As I was listening to Tongue Tied, the latest offering from The Stereotypes, out of Washington University of St. Louis, I couldn’t help thinking of alternative titles for the album. The main one that came to mind: Post-Gaga: How To Make All-Male A Cappella Fun Again.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with an all-male group covering Lady Gaga. In fact, when On the Rocks and the rest of the vanguard took the charge, I was as amused as anyone. But as the 2011 competition season wore on, it became increasingly apparent that an uncomfortably large number of all-male college groups thought it would be hilarious to put their own spin on “Poker Face” or “Bad Romance.” The market grew saturated and it just wasn’t fun anymore.
To my knowledge The Stereotypes never fell into the Gaga trap, but this album demonstrates the guys’ ability to capture the best elements of that particular craze while artfully dodging the clichés attached to it. The boys from Wash U have a rip-roaring good time, embracing Bonnie Tyler, Adele, Madonna, and a selection from Wicked. They simultaneously grabbed their audience’s attention for how different and fun these songs are coming from a male lead vocal, while also taking the songs seriously. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that these guys don’t just go for cheap laughs; you don’t hear them pausing and there’s no point at which you can really imagine them winking for a camera in the studio. On the contrary, you get the impression that one of these guys legitimately grew up on Madonna and thought, “hey, wouldn’t it be neat to have 15 of my dude friends sing this”—and all 15 dudes were on board.