Thanks to shows like The Sing-Off and movies like Pitch Perfect, a cappella has taken the world by storm. Well, that’s not entirely true. Most singing musicians know that a cappella is an old artform and has been around for seemingly forever; but it’s only re-entered the mainstream recently.
The human voice is capable of some amazing things. Popular groups like Pentatonix have taught us that voices can replicate even some of the most electronic-sounding melodies. Other musicians have gone on and used these studio technological advances and crafted an even more interesting sound.
Below, we’ve rounded up five of the coolest sounding YouTube videos by a cappella singers performing covers and medleys. What’s your favorite?
Sam Tsui: “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift
Sam Tsui’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” is an interesting take on the song. With its bouncy rhythm and bubbly harmonies, Tsui’s voice carries some intricate sounds. At the very end, he adds a nice set of triplets for rhythmic variation from the original. Can you hear it?
Most pointedly, Tsui is harmonizing with himself for a perfect blend. Add in his percussive clapping and snaps, and you’ve got a YouTube hit.
Alex G. and Mike Tompkins: “Shut Up and Dance” by WALK THE MOON
Alex G. and Mike Tompkins’ cover of “Shut Up and Dance” is an energetic rendition of an already spirited song. Tompkins uses the aid of some studio sound equipment to further mold his voice when he provides the more electronic-sounding instrumental parts. At the end of the video, he demonstrates the separate sounds. While this cover isn’t a “clean” example of a cappella, it still shows how two voices can come together and make a cool song sound even cooler.
Backtrack Vocals feat. Carl Biehn: “One Last Time / Outside / I Want You To Know” – Mashup
The guys of Backtrack Vocals kill this medley of recent “Top 40” hits. Listening, you can hear a hint of some studio vocal clean-up, but overall, their vocals are clear of any major technological assistance. Their sound has a choral-esque element to it, aiding their blend and the rhythmic nature of their song choice. This band of gentlemen segue from song to song seamlessly and leave the listener wanting more.
Twisted Measure: “Chandelier” by Sia
This piece, performed by a university a cappella choir in a studio, has incredibly clean harmonies and dissonances. Their rhythmic and cadence choices are pointed and mesmerizing. This cover will remind you of how powerful the human voice really is and how we are capable of carrying weight and emotion with our sound. It is beautifully haunting. Try listening to it just one time.
L. Young: Michael Jackson medley
With just six “versions” of himself, L. Young covers some of the king of pop’s most famous songs. Again, his compilation is an excellent example of how the human voice harmonizes so seamlessly with itself. Young’s medley is devoid of any studio assistance and is simply his clear voice. Tight harmonies, simple clapping and snapping, and a strong bass sound fill out his arrangement. He relies on some beautifully crafted and complex jazz harmonies. Check out his harmonies around the 45 second mark. His blend is impeccable and he carries them throughout the entirety of the medley.
Interestingly, Young doesn’t use much beat-boxing, but the songs still move. Listen carefully to his bass lines. They’re intricate and melodically pleasing. If you were simply listening to the bass, chances are you’d still be hooked on his sound. Every part of Young’s one-man choir is well-arranged and at nearly 8 minutes long, quite a feat. Kudos to him on putting this musical treat together.
If you haven’t already, hop on the a cappella train. There’s a sound and an arrangement for every preference. A cappella presents some great examples of what the voice can do and what beautiful music it can make. Plus, because you don’t need musical instruments, you can get started anytime, anywhere.
What are your favorite a cappella covers? Do you know of a person or group that has a great sound? Join the conversation and share in the comments!
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