[My recent article on repertoire was published over at CASA this afternoon. Here is an excerpt, followed by the link to the entire article.]
Late last year, I wrote about the need to think outside the box when choosing a cappella repertoire, and I suggested groups stay away from the songs populating Billboard charts and Top 40 radio. Now, I’m here to tell you I was wrong. Not wrong, exactly, but my analysis was incomplete. You see, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to learn some of the most ubiquitous radio pop music. It may even be a good idea. It’s all about what you hope to accomplish and achieve with your group.
Over the past twenty years, there have been a few contemporary a cappella groups or bands who have focused almost entirely on crafting original music. The House Jacks, Duwende, Rockapella, and The Bobs are examples of some American groups that have traditionally written their own music and sprinkled in covers (yes, I know Duwende’s last album was all Michael Jackson covers and Rockapella’s was Motown covers). On the other end of the spectrum are American groups that have traditionally performed all covers, like Hyannis Sound, Straight No Chaser, or Overboard. The vast majority of high school, collegiate, and amateur groups are in this mold, and they are the ones who need to be smart and careful in choosing their music.
Groups looking to perform mostly or all covers may face the choice which I wrote about previously: radio pop music versus slightly more obscure pop/rock/R&B music. While my orders last time were to stay away from radio pop, there are two big reasons why this was incomplete at best. First, it assumes that your goal as a group is to perform vocal music which may be new and interesting to the audience. The reality is that not every audience wants something new and interesting. If you are going to be performing for a group of die-hard a cappella fans, they may be bored or tired of another “Some Nights” cover. They probably don’t mind hearing your group perform a song they’ve never heard before, so long as it sounds good (or interesting). Other audience members, however, will be searching for a true cover band. They’ll just want to hear how a vocal group can perform “Some Nights” without instruments, and they likely won’t have heard any other a cappella group perform it previously.
You can read the rest of my article over at CASA right here.