A musical tale of collegiate a cappella filled of high notes, high drama, and high jinks that inspired the hit films Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2.
Get ready to be pitch slapped.
The roots of unaccompanied vocal music stretch all the way back to Gregorian chants of the Middle Ages, and collegiate a cappella is over a century old. But what was once largely an Ivy League phenomenon has, in the past twenty years, exploded. And it's not what you think. Though the blue blazers and khakis may remain, a cappella groups at colleges across the country have become downright funky.
In Pitch Perfect, journalist Mickey Rapkin follows a season in a cappella through all its twists and turns, covering the breathtaking displays of vocal talent, the groupies (yes, there are a cappella groupies), the rock-star partying, and all the bitter rivalries. Rapkin brings you into the world of collegiate a cappella characters-from movie-star looks and celebrity-size egos to a troubled new singer with the megawatt voice. Including encounters with a cappella alums like John Legend and Diane Sawyer and fans from Prince to presidents, Rapkin shows that a cappella isn't for the faint of heart-or lungs.
Sure to strike a chord with fans of Glee and The Sing-Off, this raucous story of a cappella rock stars shows that sometimes, to get that perfect harmony, you have to embrace a little discord.
"Finally, a journalist with the courage to investigate the cutthroat world of college a cappella. . . .Rapkin has the perfectly bemused and giddy tone to tell these stories with the reverence they deserve."
-New York Post
"Rapkin's book reveals a world with as much discord as harmony."
"Look out, barbershop quartets. Mickey Rapkin uncovers the dirty truth behind collegiate a cappella groups."
For Denise Sandole, the forty-seventh annual Grammy Awardswas something to celebrate. She was working for AOL Musicat the time, as a senior manager in sales, and her boss had invitedher to the star-studded ceremony. It was February 13, 2005, at theStaples Center in Los Angeles, and she wore a polka dot dressfrom BCBG. "You never know if there will be a next time youattend the Grammys," she says.
Denise was sitting upstairs in the balcony when a then unknownsinger named John Legend came out onstage to introducehis mentor, Kanye West, who was nominated for a handfulof awards that night. Legend himself would be nominated foreight Grammys the following year, but for now anyway he wasjust that handsome, well-dressed young man standing centerstage. Upstairs, meanwhile, Denise was screaming like a crazyperson. The thing is, she and John Legend were best friends, andthey'd been sending text messages back and forth all evening.Long before John Legend would collaborate with Snoop Doggand Alicia Keys, he'd collaborated with Denise Sandole. Back in1997, onstage at Carnegie Hall, Denise Sandole and John Legendcompeted together in the National Championship of CollegiateA Cappella.
As an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, DeniseSandole majored in psychology, though her mom likes to say shemajored in a cappella. Denise and John met "on the a cappellaaudition circuit," she says, in the mid-nineties, when the twojoined the Counterparts-the university's oldest coed a cappellagroup. The Counterparts had been primarily a jazz ensemble.(Denise was no stranger to jazz-her father, Dennis Sandole, hadmentored John Coltrane.) But the group's new music directorpushed for a more pop sound, and with Denise and John Legendin the stable, the Counterparts suddenly had the talent to pull itoff. Prince's "One of Us," featuring John Legend (né John Stephens)on the solo, quickly became the Counterparts anthem.
This change was not without collateral damage. Two membersof the Counterparts actually quit in protest, feeling as if themusical left turn away from jazz somehow betrayed the wishes ofthe group's founding fathers. "Aca politics," Denise says. To makematters worse, a rift soon developed between the Counterpartsand UPenn's other coed a cappella group, Off the Beat-who'dbuilt their reputation on pop music. But the campus embraced thenew sound, showing up to Counterparts gigs in record numbers.The animosity only intensified when the Counterparts decided tocompete in the National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella(the NCCAs), pitting them squarely against their heavily favoredrivals, Off the Beat. To everyone's surprise, in February 1998, theCounterparts triumphed at that regional quarterfinal round-andit was more of the same at the regional semifinals. The Counterparts'set included three songs: "One of Us," "Route 66," and theSophie B. Hawkins one-hit wonder, "Damn I Wish I Was YourLover." Denise sang that solo-this little girl belting out theangst. "That song put me on the a cappella map," Denise says.Against all odds, the Counterparts were headed for the finals ofthe NCCAs on April 26, 1997, at Carnegie Hall.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? In this case, you rent twoyellow school buses and fill them with your Ivy League a cappellaentourage.
The excitement was short-lived. Denise remembers the precisemoment she knew the Counterparts had lost at the NationalChampionship of Collegiate A Cappella. In their own shows oncampus, the Counterparts regularly performed silly skits, toldbad jokes, that sort of thing. "We always tried to be funny," shesays, acknowledging that the group's humor was always hit ormiss. When it came time to compete in the NCCA finals, she says,"We wanted to be true to ourselves." And so, onstage at CarnegieHall, in front of two thousand eager a cappella fans, Denise'sfriend Sloan Alexander of the Counterparts dropped his tuxedopants, revealing a black lace garter belt underneath. "He madesome joke abou
Über den Autor
Mickey Rapkin is a regular columnist at Elle and his work has appeared in GQ, The New York Times, TimeOut New York, The New York Post, and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in Manhattan.
A musical tale of collegiate a cappella filled of high notes, high drama, and high jinks is now a major motion picture.