The Case Against Acapella

Pitch Perfect
Pitch Perfect

Is there any college elective more bland, unsettling, and overrated than Acapella?

Acapella is the rare mix of boring and creepy. It’s what uninteresting serial killers put on their dating profiles. Give me an actor, a writer, a poet, or a real musician before you show me the type of person who needs a gang and a uniform to sing songs that have been song before.

Acapella, for the uninformed, is all about singing songs without the use of instruments, creativity, or anything resembling a human soul. It’s the least musical form of music, and the only one that prizes memorization over creativity and soul. It’s rote, like an army, and even when it’s beautiful, it’s a mesmerizing show of cooperation, like synchronized swimming.

Is that what you want to be? Synchronized swimming?

Why not just swim?

Acapella is mechanical and lame, a strangely rigid island in an ocean of artistic freedom. And, stranger still, it’s for that very reason that it survives. Organizations and groups need Acapella precisely because they need an act that promises predictability. In an artistic world full of freedom and chance, they want the proven answer. Acapella, which aims for and achieves “good enough.”

Acapella isn’t art. It’s a business, a behemoth, a Starbucks that doesn’t even have the decency to give you the coffee you need to stay awake through another verse from Non Threatening Dudes Who Look Charming But Asexual With A Name Pun And Maybe They’re Vaguely Old School Or Historical Or Whatever.

Did I name yours? Lucky guess.

Don’t be fooled by the routine: Acapella is a financial institution, sponsored above and beyond any other creative outlet. “Hah, we’re wacky underdogs!” they say, as your school funnels money to a group who, on paper, need only to open their mouths. “We’re such dorks!” they say as they’re flown out to Greece and events as though, what, you have to import these people?

It’s spooky. Improv people may be seen as scuttling, filthy freaks in the public world, but I fear the uniform, well-paid and polished Acapella kids. The layer of wholesomeness unnerves me; the suits, the smiles, the voices and charm… they’re a frat for nice guys, their edges rounded and shaped for easy digestion.

Music is a language, an ocean that offers infinite outlets. Why would you want to repeat standards? To subjugate yourself to the will of the group, to reduce your own voice to nothing more than an instrument, an accompaniment that exists only in harmony?

Acapella forgets a key truth: music is not a team sport. It’s for you, for the space between the performer and the listener. It’s your embarrassing mix-tape, or your embarrassing band, or your embarrassing indie-folk album you put on Kickstarter. And that’s fine. Music should be embarrassing. It’s a tremendous personal risk to pursue, to try, to share that love and devotion to the world around you and embarrassment is just the cost of effort.

But Acapalla kids aren’t embarrassed. Why should they be? They risk nothing of themselves. They have no voice. Instead they have a harmony, a baritone, a role to play as they sway in place.

And one final point — really, my last one — is that nobody even likes it.

Sure, everyone likes it, but they like it in the way you like tofu — it’s there, flavorless, and the more optimistic among us will deign to slather it in affection. Your mom is lukewarm about Acapella when you performed in it, and that’s as high as it goes. Is Acapella on your playlist? Your parent’s playlist? Is it what you listen to in any context except obligation? Has it ever been your idea to go to an Acapella show that wasn’t a Facebook requirement?

No?

That’s because Acapella isn’t about you? It’s about the singers, and their insane, boring cult of existence. Acapella will outlive us all, swaying forever into an uncertain future.

All we can do is hate it. TC mark

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