magicaddict: (B&W 2)
...the following is what happens when you put seven guys who really know how to harmonise on the Paris Metro.

Meet Naturally 7, and their rendition of Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight.



This is one of the tightest acapella groups I have ever heard (yes, perhaps Pentatonix have that sewn up, but these guys run them very close). The harmonies are amazing, and the arrangements are innovative - they are pretty much flawless.

It is unfortunate that this particular video, which is the best live performance, is only on Youtube at such low resolution, because it doesn't allow you to appreciate some of the finer points of the harmony, but it's enough to show you the quality of the arrangement. It plays to the strengths of each of the performers - the melody rings out over the top of a number of lower sections of the mix, sometimes counterpoint, sometimes harmony, and some of the very best human beatboxing you'll find (well, the best you'll find as part of a group). It's an almost complete reimagining of the original track, while still keeping enough of it that it is instantly recognisable, and draws your attention inwards to appreciate every part of it.

My favourite part of the entire thing is the outro, where they are picking out single notes that together form a tune, but for which are so hard to get the intonation right. It's very easy to come out flat or sharp when you're making a single, percussive note with your voice, and these guys get every single one right. It's pure class, and only the most rabidly conservative of the other passengers are not moved to interact in some way with the performance. It's just that kind of music - so accessible, so well put together, that you can't help but appreciate it.

Oh Lord...
magicaddict: (B&W 2)
...the song, or the singers.

These are the Vital Signs - a mixed voice acapella group out of Elon University in North Carolina - and their rendition of Ingrid Michaelson's Over You.



The reason for the title is that the song itself is worth looking up in its original format, being a collaboration between Ingrid (who is a fanastically talented singer-songwriter in her own right) and Great Big World, and is a wonderfully self-deprecating, both sides of the argument take on a break up.

It's quite rare that you find an acapella group...well...roleplaying...the IC emotions of the song as well as the pair of soloists do here. These two look genuinely depressed as they tell the middle distance that all they have to do is keep telling themselves they're over each other, and they'll get there. It should be noted that they do drop out of character at the end, so that's not just their normal demeanour.

While the rhythm section occasionally needs righting, certainly early on, the harmonies in this rendition are as tight as a drum, with none of the sections showing relative weakness. The result is a rich soundscape telling a tragic story, with the viewer left wondering what might happen if the two singers actually had enough gumption to look at each other.

Once you've had a look at this, try listening to the original artists as well. It's well worth a listen.
magicaddict: (B&W 2)
...this one brings together a selection of excellent things: A fantastic soloist, and excellent group, and a very good song.

Below are Pentatonix and Lindsey Stirling collaborating to cover Radioactive (originally by Imagine Dragons). Note that this is not the last time that Pentatonix, Lindsey Stirling or Radioactive covers will be featured in my lists.



Lindsey Stirling is flat out awesome - a violinist that makes Vanessa Mae look more than a little bit pedestrian. Pentatonix are possibly even better - they are an acapella group where you are often genuinely pushed to notice that there aren't any other instruments (other than occasionally a cello). Radioactive is...pretty good, and imagined wonderfully in the video in a post-apocalyptic world, where someone clearly pressed the red button and it all went a little bit wrong.

Violin and cello seamlessly combine with voices, good video production and editing, and make a wonderful video that sounds amazing, looks fantastic and really showcases just how good these performers are. The five singers are individually excellent, and come together to harmonise beautifully. Lindsey moves like only a dancer can, adding extra dynamics to the performance before her violin even comes into play.

It's lots of really talented people working together. Listen, experience and enjoy.
magicaddict: (B&W 2)
...about three updates every two weeks. Will see if I can keep to that.

This is the Doo Wop Shop - a male acapella group out of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. They do Disney...fabulously.



The singing is only pretty good (there's definitely more technically sound acapella groups out there), but the arrangement is magnificent (courtesy of the guy who does Strangers Like Me), and what truly sells me on this performance, more than anything technical, is the fact that they are patently having an absolute blast. It's rehearsed to the Nth degree, and like a Morecambe and Wise sketch, this means that actually getting it right isn't that much of a challenge, and they can sink their energy into playing up the performance. This isn't a group of guys deadpan singing technically perfect close harmony - it's a group of really talented performers mucking about on stage, playing to each other's strengths and making the audience crack up with their antics.

This song is undoubtedly DWS's signature track, and they have been polishing it for years (look on Youtube - you'll be able to watch its evolution if you're so inclined). It takes quite a lot to get me interested in 90s Disney, but every time I listen to this, I find myself smiling.

...and now you've watched it once, go back and watch it again, and this time take note of the guy who did Part Of Your World, but this time from the very beginning and throughout the performance.

Seriously...dude be an absolute genius.

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Doug Millington-Smith

June 2017

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