Don’t misunderstand me. I think Adele is one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the world today. I love her and her albums and I am just as excited as everyone else to hear what her new album sounds like.
But as an a cappella musician and educator, I am frustrated. Her album 21 was released in 2011 and a cappella groups are STILL releasing covers of Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You, and Set Fire To The Rain. Sigh…
A cappella people, this is a plea. Please don’t cover Adele.
The main reason that so many a cappella groups want to cover Adele is because her songs are great and it gives someone in the group a chance to show off their belting range. So, I’m glad you want to sing Adele, but from the audience’s perspective, I don’t want to hear Adele.
Now, to be fair, I’m probably in the minority. If an audience, who is unfamiliar with the growing a cappella movement, hears Adele, they will go nuts. They will clap and cheer and love every moment of it. But this post isn’t for them. This post is for the groups who want to stand out from the rest of the a cappella crowd.
If you want to appear on an a cappella compilation, or make your mark at the ICCA, you need to do one of two things: You need to either think of a totally new, and revolutionary way to sing one of Adele’s popular songs, or you need to not cover Adele.
For those of you who choose the latter option, allow me to suggest some lesser-known, but incredibly talented alternatives:
1) Haley Reinhart
The third place contestant from the tenth season of American Idol has a voice unlike any other. Her album of all original songs Listen Up, is a masterpiece of female pop singing. If you love Adele, try listening to Haley Reinhart.
Songs you should listen to: Oh My, Spiderweb, Wasted Tears
2) Postmodern Jukebox
Postmodern Jukebox is currently my musical obsession. Led by Berklee graduate Scott Bradlee, the band takes radio hits of yesterday and today and transforms them into authentic re-creations of jazz and fifties music records. Just some examples of what they have done include a Ragtime version of “Call Me Maybe,” a Motown version of “Maps,” and probably the best jazz version of “Bad Blood,” I’ve ever heard.
The best reason to listen to this band is that every song is its own lesson in arranging and composing. If you ever wanted to know how to re-arrange a song in a completely different medium with a different tone/inflection/harmony/whatever, the band that can teach you all of that is Postmodern Jukebox.
Songs you should listen to: Sweet Child of Mine, Poison, All About That Bass, Bad Blood, Radioactive
3) Marianas Trench
The Canadian Pop group resembles a modern version of Queen mixed with 90’s boy bands mixed with alternative punk bands. Their songs are not just infectious, but rhythmically diverse and full of vocal harmonies. Each song practically screams “Sing This A cappella!” because of all the different layers contained within each song.
Even more impressive is their desire to push the boundaries of storytelling. The video set for their 2011 album, Ever After, actually tells one long story when you watch them in sequence. The opening and closing track of their latest album, Astoria, is a connected series of musical vignettes that form a complete story.
Songs you should listen to: Pop 101, Stutter, Shut Up and Kiss Me
4) Dirty Loops
The only word to describe this Swedish group is “disgusting.” It’s disgusting how talented they are. It’s disgusting that they can play like that. It’s disgusting how incredible their arrangements are.
Chances are, you or one of your friends has already watched their videos on Youtube. True, covering their arrangements would be incredible difficult, as there is no printed sheet music and the chords are so complex they almost sound inhuman. But if you want a good representation of how to turn overplayed pop songs into incredible works of musical art, this is the band you should emulate.
Songs you should listen to: Baby, Wake Me Up, Rolling In The Deep
A duo from San Francisco that specializes in polytonality. Their arrangements are fascinating, because it feels like those chords shouldn’t work with those songs, but somehow they do. For those of you playing at home, polytonality is when a song is two different keys, simultaneously. The composition is tricky to get right, but when done as well as Pomplamoose does it, the result is fantastic.
Bonus fun fact! Pomplamoose member Jack Conte was one of the founding members of the widely used website Patreon.
Songs you should listen to: Pharrell Mashup, Single Ladies, Don’t Stop Loving Me