January 10, 2014


Sharper Than Ever: A Cappella Is YouTube's New Favorite Obsession

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Over the past few years, unlikely as it may be, a cappella music has become a big part of the pop culture landscape. This massive surge in "a cappopularity" can be attributed to two successful projects featuring the all-vocal artform. The first is NBC's Nick Lachey-hosted competition show The Sing Off, and the second is 2012's sleeper hit comedy Pitch Perfect. The former recently returned for a 4th season, and the latter has been aired on HBO roughly every 6 minutes for the past 5 months. Its sequel is one of 2015's most anticipated projects.

The bottom line: A cappella music is ridiculously hot right now. And perhaps no one knows this better than Mickey Rapkin, the author of Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory, which served as the inspiration for the Anna Kendrick-starring flick. 

The adaptation of his novel was both a critical success and a huge smash at the box office. In total, it's earned over $100 million worldwide. Rapkin, whose real-life college career mirrored that of Ben Platt's Pitch Perfect character, spoke to Fuse News about the film's success. 

"The soundtrack has sold over 900,000 copies, it won the American Music Award for Best Soundtrack [and] Anna Kendrick's song from the movie, 'Cups,' is on the radio all the time," he told us. "It seems like every week there's another a cappella hit that goes viral on YouTube. I don't think it's a growth in popularity as much as it is an explosion."

It's a point that's hard to argue against.

Prior to Pitch Perfect, there was Indiana University's favorite a capella group - Straight No Chaser. After a decade-old performance of theirs went viral on YouTube, the guys found themselves signed to a major label. 

"The university had us back in 2006.  It was our 10 year anniversary, and I dug up an old videotape of ours to put on YouTube," said Straight No Chaser vocalist Randy Stine. "It went viral in 2007. Then we got a call from the CEO of Atlantic Records on New Year's Day; I thought it was a prank."

And Mickey Rapkin is proud to see some of his talented brethren enjoying the success he feels they so richly deserve. "They have a duet with Cee Lo Green, a single with Sara Bareilles," says Mickey. "It's amazing to see these huge music icons embracing a cappella."

But it's not just Cee Lo and Sara who have crooned alongside Straight No Chaser. Some other major artists have performed with the group. No one big .. you know, just little names like Sir Elton JohnStevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney.

And then there's Arlington, TX's Pentatonix, who last year proved that The Sing Off can indeed produce a commercial success. The group, which won the series' third season competition, saw their third EP - PTX Vol. 2 - debut at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

According to Rapkin, this newfound a cappella renaissance won't be ending anytime soon. He told us, "I'm excited to see what happens next for a cappella. It's just the beginning. Who knows what's going to happen next."

Segment produced by Matt Paco
Article written by Peter Hoare