Best of College a Cappella 2006: A Review

This year’s Best of College A Cappella album presents a diverse, if flawed, sampling of what students across the nation have to offer. Many songs have great moments, but only a few achieve excellence. The result is a satisfying compilation that delivers its promise of “the best” in spurts.

The main struggles on this album are production, soloists, and arrangements. Many master one or two, but fall short on one aspect. Twisted Measure’s “Are You Happy Now,” for instance, is a smooth, textured arrangement with beautiful balance and mixing, but features a whiny soloist who sounds like an angst-filled middle-school girl. Last Call’s “The Scientist,” on the other hand, mars a heartfelt solo performance with a ho-hum, repetitive arrangement.

The most universal offense is production. The majority of songs pump up the auto-tuning; in many, at least a portion sounds mechanical and devoid of the voice’s natural beauty. UNC Loreleis’ “My Happy Ending” distorts its background way too much, even for an Avril Lavigne cover.

A few songs, namely “Something Like That” and “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” are sub par in all respects; I suspect the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America (CASA) aimed for a little too much diversity in choosing them.

Despite that, the album showcases several nice surprises and a few jaw-dropping renditions. The Duke Pitchforks actually do justice to Tenacious D’s “Tribute,” while the UNC Clef Hangers rock out with their beautifully layered and produced “Crazy Train.” A few soloists deserve special recognition, as well: Natalie Witting of Clemson TakeNote, for her tender, yet gripping performance on “Hallelujah,” and Jonah Platt of UPenn Off the Beat, who captivates as he belts out “So Cold.” Also noteworthy, the USC Sirens masterfully unify the mood of “Crumbs,” combining a sultry soloist with a very effective arrangement.

BOCA 2006 grows on you. The nice moments outshine the not-so-nice ones, and a few exceptional songs will leave you hooked. An a cappella aficionado won’t be disappointed; a newbie will undoubtedly be impressed.

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