Archive for October 28th, 2011

By this point episode 6 has run and I was clearly wrong. This post will continue on the previous ones and take apart my #3 and #2 groups. The following post will be an examination of my pick for the winner. In a few days I’ll have the Post episode 6 evaluation. What I got right, wrong, and where I think the judges fouled out. My notes for the next two posts do not take episode 6 into consideration.

On the record: Of the remaining three groups; I would buy albums from any of them. I would love to see ANY of them perform live. That being said, I have to take them down one at a time.

Urban Method. I feel bad taking them down in third because they are just so damned good. They really haven’t done anything wrong. And it is so refreshing to hear a rapper brought into Acapella where they really belong anyway. Urban Method has a great mix that doesn’t rely on any one of their parts. One of this hidden weapons of this group is Vocalist Troy who can pull the spot light as easily as Myk on Rap. A very tight group.


The songs so far on a one by one:

Love the Way you Lie” (Signature)
This duet was amazing. I think the female vocal could have had a little more strength. Not so much in power but in confidence. The Rap was so powerful against it that it almost felt overwhelming. The backing vocals in this are amazing. Great buzz to the bass. The blend in the background just lets the piece ride.

Just Can’t Get Enough” (Pop)
At first I truly thought there were going to be NO rap vocals in this. The Bass literally shook me. The secondary male vocals are outstanding.Much better blend between these two. Musically very tight. Hard tradition to the funk. The backing gets a bit muddy here. This is still a stunning song.

Dance to the Music” (60’s)
This is a complicated song. With a great deal of syncopated vocals. This one has minimal rap. Urban Method did a stunning job of making this song sound like the original but still stamped with their own sound. This was about as far from their base that I heard them travel. This was a show of stunning diversity.

Poison” (Guilty)
Flawless cover of the song. Poison rap fit in perfectly. Voices were perfect for this song. Didn’t depart too far from the original. Female backing vocals really blend well on this one. This is a single to buy. Fantastic all around. Their best showing.

There really isn’t one bad song in this lot of 4. So how do they wind up in third on my list. Again, Urban Method is FANTASTIC. But there is almost nothing truly new to what they are doing. They are just doing it better than anyone else who is recapturing a sound. They have chosen a sound that’s been lost to Acapella. Funk, Rap, Urban… this was the sound of South Philly outside the doowop sound that would birth groups like Bel Biv Devoe who Urban Method is paying tribute to.

Urban Method is an amazing rebirth tribute to an Acapella sound that does not get enough airplay or groups in the industry and I do hope they turn out many albums. However, as I’ve said… they haven’t given me the something “New” that I think can come this season from the other two groups.

Deciding between Afro Blue and Pentatonix is in its own way a nightmare. Both groups are so amazingly different that there has to be a reason one will stand in the long run over the other. I watched the first two weeks and called my #1 group on the first performance and so far am staying with them. Both groups were singled out for one song going “Too far” from its base and being too complicated and over thought. Both groups pulled it in the following week by raising the bar to the next level.

My number two is going to have to be Afro Blue. I really love this group. Honestly they have made some complex jazz very accessible. The blends are effortless. They use scat, jazz, samba, and a whole array of mixed styles. And as I was recently reminded. They are a college group. They don’t sound like it. But they are. And Howard should be VERY proud.

The songs so far one a one by one:

Put Your Records On” (Signature)
A sultry lead voice with a fantastic female backup blend. The bass and rhythm sounds like something out of an after hours jazz mixer. The simple breakouts just make you want to lay back with quadrophonic headphones by a pool or in some exotic location and drift along for the ride.Even when this could get a bit spread out, the group keeps the blend together. This is very nice.

American Boy” (Pop)
Scat… And two people together followed by everyone else. This is a “Wow”. And it just keeps going. Even as backing. A different lead singer giving the group a very different tone. The Andrews Sisters would be excited with a touch of Boogie-Woogie here. Again, blends that just happen naturally. A touch of Beat record scratch to modernise and you are hooked.

Heard it Through the Grapevine” (60s)
This was the song singled out for getting too complicated. I will agree, about halfway through AfroBlue tries to take the song in a new direction. We lose the original driving nearly heart beat bass line that makes many folks remember animated dancing raisins. This requires a digression.

A cover of a song is different from a reworking of a song which is different from a new interpretation of a song. The more classic the original the more eggshells you are inevitably walking on the further you move from base. A one hit wonder is much like a cult classic film. The important thing is that you must approach the original with “Three R’s”: reverence, respect, and reference. This is why ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic has been able to continue to churn out satire after satire since the 1970s. Reverence is needed because the original has its position in history. Respect is because the listener has a personal attachment to it. Reference because the listener has specific hooks that give that attachment. An example would be like singing “Take On Me” shifted down 3-5 keys so that the singer didn’t have to hit as high a note. That note is the expectation and challenge to every self-styled Karaoke guru. Removing it is changing the song.

This specific issue is what I think killed Sonos in Round 3. Their reworking of the Jackson 5 lost everything that made that song enjoyable and at the same time gave it a sultriness that when compared to the “kids” that sang it made it feel not merely dirty, but full on into uncomfortably awkward.

This can be a double edged sword. The Deltones did an almost exact cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love.” As much as it did the honour; the danger is that this competition is not for a Cover group. There has to be some responsibility in taking ownership of the work with a signature.

In this competition every song is a cover. So the stakes are high in picking the right song, giving it a signature, a twist, but not twisting so far it breaks.

In the case of Grapevine, Afro Blue was given the warning of going too far into their jazz complexities that the song might be lost. Afro Blue took this advice and brought the whole competition up a notch.

I Wanna Dance With Someone” (Guilty)
I always felt this song was inane. Giving it a slight samba beat almost seemed to give the song a sense of understanding. Back from Grapevine was the driving rhythm that makes this a very infectious song. This time, all the women got a few bars of solo. And the blends were stunning. There were still dips into Jazz, but now it was more metered into the style of the song. The interpretation gives this song an entirely new life. This is what sells old songs in new records. This is one of their best pieces to date.


Up next. My number one group. I picked them in their first week and I’m sticking with them all the way. Pentatonix

Apple Logo With Steve Jobs' SillhouetteTim Cook and many of the executives at Apple were chastised by Steve before his inevitable departure to not ask “What would Steve do?” in managing the company in his absence.

In my mind this is excellent, but only half guidance. The “Company that Steves Built” can not try to second guess all of Jobs answers to ever situation; however, where and more properly how can the guidance of Jobs be used to maintain and bring the company forward? I think the devil is in the details.

I’ve been reading Jobs’ biography. On the one hand he was a marketing and sales Genius. He saw long range better than any 10 executives saw short to medium range. With the original Mac, he saw the laptop. With the laptop he saw the tablet. But Jobs could also be a tyrannical monster and would occassionally let ego get in the way of solution. Compromise was not an option in his world and more often than not he was correct.

Jobs was a complicated individual (understatement) who combined paranoia with existential love, a Shoalin Master’s respect for beauty with a pit bulls vicious quest to market only best in class products. These things drove his expertise, his eye for detail, and his cruel treatment of anyone he didn’t respect.

I think this drives inherent hole in the entire “What would ##### do” mentality. Each person has to drive towards excellence; but they can only do so in their own way for themselves. A friend once told me that Dogma is the Excrement of Spiritual Realisation.

I think the question that Apple should ask is not “What would Steve do?” It is pretty much obvious what Jobs would do in most situations. I think his motivations and life of experiences and learning got him there. So I think the effective question that would better server Apple and could then be rolled out to other great leaders reduces very simply.

Why would Steve do?

With “Why would ##### do” we find the path to excellence rather than trying to emulate previous excellence for the wrong purposes.