The Top 50 A Cappella Originals: 20-11
The Top 50 A Cappella Originals: 20-11
To celebrate original a cappella music, Marc Silverberg has put together a list of his 50 favorite a cappella originals. Here are 20-11.
By Marc Silverberg
Let's go over my criteria and restrictions yet again:
Rate of play — How often do I play this song and how often do I really want to listen to it?
Success — What kinds of achievements has this song earned? Was it featured on a compilation? Did it win an award?
Cultural Relevance — Has this song influenced other songs or other groups in some way?
Radio-Ready — Could this song be played on a popular radio station?
Musical Elements — Does the song have good form? Is the melody memorable? Are the lyrics well written?
1) Only one song per artist.
2) The song has to be written by a member of the group OR exclusively written for the group.
3) The song has to contain NO instruments.
Let’s continue with 20-11:
20. “I Will Wait” by The Vassar Devils on I Will Wait-Single (Written by Hannah Tobias)
This beautiful, haunting melody is the epitome of scholastic originals. Written as a homophonic choral piece, Hannah Tobias utilizes dissonant harmony and silence to emphasize her point. When this was released, the Vassar Devils elevated themselves in status and became one of those collegiate groups whose names you now remember. This song also gave us a glimpse into the future of a cappella arranging.
19. “Voodoo” by Street Corner Symphony on Southern Autumn Nostalgia (Written by Jeremy Lister and Kevin Kadish)
It’s hard to forget the “whoa” riff that appears liberally throughout this song. The song almost makes you remember the “Swing” fad of the '90s, but this original is more cleverly written and features more twists and turns than a roller-coaster. Oh, and that "trumpet"? Cameo by the one-and-only Deke Sharon!
18. “I Shall Be Free” by Kid Beyond on Amplivate (Written by Andrew Chaikin)
A former member of the House Jacks, pro beatboxer Andrew Chaikin, also known as Kid Beyond, uses nothing but a looper and a microphone to create a wholly original spiritual that starts small and grows into an incredible climax. Besides winning a CARA for best original song, the most outstanding accomplishment of this album is how Kid Beyond uses so little to make so much.
17. “Don’t Fix What’s Broken” by Cadence on Twenty For One (Written by Dylan Bell)
The Canadian a cappella phenoms known as Cadence are best known for their humorous live shows and their innovative arrangements. Keep in mind that there’s only four of them, yet when you hear them on the album, or live, it feels like the group is much bigger. "Twenty For One" was once mentioned on the now-defunct podcast “Mouth Off,” where it was declared to be the best a cappella album of all time.
16. “Come Back” by Duwende on Collective (Written by Duwende)
Speaking of “Mouth Off,” the album that came in second was "Collective," Duwende’s “ahead of its time” original album. Though this isn’t my favorite song on the album, it’s the one that’s garnered the most awards and the most attention. Plus it rocks… which doesn’t hurt.
15. “Never More Will The Wind” by The Ghost Files on New Folder (Written by Erik Bosio)
This is one of the best albums you’ve probably never even heard of. Ghost Files is an international group, made up of individual singers across the world (before Accent) as well as members of Cluster, but their only audio output was this seven-track EP. “Never More” is more of a choral piece than an a cappella song, but it’s hard to say that every dissonant chord doesn’t send chills down your spine.
14. “Go Straight Away” by Julia Easterlin on Live At The Vocal Company (Written by Julia Easterlin)
One of the best a cappella live loopers today, Easterlin is known for composing beautiful arrangements that make full use of the live looper. “Go Straight Away” is probably her most famous tune; it’s the one that she usually opens her live concert with. (Though some could argue “Whiskey” is more popular) “Go Straight Away” defines Easterlin’s sound, indie rock with a folk influence, and establishes her as one of the great songwriters of today.
13. “My Future Self” by Postyr Project on My Future Self (Written by Kristoffer Fynbo Thorning)
This may be one of the coolest original live performances I’ve ever seen. The Postyr Project (now known as simply Postyr) utilizes a technology called Audiocubes to record and playback this song’s dissonant ostinato while the group sings over it and fills in the gaps. The song itself is very catchy and successfully defines the group’s style — a mix of euphoric Enya-like sweetness with hard-pulsing techno.
12. “Tribute” by Five O’Clock Shadow on Quintet (Written by Jojo David)
Quite possibly the group’s most famous tune, “Tribute” is sung by high school choirs around the country, especially during graduation ceremonies. This choral-like ballad was not written by a current member of the group. Instead, it was written by a former member who allowed the group to adopt it as their anthem. Even today, the song shines as one of the most popular a cappella anthems ever recorded.
11. “You Were Everything” by The House Jacks on Level (Written by Austin Willacy)
“You Were Everything,” much like “Fluffy’s Master Plan” did for The Bobs, helps define and solidify the style of the House Jacks — a hard-edged rock band that categorizes itself as a vocal band, not an a cappella group. This heavy-hitting original figuratively screams in your face and forces you to rock as hard as possible. It’s a bold opening to what eventually becomes a magnificent album.
What's your favorite a cappella original? Which do you think should be #1?
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