In case you didn’t know, acapella is having a bit of a heyday. Between NBC’s The Sing-Off (with a little nostalgia circa 2003 thanks to host Nick Lachey), the mildly-humorous but highly-quotable Pitch Perfect (spoiler alert: Rebel Wilson steals the show, ooohh diggity!), and the rise of some self-promoted YouTube artists who have become internet sensations, the acapella community has started to gain some well-earned appreciation.
Acapella is fascinating because of it’s diversity. From enchanting barbershop-quartet-type arrangements to those that are stripped-down and haunting, and every bewitching ballad in-between, acapella manages to showcase some of the most incredible feats the human voice can accomplish. Clearly I’m slightly obsessed…although I’ve also always been unreasonably infatuated with Gregorian chants, so my musical tastes are not the best barometer of cultural trends.
In honor of this wonderful little bit of heaven that is [good] acapella, here’s a wee Christmas playlist featuring only acapella bands. Fewer songs and more commentary, because I’m feeling
benevolent… talkative…mama’s got a big mouth.
First up, Peter Hollens. This man has a voice from heaven, I tell you. He’s one of the aforementioned artist who’s built his career through YouTube, and can we talk about how much I love the internet for that? Seriously. Without social media, who knows if this cat would have ever been able to share his talent with the world on this kind of scale?
Here’s his rendition of “Silent Night.”
As well as “The Christmas Song.”…
Another YouTube sensation- and the first one acapella YouTube artists I ever stumbled upon (and subsequently spent hours listening to every song…no shame)- is Mike Tompkins. This guy is insanely talented, and he seems like the biggest, friendliest goofball you’d ever meet. Not that I’ve met him…but I just know these things.
Straight No Chaser – well, not much needs to be said. You’ve probably already heard of them. The group was born at Indiana University in the 90’s, and it’s pretty clear why they’re still going strong…
“We Three Kings”
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
Pentatonix. Remember them from the Sing-Off? I can distinctly remember watching them in the semi-final round- I was sitting at my tiny apartment table eating burnt broccoli for dinner and wearing raggedy yoga pants [have I mentioned that I’m a classy dame?], and I was trying to figure out what kind of wizardry they used to sound like that. Fast forward a couple years and they’ve got a “deluxe” Christmas album out, and I’m slightly obsessed. It’s all just so good. I can’t get enough of it, nor can I resist trying to harmonize along with them. [Let’s just say there’s a reason I dropped out of the music program in college..] At any rate, each of those cats is incredibly talented. Case in point:
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Let’s talk about how the heavens pretty much open around the 1:40 mark. Sweet dang, that bass.
“Little Drummer Boy” – This one’s gone viral, so maybe you’ve seen it already, but it’s obviously worth watching again. Because when the guy that normally beatboxes sings, you kind of get the shivers.
“Angels We Have Heard On High” Wait for 2:10…dat bass, doe. [I’ve been waiting so long to use that line, yall. Just go with it.]
And closing it out is Forte Femme, a little group I just discovered a few weeks ago. As their Twitter bio says, they are “8 ladies + 1 beard,” and I would add that they’re something else. Their take on one of my favorite Christmas carols absolutely fascinates me. I’ve never heard this song with an arrangement like this before, and each member of the group brings a very distinct sound and range to the table, which makes it all the more intriguing. It’s definitely not traditional, but I’m all about it.
“O Come O Come Emmanuel”
Just a reminder,
if when you fall in love with these songs, please download them legally. These folks put a lot of time, money, and hard work into their music, and we need to respect that by purchasing the songs or using a music player like Spotify [which is free and legal].
As always, enjoy, and let me know what you think! Am I missing any hidden acapella treasures?