From Pentatonix, Penn Masala To Pitch Perfect: The Magic Of The Human Voice

Posted on July 5, 2015 in Culture-Vulture

By Pamela Eapen

“A cappella” – meaning “without accompaniment”, used to describe songs that are sung without the use of any instruments besides the human voice and body. Maybe you were way ahead of the popularity curve and already knew what “a cappella” meant because you were an alto in the choir; but over the past few years, we’ve seen how the genre has been exposed to and raved over by mainstream media.

Arguably the first viral internet experiences people had with a cappella and alternate instruments were YouTube musicians like Jon Cozart (Paint) and Peter Hollens. With impressive video editing skills, awe-inspiring vocal range and facial expressions with more drama than a day-time soap, they showed viewers that you didn’t need more than one person to engage in a perfectly executed a cappella performance. As time went on, more a cappella groups began using YouTube as a platform to display their talent and draw in the music-loving masses.

Not long afterwards, we were introduced to the musical series Glee and their resident A Cappella stars, the Warblers. It is to be noted, however, that every Warbler number was, in fact, performed by the Beelzebubs, an all-male a cappella group from Tufts University and winners of the a cappella competition The Sing-Off. Owing to Glee’s and lead singer Darren Criss’ immense fan base and popularity, their cover of Teenage Dream became the fastest-selling Glee single at the time. All of their subsequent songs achieved similar success, contributing to a cappella’s rapidly growing fame.

In recent years though, if you were to have heard of any a cappella group, Pentatonix, winners of the 3rd season of The Sing-Off, would be it. Having skyrocketed to fame with amazing arrangements, one of them an epic medley of some of Daft Punk’s greatest songs, Pentatonix has even performed at the White House. Penn Masala, an Indian-American collegiate group, has blown minds with their Hindi-English fusions. Both of these groups were featured on Pitch Perfect 2, which has become the embodiment of how a cappella has taken the world by storm.

The explosion of the genre’s popularity, after all, came with the release of blockbuster hit Pitch Perfect. Starring a delightful range of musical misfits, the blatant and self-deprecatory tone of this movie won the hearts and ears of the masses. The musical transformation of the Barden Bellas, not to mention the especially saucy performances by the Trebletones, showed the uninitiated exactly how fun it was to recreate whole songs with just voices.

A cappella has evolved to the point that we now we have a selection of countless groups and individuals to listen to – Canadian group Walk Off the Earth, Iranian musician Alaa Wardi, and many more still to come. And no matter what kind of music you normally listen to, you’ve got to admit that there’s something absolutely magical about listening to intense melodies and stirring beats created with nothing but the human voice.