This week, I’ll be writing about some a ca0pella songs I like. I’m sorry this week doesn’t have a catchy tagline like “Get Pitch Slapped.”
Ben Folds was a judge for the a cappella contest show The Sing Off (best known as launching ground for Christmas music juggernauts Pentatonix) along with a handful of other celebrity judges (including Sarah Bareilles for a year!).
A few months before he started that gig in 2009 he released an album of various a cappella groups covering his tracks, which he produced. Some songs, he’s the lead vocalist; others, he’s absent. Folds claims the project was inspired by how much he loved a YouTube video of an a cappella cover of “Brick.” It’s a fascinating and unique album experiment, bringing new light and energy to many of Folds’ best songs. The selection is mostly ballads, and they sound more gorgeous and spacious in this setting. Even if you’ve heard “The Luckiest” and “Fred Jones, Part 2” a hundred times (as I have), you’ll still be bowled over hearing them on this album the first time.
But my favorite entry on the album is “Not the Same.” Something about the multi-part backing arrangement makes the already affecting tune sound even bigger, more sweeping and emotional, than Folds’ original on Rockin’ the Suburbs. There’s an epic beauty to it. The song’s lyrics chronicle someone’s life going off the rails after a bad acid trip, and feel better complemented by the rich, vocal-heavy timbre.
Are you reading this, Colton? I invite you to chime in about this album in the comments. I am certain you have thoughts — As I recall, you have previously listed this album as a favorite of yours. What’s your take on it?