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I was just thinking about the recent a cappella boom. I recently read a partial list of the songs on the upcoming Committed album, "Committed.” Just like on Nota's album, at least half of the songs are covers. I began wondering why these two groups, signed to major labels, would do this. Straight No Chaser's non-Christmas album, "With A Twist," was entirely covers too. They're also signed to a major label.

Then I started trying to think of any non-a cappella bands signed to major labels with half of the songs on their debut album as covers. Now, I don't know every single signed band that's ever existed, and I'm sure it's possible that there are at least a few out there that did it. However, none of the bands who got big (that I know of) had many, if any, covers on their albums. Sure, there have been artists who have covered a song and had that remake as their big hit, but it’s not that common in the music industry. This leaves the question: why not with these major a cappella acts?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to imply that the artists themselves made this choice independently. It's possible that they did, but I think we all know we are not aware of what goes on behind the scenes in the music industry. Record execs most likely decide the final song list, but that doesn't answer my question either.

The question still remains. Why? If it is an executive decision then why choose to have these groups do mostly covers when all of your non-a cappella bands are doing originals, with few exceptions? Are they afraid that a hit single wouldn't translate as effectively when done a cappella? Does the fact that it's going to be done a cappella stump their songwriting stables that are normally hit factories? Why couldn't today's "I Just Wanna Fly", "All Star", "Rolling in the Deep" or "Forget You" come out of an a cappella group? The answer is: there is no reason. We have established this trend by being eternal cover bands. Especially given the mainstream attention we are getting lately, it's definitely time for a change.

Fortunately, the big boys in our little community are doing things differently. The House Jacks and Rockapella record albums filled entirely with originals, almost exclusively. The latest House Jacks album, "Level" in particular struck me as very radio ready and pop-friendly. In my opinion, it's one of the best original a cappella albums ever recorded. Many songs on this album have that it factor, that thing the hit songs we hear on the radio have. They're not the first to do original music, but on this album, they definitely did a lot of things right. My only hope is that the rest of the a cappella groups or at least those who aspire to represent a cappella in the big leagues will take note of this and consider making an adjustment.

For the record, I totally believe this can and will happen. For example, Mosaic, one of my favorite groups out there, has all the makings of a big time pop act. Think about it. They have the look, the charisma, the cool dance moves and oh yeah don't forget about the amazing talent and totally legit arranging skills. These guys have it all...except...you guessed it- hit songs. They even have the eyes and ears of the entertainment industry. They regularly open for a very well-known comedian in Vegas and performed on the red carpet before the Grammys and the Oscars. Up against groups who use instruments or backing tracks, they were crowned champions at the MTV’s “Top Pop Group” competition. Many times I have imagined, how huge could these guys get?  What if they wrote an amazing hit?  What if one of these record label hit factory songwriting stables wrote them some hit song material and then handed it to them to be run through the awesome Mosaic filter? I mean these guys would be unstoppable. Imagine that with serious radio airtime. These guys are so close it's ridiculous.

Folks, it's not just a fantasy any more. It's a very attainable reality. The time is here and now. It's ours for the taking. Somebody just needs to take a chance and do it.

Who knows? The originals on "Committed" could very well blow up on the pop charts and I will be proven horribly wrong. So be it. I'd love to be wrong about this. I welcome the embarrassment to see a cappella rise to the heights of success where it rightfully belongs. So there's your challenge. Now, who's it gonna be? Who's gonna take that next step? Somebody please prove me wrong. Somebody. Anybody.

About the author:
Del Coy studied voice, vocal arranging, live sound reinforcement and studio recording techniques in the Commercial Music program at Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, VA. While at Shenandoah he had the privilege of singing under the direction of Grammy Award Winner, Robert Shafer. He had the distinct honor of performing with the Washington Oratorio Society which performed the Verdi Requiem, Belshazzar’s Feast and Poulenc Gloria with the National Symphony Orchestra and soloists from the Metropolitan Opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He also studied voice and was a vocal arranger for the Jazz ensemble at Carnegie Mellon University. Del has over 15 years of professional and semi-professional experience in a cappella. His career has taken him all over the country including performing at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida. He toured with the (national touring group) Four Shadow and has subbed with Blue Jupiter. Del also performed with the vocal group METRO on board Celebrity Cruises in the Caribbean.

Comments

SONOS!

We'll have to keep an eye on SONOS' upcoming album of all-original tunes as well, ya? :)

Believe me!

SNC, Nota, Committed... we put on as many originals as we could. I very much want more a cappella originals in the world, for all the reasons you mention and more. 

But all 3 groups (and others) gained popularity singing other people's music, so it's expected. 

"Breakfree" off Committed's upcoming debut album has been getting radio play, and it's original. They just shot a video. 

Straight No Chaser had some success with "Egg Nog" from their second Xmas disc.

Doing what we can, one step at a time. 

- Deke Sharon • 800.579.9305 • http://www.dekesharon.com

Originals by:

Basix

Bobby McFerrin

The Real Group

Spiralmouth

The Real Group

THROAT

Mister Tim

Kid Beyond

The Bobs

Cadence

Five O'Clock Shadow

Duwende

SONOS

... just to name a few...

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