I Just Can’t Control My Beats

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Confession: I have watched Pitch Perfect at least five times now and all within the past couple of weeks.  It’s like I just can’t stop.  I saved it on my DVR and have been watching it in pieces ever since my first full viewing more than two weeks ago.  It’s gotten to where I fast-forward through the non-singing parts, repeatedly watching the song performances, especially the final two.  I never watched Glee, not for any particular reason, so I am unable to make the obvious comparison there.  But I do generally like musicals and Pitch Perfect manages to combine some really excellent musical numbers with a plot as aloof and relatable as that of Bring It On.  Just as any non-cheerleader could enjoy the shenanigans of Bring It On, you need not be an a capella enthusiast to enjoy Pitch Perfect.  It’s a sweet, feel-good flick with likeable characters and some really fun music.

The Sing-Off got me into a capella (well, not counting those years in junior high when I adored Boyz II Men) and generally primed audiences across America for this movie.  It centers around Beca, played with irresistible charm by Anna Kendrick, a college freshman who has no actual desire to attend college but is giving it a shot to appease her father.  She wants to move to LA to start paying her dues in the music industry, hoping to make a career out of DJ-ing.  With much coaxing by her dad and a senior named Chloe (the adorable Brittany Snow), she reluctantly auditions for the Bardon Bellas, an all-female a capella group on campus who have an intense rivalry with the all-male group, the Treblemakers.  Beca earns a spot with the Bellas and slowly brings new life to their stale routine.

While Kendrick is undoubtedly the star of this flick, it is very much an ensemble movie.  Senior and leader of the Bellas, Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp), Chloe and Beca probably get the most lines but supporting characters Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson stealing the majority of her scenes), anna-kendrick-rebel-wilson-hana-mae-lee-pitch-perfectCynthia Rose (Ester Dean) and Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) hit every mark… and note.  (Sorry – couldn’t resist.)  The boys make the most of their screen time as well, especially Beca’s love interest, Jesse (Skylar Astin), his nerdy roommate Benji (Ben Platt), and two of the Treblemakers, Bumper and Donald, played by Adam DeVine (of the hilarious series Workaholics) and Utkarsh Ambudkar, respectively.  There’s competition, friendship, romance and loads of music but there is also an abundance of humor.  Pitch Perfect never takes itself too seriously.  In fact, it gets rather silly at times.  The vast majority of jokes land and there’s even a big throwback to a certain ’80s icon of pop culture that warms the cockles of my heart.

Of course, as I’ve already hinted, the music itself is what drives it home.  The lulls between songs are relatively short and each performance not only plays a relevant role in the central plot but adds a guilty pleasure level of enjoyment, leading viewers like me to watch repeatedly, never tiring of the actors’ unprocessed and natural voices or the fun, practiced choreography.  There are even a few cameos the likes of Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins and Donald Faison.  That’s right – Turk makes an appearance and anything that lets me watch Turk sing and dance is okay by me.

There isn’t anything terribly original or unpredictable about Pitch Perfect but every minute is amusing, there are loads of laughs and at least 30 solid minutes of fun musical performances.  Need more?  30 Rock writer Kay Cannon wrote it.  I knew that would hook you.  😉

~Nikki

We Can’t Rewind We’ve Gone Too Far

*SPOILER ALERT*

In case you’ve been vacationing in the Alps this week, or hospitalized and in a coma, and you missed the season finale of The Sing-Off this past Monday, I’m here to tell you: PENTATONIX WON!!!  There has been no doubt in my mind for weeks now that they are the absolute best, but musical tastes are subjective, so it was with bated breath that I watched the last few minutes of the 2 hour-long final episode (in truth, I watched all 2 hours but one need only watch the last 30 seconds to get the point), hoping to have my own opinion confirmed.  And so it was.

Over the course of the season, Pentatonix consistently gave exceptionally riveting performances, with only a rare few that, while still quite good, did not completely blow me away.  Excluding those few, these are my favorites, listed from extremely good to impossibly perfect:

 

And the mother of all, probably one of the hardest songs in all 3 seasons to sing a cappella, done so ridonculously well…

I know I’ve talked incessantly about this group for the past few weeks (and rightfully so) but there were a great many others who gave outstanding performances.  Delilah gave not one, but two stand-out shows and the runner-up, The Dartmouth Aires, will probably be performing for us theater lovers on Broadway someday in the very near future.  I’m so glad Pentatonix won, but I’m sad I no longer have their Monday night excellence to look forward to every week. 😦

Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

~Nikki

 

Sing, Until Your Lungs Give Out

Reality television is an abomination.  Seriously.  It has single-handedly lowered the standard of watchable TV and dumbed-downed the masses in our society like nothing before it.  Needless to say, I watch none of it.  I am strongly opposed to ALL reality television shows SAVE ONE: The Sing-Off is the one and only piece of reality TV worth a damn.

For those of you in the dark, The Sing-Off is a singing competition in which various groups perform a cappella for 3 judges – Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Sara Bareilles – and a live audience.  One group is nicked from the competition each week until one final winner remains.  The winner gets some abundant sum of cash and a record deal.  Unlike American Idol, the judges decide who leaves each week, making this a real competition and not merely a popularity contest.  I stopped watching AI years ago because it became little more than a contest ruled by the whims of America’s 11 year-olds, as opposed to the contestants’ actual talent.  The Sing-Off involves more than just singing.  Each week, each group chooses the song they’ll sing, the arrangement of said song, their choreography and, true to a cappella, not a single instrument is used during any performance.  Their voices are their only instruments, effectively keeping this show a competition in which genuine talent reigns.

Making it even better, the judges usually have valuable things to say.  I have yet to hear a Sara Bareilles song that I like, but after watching her as a judge this season, I really do like her.  She’s charming and funny and seems truly smart, a refreshing change from the abstract meanderings of Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger (I haven’t watched American Idol in years, so I can say nothing of Ellen or J. Lo.).  Ben Folds is genius (and adorable) and, being the long-time Boyz II Men fan that I have been since I was 11 or so, Shawn Stockman is near and dear to my heart.

The real reason to watch, however, is the music.  A cappella is an art within an art and these insanely talented groups bring the house down week after week.  All the groups are good.  Really good.  Most are great.  Nearly all have a mediocre performance here or there and nearly all give an exceptionally outstanding performance here and there.  What makes the winner is consistency.  Which group consistently nails their performances, one after another.

This season, my prediction (and sincere hope) is that Pentatonix, who blows my mind every fucking week, will win it all.  Here’s why.

Go ahead.  Tell me I’m wrong.  I dare you.

-N.