that closes out either half. Sam draws 9th to much excitement. Linnea draws 10th to more excitement. Linnea says the Hexachords won the last time they went last, so that seems good. Sam is hoping the S#arps will be so good the judges don't even notice the Hexachords.
Back at UPenn, Jasmine and Rohan from OTB are having their chat about the set change. Jasmine is nervous because she dislikes talking about feelings. Rohan tells her that he thinks she should have alerted him. She says that she hears that but as music director, music choices are her job. Rohan says he doesn't even disagree with the choice she made, he just wishes she had run it by him first. So, if she could consider that in the future.
Back at the Northeast quarterfinals, Taryn the music director for the S#arps is in charge of sound check. They have ten minutes to walk through a twelve minute set, so you can't do everything, but you want to get a lot, so there's no issues during performance. Sam mentions that she's very worried about her belt note (ie, the high note that Shams told her to stop sliding up to) and wants to get to it, but knows it's near the end. There are a couple of places where they stop to communicate with the sound person, so it's not like they are just doing shorter bits of the songs. They are also working through the choreography, so when they skip ahead people have to re-set. So, all of this to say, the sound person calls time and they have not gotten to Sam's belt note. Sam is in full freak out as they exit the stage and tells Taryn that she should know how important it was to her to practice that since that's the part that stresses her out the most. Taryn says she knows, she had it on her list, it was the next thing they were going to do, and she's sorry they didn't get to it, but she's also hurt that this somehow means she didn't plan right when they got to almost everything on the list. Archie says that they all know that Sam can do this and now they need to get ready. Sam says she knows it wasn't intentional.
At UPenn, OTB has one week until semifinals. Jasmine says that she is focusing on blend and dynamics. Since "End of an Era" is a newer song, they are working on that in particular. Rohan, Alex, and Aaron have a featured trio in the song, which means they are out their singing together with the rest of the group acting as backup. Jasmine feels singing as a trio allows them to be a little more confident, and also may cover up any small misses on the part of any one singer. Rohan appears to be having some struggles in rehearsal today and Brian asks him if his voice is okay. Rohan says he just didn't warm up, and after a few more run throughs, they are happy.
At the northeast quarterfinals Craig from the Hexachords tells us that the northeast region has the best groups and the quarterfinal winner often wins the whole thing. Okay, I ran the numbers on this. The west region has actually won, at this point, about half of the titles. However, the northeast has provided three out of the last five winners, and given that this is Craig's fourth year competing in the ICCAs, so I can see why he feels this way.
Brandon is stressing about having a solo. Craig suggests they do a bleep-through. (I don't know what word got bleeped, so we will just go with that.) A bleep-through is a run through where they intentionally do the songs in a silly and goofy manner and seems to get them all in a happy silly mood.
Isaac from the Nor'easters pops into the S#arps dressing room to much excitement. Sam tells him she's nervous about her notes. He reassures her and they all do some ass bends together. They chant "Bitches get money!" Sam is ready. Melinda thinks they sound so great. We see Isaac and Shams are in the audience.
Before we get to their performance, two notes. Both of the performances tonight are shown in snippets of two songs with talking heads, much the way OTB's quarterfinals performance was. we see even tinier snippets of the following other groups:
The MIT Ohms, perform Hozier's "Take Me to Church".
The College of St. Rose's Golden Notes perform Dexy's Midnight Runners "Come on Eileen".
Northeastern University's Distilled Harmony performs Jojo's "Say Love".
They start of with V Bozeman's "What is Love?" with Archie as soloist. Archie thinks the energy is there. They move to Littlemix's "DNA". Sam tells the camera she is worried about the note, and remembering that there a voiceovers interrupting the flow of this song, Sam seems to be singing softer than we've seen. On TV it's hard to judge if that's nerves or an intentional dynamic choice. But she gets to the "belt note" and nails it, so they are very happy as they move offstage and wave to the Hexachords. Brandon says the S#arps sounded great.
Craig says Hexachords are the smallest group in the ICCA's so they stand out, but that could be a negative or a positive. They sing Whitney Houston's "So Emotional' and it's super dancey-making good use of the two girls and four guys. They move to the Bleachers "Rollercoaster" where Brandon has a solo. Brandon is a very high tenor with amazing range that this song makes great use of. As they move offstage they feel confident.
And we pop in to UMD with the Faux Paz. David wants to get into shape and has gotten Josh and Mitul to join him jogging in the parking lot. I am going to note as a localish resident that there is a ton of snow in this parking lot, which suggests to me that this was filmed after the blizzard which was in January and the northeast quarterfinals were held in April. Just saying. Anyway, Mitul does not know why he has to run and whines and ends up collapsing in a pile of snow. (As a non-runner person, I am Team Mitul on this.)
Back at the northeast quarterfinals, the groups are onstage for results. First we have special awards. Outstanding Arrangement goes to Craig of the Hexachords. Outstanding Choreography goes to Sam of S#arp Attitude.
And now the top three, which this particular emcee calls runner up and second runner up causing some confusion since only two groups go forward to the semifinals.
3. S#arp Attitude
2. Distilled Harmony
Sam smiles and goes to grab the certificate for the S#arps, Archie is already in tears. Craig of the Hexachords is so proud. Backstage Archie is moving from heartbroken to pissed as she says she doesn't know how they could have sounded better than they did. I think this is one of those things where arts can be super hard. Athletes get more psychological training that sometimes your best day is someone else's even better day. But in sports there are clearer markers. While there is an element of subjectivity to this, it is also just life that sometimes your best performance is still not as great as someone else's. Sam reminds them that they are an all female group, and as such this was still a really great result.
So, now they have to get back on the party bus. Archie has apparently found another way home. Melinda congratulates the Hexachords on their win. The Hexachords congratulate Sam on her award and Brandon says that they were awesome. Sam graciously offers to help the Hexachords with their choreography.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Monday, August 22, 2016
Friday, August 19, 2016
So, um, yes, it does bother me that the prior quarterfinal episode was called #1 and we're calling this one UPenn. Thanks for asking.
We start in UMass with Archie from the S#arp Attitude (S#harps) who is meeting up with her best friend Brandon from the Hexachords for lunch. Archie says him now being a member of the Hexachords has been really hard on them. Brandon says having your bestie in a rival group is like having a best friends who is also friends with your worst enemy. They should totally talk to Amanda and Michael from last year about how to deal with this. Brandon brought Archie sushi, which she reminds him he doesn't like, but will eat. And
then she asks about Linnea. Brandon thinks Linnea might not be "vibing" with the group. Archie brings up the song dedication from Acapellooza. Brandon knows Linnea meant well - it was just a bad idea. Archie gets down to what I suspect is the real reason for our gathering today. She is gig manager and the S#arps cannot afford party bus to quarterfinals on their own, but if the Hexachords could pitch in. Brandon is worried it would be awkward for Linnea. Archie suggests might help the groups get to know each other
better. Brandon does not think Sam and Linnea are going to have an easy time together, or they might resolve everything in the two hour ride. Bad or good, he does not think there is much chance of an in between. Brandon says he doesn't know how he will keep this a secret and this is where I get suspicious. So the idea is to surprise both teams with a party bus they don't know they have to share? Are the producers paying for this bus? How do the groups think they are getting there? And look sharing a bus with people you don't love is a thing that happens daily, and is not a big deal. But why not be up front? Why try to mess with your fellow group members heads right before the supposedly biggest performance?
In UPenn, Rohan of Off the Beat (OTB) tells us it's almost quarterfinals, but they've been working so hard they deserve a break. So they have arranged to play
trampoline dodge ball with the University of Maryland (UMD) Faux Paz. Jasmine notes that Faux Paz beat OTB last year in the semifinals but they "won" karaoke recently
and will hopefully win dodge ball. They chant, "Who are we? OTB!"
Mitul from the Faux Paz speaks for those of us who are like, isn't this a singing group? He is, shall we say, less than enthused at this athletic idea of group engagement. David feels OTB has identified him as a threat, and they are aiming most of their balls at him to get him out. Jasmine admits her throwing skills are weak, so she has been handing balls to Rohan. OTB does win and hopes this is an omen for quarterfinals.
At UMass, Sam from S#arp Attitude tells us they have called on the "aca-gods for some aca-help''. They have called in Isaac from the Nor' Easters! Flashbacks to last year Archie reminds us they won ICCA's in 2013, and made it to finals last year. There is squealing.
Isaac tells us the Nor'Easters aren't competing this year (interesting), but the north east still a tough quarterfinal.
They show Isaac their version of "DNA" by Littlemix. Isaac is pleasantly surprised, but offers them tips to tighten it up to make them a little more badass. There is much discussion of vary degrees of ass bending. Isaac expects them to kick ass.
Over with the Hexachords, Craig-starting rehearsal with improv to loosen everyone up. They are riffing about the classroom and it is silly and goofy and fun. Brandon tells group he met with Archie and basically she's super confident and so they should consider that serious.
Craig has an arrangement of Whitney Houston's "So Emotional" that they run through. Brandon offers Linnea a suggestion, and tells the camera he is worried about Linnea's
ability to be the only alto instead of part of large group except. In rehearsal no one seems to be treating this as anything more than a normal rehearsal note, so I hesitate to fall into the trap of letting the show do that to me, but I want to remind Brandon, that while yes smaller groups do have a very different sound and expectations, and sure, it's an adjustment whenever new members join a group, Linnea was the beatboxer for the S#arps, she was not one of many voices, she was the sole percussionist. But like I said, nothing in the clip indicates that Linnea or anyone else sees this as anything more than normal suggestions.
OTB has arrived at Temple University for the quarterfinals. A number of groups cheer when the question is asked how many are first time competitors. Jasmine says pressure is on OTB as last year's winners. She reminds us the top two groups get to go on to semifinals, of the ten teams here today.
They line up to pick their performance order. Rohan is hoping for seven, but especially not one, two, or three He picks three.
And we go back to UMass, where the S#arps have also brought in Shams, formerly of the Nor'Easters to help with their music. (I'm just going to point out that Isaac was also music director for the Nor'Easters, although certainly that didn't stop the Nor'Easters from making use of Shams' suggestions.) The S#arps have competed in the ICCA's three times and never placed. Shams chides them for arriving six minutes late. Archie says all Shams' tips are stressing them out about how much work they have to do.
Sam is worried about her voice cracking on the solo so has been sliding up to the note and Shams points out that the slide just tells the judges that she doesn't knowif she can hit it. She's crushed, but he's very confident she can get there. Sam reminds us she was a dancer in high school, only became a singer in college. Shams suggests may want to
put "DNA" last, because its their strongest and the the judges - who tend to save the numeric portion of the scoresheet for last might give them higher numbers.
Sam is concerned as this also requires an overhaul to the choreography, but agrees to do it for the group.
Back with OTB, they are doing their vocal warm ups backstage. Jasmine compares vocal warm ups to stretching muscles before exercising, and is nervous that Rohan is not
warming up properly. He feels he's at one hundred percent confidence.
And look, David, Shanto, and Josh from the Faux Paz are here in the audience. Jasmine reminds OTB, don't get too hyped and start going too fast. "Chill your tits." Do it like it's a fancy rehearsal. Haneol leads them through a visualization of OTB winning. They cheer, "Off the Beat!''
We don't get to see all ten other teams (sadness), but we do see or hear about the following groups:
Westchester University's Under Arrest
The Drexel University-Treblemakers (which seems like it's getting to be a popular group name for some reason) sing Zedd's "Clarity".
The UPenn Pennchants do a fascinating choral rendition of the Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life".
Bryn Mawr and Haverford College's Counterpoint A Cappella sing Keri Hilson's "Pretty Girl Rock".
And we will later learn that Lehigh University's Melismatics are also in attendance.
Now, unlike the way that the Faux Paz quarterfinals was shown, we do not get one uninterrupted song, we get parts of two of their songs interspersed with much commentary.
First up is Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine". Eleanor has the solo on this and it is a dark, earthy rendition. Rohan tells us when she made the octave jump, he knew
they were in it. Jasmine is relieved. We next see Jon Belon's "Simple and Sweet". I am assuming there was a song in between that went fine, since this appears to be the end of their set.Rohan has the solo on this, and the choreography is a little more complex than what we saw for for the first, since they have picked up the tempo on this. Rohan is strutting across the stage and hits that high note with a crack. I don't want to spend a ton of time reminding everyone about last year, but you might recall this happened to one of the groups last year in the quarterfinals. In case you missed it, they show the Faux Paz whispering in the audience that he missed a note. And Jasmine asks the camera if that just happened.
So, armchair judge here. I recognize that on TV you lose some of the energy of the live performance. But to me, the crack is not the biggest problem here. I believed what I saw of Eleanor's performance. I believed she was heartbroken. Rohan does not seem as confident singing this song as we have seen him be, It might just be an off day, it happens to everyone. OTB is doing this song fine, but I am not being carried away. It is just not quite there.
Backstage, Eleanor says they didn't do as great as they have in some rehearsals but whatever happens happens and it was great. Rohan has gone off to the bathroom where the producer asks him to talk about what's going on. He thinks he is the only error in the set, so if they don't make it to semifinals, it's on him. When he rejoins the group, it's clear they can all tell he's taking it very hard. Brian tried to cheer him up saying the soloist is only ten points.
Back in UMass, there is a graffiti wall and the Hexachords show up to make their mark. In a not at all staged moment, the S#arps show up after with their spray cans and spray over the Hexachords markings.
Back at quarterfinals, the three members of the Faux Paz come backstage, so not attempting to be sneaky at all. OTB asks what they thought and they very kindly say that it was a fun set. Josh tells the camera that honestly it was anti-climactic, and David says they may advance but he's not really worried about them as a threat. I think while OTB may have asked for brutal honestly, the Faux Paz aren't seeing any point in saying it wasn't great when they are still waiting to hear from the judges. Brian is hoping they at least get second.
And, the judges are back, and they start with the special awards. Outstanding soloist goes to Eleanor of OTB! We do not see if any other awards are given.
And the top three groups:
2nd-Off the Beat
They are relieved to be going to semifinals, but Jasmine is worried as they got first last year, so while they get to move on, they need to make some tough choices.
And so far, both groups we are following have taken second in the quarterfinals, so the final quarterfinal we'll see with two groups going head to head will be interesting.
Monday, August 15, 2016
Friday, August 12, 2016
We start with members of the various groups explaining the ICCAs to us:
-There are thousands of a cappella groups.
-Three hundred participate in the ICCA's
-There are ten finalists
-And one winner.
Glad we cleared that up.
At University of Maryland (UMD) a chyron tells us that the Faux Paz have two weeks to semifinals. They grab the judges scoresheets from their quarterfinal, which you may recall they came in second, getting them to the next level, but causing some concern. Although they did also get an outstanding arrangement award. So, I am going to assume that this conversation just now is to recap the discussions they've been having for six weeks.
Lynique doesn't understand why the judges dinged them for not having enough depth. Josh thinks some of the depth had to do with them not having enough dynamics. (Dynamics, as we will see, become a bit of a recurring theme this episode, and were also something mentioned last week.) Mitul tells the camera that there are two types of scoring, some technical, some subjective. Lynique says some of the suggestions seem contradictory. Josh feels the consistent comment is that the balance was towards the guys. They show a clip of "Mad World" and while it was a compelling performance, there's something too that comment in that, if you had your eyes closed and had to guess how many guys were singing, and how many girls, you probably wouldn't guess there were four female singers. This isn't a knock on the female singers, it's just, as the judges have said, a note that the balance is off, and if their arrangements are counting on female parts, that's potentially an issue. They could also eliminate a guy or two, or alter the arrangement, but none of those ideas seem to be on the table.
Todd says it would be a lot to add people this late. They would have to be great, already up to speed newbies to make this help more than it hurts. Mitul is super sad as he realizes they would all have to relearn the choreography if they add more people.
It is asked, could they just stick with what they have? Mitul is in favor of that, but Lynique thinks the set will really rock with a few more people. It is mentioned that they had more people last year, so I think that is also their comfort level.
Over at UMass, the S#arp Attitudes are getting ready for the Acappellooza that we get our episode title from. Archie explains it's an annual gathering of UMass a cappella groups. Sam is still mad that Linnea left the group, but thinks the S#arps are stronger now. And because apparently this is another theme of this episode we are going waxing. I have no idea why group grooming is a thing that "Sing it On" has decided we all want, but here we are.
Melinda explains that she is not really into waxing or shaving, she thinks body hair has a purpose. She however, is also not willing to say no to Sam, so has agreed to come. I'm going to say, that while I know this was a thing that the show suggested (given it's appearance last season also) I found this whole segment very uncomfortable, and not just because waxing hurts (although that too). These people are adults, who do know how to say no, and whatever, no one made them do this, they could have gone for smoothies as a group instead, but Sam appears to be telling people what parts of their body they need to wax, and no one seems comfortable to be waxing for an audience much less the cameras. But in the end, Melinda gets her underarms done, Taryn her eyebrows, Archie her upper lip, and then Sam, who consults the aesthetician, gets her eyebrows and upper lip done.
In UPenn, Off the Beat (OTB) has arrived to discover a TV screen set up in their rehearsal room. Brian, it turns out, has 'secretly' gone to the quarterfinals at UMD and come back with footage of the Fauz Paz. Now again, I'm assuming show intervention, not because I don't think this is a good idea or anything. Rohan expresses surprise at Brians's crazy, but really, it's not that crazy. Where I call shenanigans is that, first, Brian could maybe scout a team that they're up against for their own quarterfinals. Now I know they made it to semifinals last year (and, ahem, the Faux Paz won) but they also have to get through this year's quarterfinals. Also, Brian appears to have stayed long enough to determine they came in second and yet, does not seem to have brought footage of the winning group. Okay, I'll stop with my conspiracy theories, because OTB does sit down to watch it, and Jasmine encourages them to pay attention to the Faux Paz musicality, to see how powerful it is that all of their expressions look completely in the moment. Brian tells the camera he wants the ICCA's more than anything, so maybe in his head it is just the Faux Paz in his way. OTB agrees that was a great performance that only got second place, so they all need to step it up.
Back at UMass we are now at Acappellooza and S#arp Attitude is in a dressing room getting ready. Archie says it's a fun event Sam says it's the first performance in front of an audience (with the new members). Archie reminds them these are the groups they'll compete against in the ICCAs. They move out into the hallway to practice their blocking. They mention they want to make sure to watch the Hexachords. They go back to the dressing room to grab their stuff and the Hexachords are in there. Dun, dun, dun. Things are weird. It's hard to tell how much it's because there are cameras there, or it's just awkward to see your old a cappella group while you're hanging with your new a cappella group, or it's just weird to have your pre-performance routine overlap someone else's. Anyway, S#arp Attitude clears out.
Linnea, now of the Hexachords says it was so awkward. Craig says they have to leave all that behind on the stage. Linnea thinks they should dedicate "Bad Blood" to S#arp Attitude. There are awkward ha's and Brandon tells the camera that he didn't want to tell her how to handle her stuff, but it really seemed like it was going to cause more drama than it would help. Linnea's thinking is that acknowledging it will let them move on, which, oh dear, sweet, Linnea. I get what you're saying. But, no, dedicating a song called "Bad Blood" to people you haven't talked to since you left their group, will not get you closer to moving past it.
In UMass, Sam of the S#arp Attitudes explains that Acappellooza is a great way to scope out the competition. Sadly for me, since I love a good list of a cappella group names, we only get a see small snippets. One of the groups is called Dynamics! (I told you it was a theme!) They sing Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". The Vocal Suspects sing Clean Bandit's "Rather Be".
Linnea of the Hexachords says it's a great way to see how the other groups sound, but based on this, she doesn't think there's much to worry about.
S#arp Attitude takes the stage to sing V Bozeman's "What is Love?" which Archie tells us is from the show "Empire". Archie starts the song, and has the lead. Off stage the Hexachords seem super impressed with her vocals. Brandon of the Hexachords mentions he and Archie used to be really close.
Linnea explains to the camera that she wants to acknowledge the bad blood and move on. On stage she simply says they want to dedicate the song to S#arp Attitude. S#arp Attitude is listening backstage and it is probably not surprising that they think this sounds more like a call out than a mending bridges kind of maneuver.
The Hexachords, as mentioned, do sing Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood".
S#arp Attitude, is irritated, one member pointing out that Linnea left them. Sam explains that S#arp Attitude is cool and the Hexachords are music nerds. One of the newer members says that, all that aside, she thought the performance was really good. Sensing concern, Melinda explains that the Hexachords are all vocal majors, they are highly trained, and that S#arp Attitude has heart and sass and choreography. Archie reminds us that all female groups are underdogs in the ICCAs.
The Hexachords meanwhile think S#arp Attitude had great choreography, good facial expressions, and a killer solo. Linnea tries to explain this tension is super hard, and I got distracted because there is a cat climbing a table behind her. Does the UMass theater have a cat? I must know! Okay, so essentially, Linnea feels it was hard being a member of S#arp Attitude, but she misses them, or at least wants it to not be weird. And look, we've all been there, friend groups shift, and re-form, and you have to figure it all out again.
In Maryland, Mitul needs to trim his beard for his picture. I could explain more, but we really just spend two minuted watching Mitul get his beard shaped. The Faux Paz have decided to call back two girls from their earlier auditions and basically run them through a whole rehearsal and see how that goes. Tiffany and Olivia. Josh warns them he will probably call on them a lot to make corrections and no hard feelings they are just in crunch mode. (Spoiler, he does). They are working through Panic at the Disco's "Emperor's New Clothes". Lynique feels a little bad for how much they get called on to change this or that. In the end they send them out while the existing Faux Paz discuss. Josh says he gets the choreography concerns, but really feels that the lower alto upper tenor sound they bring is what they need. David brings them back in and does the tricky thing where he tells them he has bad news, they are going to need so much rehearsal. Lol. And that's it for this week.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Monday, August 08, 2016
Friday, August 05, 2016
As you might suspect from the title, we will get two Mid-Atlantic Quarterfinals this season, but first, we check back in at UMass with the S#arp Attitudes who are now having callbacks. Sam says they had over 50 auditions, and now have 15 callbacks. They are using "Boy" by Little Mix as their callback piece. Sam says these women need to bring the sass and reminds us that they also need a beatboxer. As will become clear, their plan, given the lack of natural undiscovered beatboxers in their audition, is to bring Melinda, who was one of the group's founders, to beatbox for the callbacks. They are basically hoping that since she's still there as a grad student, she will come back.
Melinda, perhaps unaware of the secret plan, declares that these were the best callbacks ever. She tells the camera she loves the group but had to focus on her studies.
At Maryland, which I am going to be referring to as UMD, Josh tells us that the quarterfinals for the Faux Paz are the first week of classes, so they've been working really hard to rehearse with all the new members. Dave reminds us that the Faux Paz made it to finals last year, so there's pressure to repeat. They have brought back their old music director Michael to help out.
I guess this answers the question I had last season of how common it is for old members to return to assist. Either that or "Sing it On" has picked a high number of groups with alums hanging around.
Lynnique explains that the dynamics are the loud and the soft, and you want to see variation to keep it from sounding boring. Mikul has never soloed before, so he's nervous. It does seem that Michael is paying particular attention to Mikul in this rehearsal, not in a mean way, in a very exacting way. Lynnique says Michael is her best friend, and she loves this arrangement of Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days are Over" where she is a soloist. Music got her through her grief when her mom passed away, and she is channeling her mom, the relief she must have felt near the end as she sings this song.
Back at UMass, Sam from S#arp Attitude tells us it not just about sounding sexy, it's about the whole package. Members are discussing the callbacks, and Melinda just happens to be there. They put her on the spot, telling her they couldn't find a new beatboxer, and really hope she would consider coming back. She says she'll think about it, she's concerned that she has a tendency to overload herself. They say they really need to know now.
This was tough to watch because they clearly knew all along this was their plan, and it's understandable that she would want to think about it. I do agree, that they needed a clear answer quickly, so they could figure out their plan either way, but they seemed pretty sure they could talk her into it. However, everyone here is an adult, and she had apparently already planned to go to the ICCA's with them. Melinda asks if it would be weird to have a five year member of the group. I checked the ICCA rules and didn't see anything that prohibited it, so her question is more of a should I still be in this group or should I have moved on. Once she agrees, she tells them they better win.
They put hands in and chant, "1, 2, 3,bitches get money!"
Over with the Hexachords, Craig explains that while they only have two new members, that's a third of their group. They rehearse an arrangement of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood". Craig says it was good except for where it was lame. I'm working on the assumption that somehow his full commentary was edited, because that did not sound like a useful critique. Brandon, one of the aforementioned new members, feels that what the song was clearly missing was a me moment, ie, the song did not contain enough Brandon. He suggests this to the group. But he does have more specifics, a place where he could add a riff. Katie asks if he's trying to steal her song - as she was the soloist. There is some muttered I think so's, but it mostly seems in good fun. Craig does tell the camera he knew that Katie and Brandon might be conflicting personalities. They try Brandon's suggestion and really like it. Linnea mentions she so happy to be singing and not beatboxing as she did for S#arp Attitude. This allows one member explains that Melinda has rejoined S#arp Attitude as their beatboxer.
And let me armchair theorize here. I know Sam had mentioned last week that she thought a lot of Linnea's decision to leave was hanging with her boyfriend, but if we can take Linnea at her word here, she seems pretty happy to not have to be a beatboxer. Given the gang press over beatboxing we've witnesses, it seems like S#arp Attitude might not have been willing to let her make that switch. Of course, there's no reason to believe Linnea actually asked. I don't think the boyfriend time is hurting, but if Linnea became a beatboxer because they didn't have one, and not because it was her strength or passion, it seem understandable she would switch.
And at UPenn, Off the Beat (OTB) is rehearsing. Jasmine says this rehearsal is all about choreography. Rohan reminds us that while he is (co)president, Jasmine runs rehearsal. They are doing "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Simple and Sweet" but since they are focusing on choreoography, Jasmine has them speaking the words so they can focus on the moves and not the notes. Rohan explains that good choreography is important, but it is not their strength. Rohan suggests some facial expressions. Jasmine is concerned those will screw up the vocals. Jasmine tells us her rehearsals are meticulously planned but every time Rohan starts talking, the breaks get shorter. Rohan reminds us they are an ivy league school and everyone has a lot of work, so these long rehearsals are a big ask.
And we're at quarter finals, which conveniently for the Faux Paz are being held right at UMD. David says they have a home team advantage. We go through the number picking, with one team member picking out of the bucket to see what order they will perform in. Mikul says ideally you want to close the first half or be last. But never first. David of course says they pulled first last year. So...I still get why it's not ideal, but anyway it doesn't matter because he pulls third. And just when you thought the tension was over, they go backstage and Josh explains that Lynnique is not answering his texts which he hopes means she's already on the road back from her sister's dance competition. But they would really like her there for their soundcheck since she has a solo. Mikul reminds them to please watch tempo and then tells the camera that he knows he's the tempo problem, so his reminder was more for himself. David explains that if you go over the allotted time you lose a place, so instead of first, you would be second, and so on, and when only two groups advance, this is a big penalty.
Lynnique arrives and all is well. She tells the camera the group has been really understanding of the fact that with her mom gone, she has to step up more with her sister. Sadly her sister's dance group did not win. But I'm sure the support was appreciated. Michael has also showed up to watch.
And because we know there's nothing so adorably puntastic as list of a cappella groups, here is the list of other groups:
The Stilettos (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
Sons of Pitch (George Washington University)
Phalanx (Elizabethtown College)
Georgetown Phantoms (Georgetown University)
YCP Rhapsody (York College of Pennsylvania)
This is probably more a function of university density, but in contrast to some of the quarterfinals last year where folks had to bus a few hours, this looks like most of the groups had a short trip.
The Faux Paz circle up and do a call and response. Mikul tells us this is his first ICCA solo and there are really a lot lot of people in that theater.
And yay! Those of you who watched last year, know that we mostly got clips, although they got longer as groups progressed. But this year, we get a whole song! (Or most of one. I didn't compare lyrics.) Also, for those of us who may be song challenged, they are including a little caption of the song and original artist. We get to see the Faux Paz arrangement of Tears for Fears "Mad World" with Mikul soloing. It's a haunting, dark interpretation with simple choreography that seems designed to highlight some shifts but the focus is primarily on Mikul who sounds great in his first ever ICCA solo. The audience looks rapt. We see clips of "Dog Days" where the faster tempo and powerful solo from Lynnique has the audience bobbing their heads. As they finish a few people in the audience jump up for a small standing ovation.
The group seems happy with their performance. Mikul says the other groups are so different. And, as with last year, we are only seeing the tiniest snippets of the other groups, so it's hard to sense how the Faux Paz did in contrast. David had earlier mentioned that DaCadence was big competition for them. Lynnique says the pendulum (of top group) seems to swing back and forth between the Faux Paz and PandemoniUM.
Back in UMass, Sam of S#arp Attitude tells us that "aca-bitches" show up in person, which seems to mean that rather than calling or emailing new members, they hunt them down on campus with large signs. The new members are surprised and happy.
And back in UMD, the judges are ready. First, they have a special award. Special award can go out, at the discretion of the judges, for soloist, arrangement, choreographer, and/or percussion. No special awards have to be given out, and because the groups are judged on a combination of things it is not a guarantee that a group did well, but it doesn't hurt. Josh, in his first year as music director, gets awarded outstanding arrangement.
And now for the winners. In third place, the Treblemakers. In second, the Fauz Paz. In first, Pandemonium. (A UMD sweep.)
David is not thrilled to lose to PandemoniUM. But the Faux Paz are moving to the next round, and because they had one of the earlier quarterfinals, they have two months to get ready for semifinals in Philadelphia. The group agrees, they got second with two weeks of rehearsal, they can kill it in two months.
Thursday, August 04, 2016
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
And we're back! The opener shows clips of old and new participants as they remind us- high stakes, best friends, all here to win, and various other things. I confess I may have missed it, but I don't think they explain a cappella to us, so on the off chance you are unaware - it's voices only, no instruments, and the teams will compete for the ICCA championship.
We briefly meet the Hexachord from UMass (aka University of Massachusetts at Amherst), who, as their name implies have 6 members, S#arp Attitude (who do in fact spell their name like that) is the only all female group at UMass, the Faux Paz (who also spell their name like that) from the University of Maryland, and Off the Beat from UPenn (aka University of Pennsylvania). So, same number of locations, but only four groups this year, and this year we are staying firmly on the East Coast. As will be noted later, two of these groups are going to be in the same regional quarter-final, so we'll see how that goes.
So we meet Sam, choreographer and stylist for S#arp Attitude. She's a senior and declares that she is ready to meet the "aca-bitches" who came for auditions. She tells us she wasn't a singer before but joined S#arp Attitude and now she's a featured soloist. She talks about the transformative power of the group and how they are all about female empowerment.
Archie is their gig manager. She tells us that through music they have found sisterhood, and that they have been to the ICCA's twice but never placed. (This is where I mention that it's really hard to google whether they just mean quarterfinals or what without spoiling the show, so we are just going to take them at their word here.)
Sam says they have four slots to fill. Archie says they need girls that vibe. And they mention that they just lost their beatboxer to the Hexachords and need to replace that too.
The women coming in have been asked to prepare "Grenade" as their audition piece, we see an audition montage, complete with reaction faces. They also ask everyone to beatbox. It looked like they perhaps had not gotten specific auditions for the beatboxing role, and were just asking each person who auditioned if they could beatbox. The editing may have made the separation in audition less clear. They do not seem please with their beatboxing options.
I don't think this came up a lot last year, but the beatboxer in a cappella provides all the percussion sounds. It is possible to have a group without a beatboxer, but it's a challenge, and given that all female groups are perceived to already be at a disadvantage, since they theoretically don't have lower register sound to balance things out, it's a reasonable concern.
Now we go to Linnea who explains that some a cappella groups have up to 18 members, but the Hexachords only have 6, and, as a member of the Hexachords she will get to sing not just beatbox. And hang out with her boyfriend.
The Hexachords are all performance majors, put together by Craig, who is their music director and beatboxer. He says that each member is "very unique" and that the group has made it to the semifinals twice.
This year they are bring in the first every new members, since it's a very new group, and as a welcome, they have blindfolded Linnea and Brandon and taken them to a parking lot where they have placed Linnea's highly decorated car. Her car is covered in neon post-its that are meticulously placed in stripes and it looks like a parade float now. Linnea is a little concerned that they stole and decorated her car, and is not super enthused that her reward is that she and Brandon get to clean it off. It is an interesting welcome ritual, although they point out to Linnea they could have made her do a three hour audition. Xander is their bass and business manager. Brandon mentions to the camera that he hated the Hexachords when he first saw them for being so good. Luckily the car clean up process seems pretty painless.
And now we are in Maryland, and I will try to maintain my objectivity but I love the Faux Paz and have high hopes for them. They were UMD's first coed group, founded in 1993. They made it to the finals (you may recall we saw a snippet of them) last year but did not win. They tell us they are known for their big, impactful sound. Last year they had 17 members, right now they have seven including one female - Lynique. John is their music director. Lynique tells us that they are a "faux-mily" and that last year her mother died of cancer and the support from the group got her through that. Mitul didn't get in his first time. And David, their president, was belting out songs in his dorm room post-breakup and a neighbor suggested he audition for a group. (Which may be the nicest way to say let me give you an outlet for this energy that is not right here I can think of. So, assuming this was presented as nicely as it seems, go neighbor!)
They begin their auditions, given the current gender imbalance, they are only auditioning females. The first female audtioning indicates that she is mostly auditioning for David, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The group tells the camera there is a no "faux-cest" rule. They are using "Raise Your Glass" as the audition song, in keeping with the strong, belter vibe they are seeking. Most of the audition clips we are seeing are pretty soft, sweet, and not very much like you might expect for a Pink song. They get some that are better. And then David brings from the hallway a dude! (Dun, dun, dun.)
Shout out to Testudo the turtle who shows up in one of the interstitial shots. So, Brad has always dreamed of being in the Faux Paz. Brad is aware the audition is female only but thought that he would show up and see if they would be nice. They do not seem super into it, but arrive at he can audition if he auditions singing the song in the original key. He does, and manages to sing most of the high notes with much more confidence than he had so far demonstrated and now the Faux Paz are a little impressed.
They make their you made it calls at 1 am. Brad is in, along with Joanie, Cat, and Amrita. So they will have a 7:4 gender balance.
In Pennsylvania we join Off the Beat. They have won 29 Contemporary A Cappella awards, which they tell us are the Oscars of a cappella. Rohan is their co-president and a senior. Jasmine is their music director and a senior. She says Off the Beat is a rock group.
The group only recently starting competing in the ICCA's, came in thirs at the semifinals which wasn't bad for their first time. (At the semifinals, you may recall, only the top team goes through.)
Much is made of the fact that Rohan is all charm and fun, and Jasmine is very serious. But both are results driven. Off The Beat held their new member auditions last semester, so only need to finalize one last solo today. Alex, Brian (who is the business manager), and Rohan are auditioning for the solo in "Simple and Sweet". Rohan talks a lot of trash to the camera about how Alex and Brian are okay, but he can do better. Brian notes that Rohan tends to get cocky and doesn't always learn the music. This seems likely as Rohan has to get the pitch multiple times, and forgets the words until another member sings the first phrase to him. But once he gets going co-president Emily thinks it's clear Rohan was the best. (They did kick out the potential soloists to discuss them.) Jasmine feels that Brian was the best, and is clearly gritting her teeth, trying to nudge the group in that direction. She mentions that Rohan is more bass than tenor and the song goes pretty high, but everyone is firmly team Rohan, so he gets the solo. (I feel like this is going to come up again later.)
And not OTB (as they call themselves, and now I will too) are having a totally not staged by the producers karaoke battle with the Faux Paz in what looks like a very tiny local bar somewhere between the two universities. (They say it's in Pennsylvania, but in my humble opinion, this bar says state line, not Philadelphia.) David of the Faux Pas notes that Rohan looks very ivy league in his blazer. Rohan starts them off singing "I'll Make Love to You" and it wasn't clear if there were actual karaoke lyrics being provided, but Rohan is not prepared for how high the song gets and also doesn't seem to know the words.
Mikul from the Faux Paz does a rendition of "Creep" that goes over well with the crowd. Jasmine of OTB is pissed that the Faux Paz are making good use of their strengths. There is mention that it is "aca on" now.
David, Josh, and a third member who's name I have not yet learned get up and perform "Bye, Bye, Bye" which also gets a lot of audience participation. At least from the other a cappella folks.
Jasmine does "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and Rohan expresses surprise at her ability to make it fun.
A bar employee comes out to ask the crowd (who has mostly seemed amused by the goings on) to vote. OTB is declared the winner. Both groups think this sneak peak of their fellow Mid-Atlantic region group was fun and useful. We get some clips of the upcoming season and that's it for now.