After the MadHatters’ and Redefined’s boat-rocking shows this weekend, you might be looking for a little more a cappella in your life. Don’t worry — Ben Folds has you covered. In his latest album, properly titled Ben Folds Presents: University a Cappella!, Folds gives university a cappella groups throughout the nation the opportunity to perform one of his classic tunes. So, out of hundreds of university a cappella groups who submitted video clips on YouTube of their Ben Folds covers, this 16-track album epitomizes the a cappella style, doo-bahs and all.
Throughout the past decade, Folds has tried to shake up his albums with a variety of sounds, and University a Cappella! is no exception. Folds even allowed these a cappella groups the chance to perform in their natural, university environment, producing an overall tone more similar to a theater hall than a recording studio. Then, he allows the professionally-trained singers to “do-wop” their thing. Including covers from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Fifth Element to The Princeton Nassoons, the groups are likely to capture the attention of college students everywhere.
The album embraces many of Folds’ most popularized hits, and the chosen a cappella groups perform them to perfection. Specifically, the University of Colorado Buffoons produces a version of “Landed” to please any listener. Meanwhile, “Still Fighting It”, covered by the Washington University in St. Louis’s Mosaic Whispers, carries through the album with all of the song’s original charm and power included.
Dedicated fans will most likely enjoy “Fred Jones, Pt. 2” and “Army,” which stay true to Folds’ original beat while adding the a cappella harmonies which the same audience would appreciate. Folds even provides his own voice for new versions of “Boxing” and “Effington,” although he admittedly crashes the idea of covers. Fifth Element from UW-Eau Claire adds a bouncing, soulful “Fair” to the mix. University a Cappella! spins all of these modern tunes with traditional a cappella appeals, making them some of the newest and most original covers.
As a whole album, the vocal arrangements and charmed melodies would especially allure Folds’ fans. A listener can even hear the a cappella groups themselves enjoying the songs and melodies. University a Cappella! displays Folds’ creativity, hilarity and melodic knowledge in a way just another rock album could not — an idea his fans will surely find appealing.
However, for those listeners not as constantly captivated by a cappella’s tone, the album can sometimes blend together in an odd mix of covers. Despite the a cappella backdrop, the songs could confuse Folds’ latest vocal twist as a studio-produced effect with the genuine a cappella groups. After all, an album without the constant appealing quality of instrumentals risks losing a listener’s attention quickly.
Nonetheless, these college singers brilliantly tackle Folds’ melody-focused tunes, presenting University a Cappella! as a remarkably unique and refreshing take on the artist. Fans of Folds and enthusiasts of a cappella arrangements alike will certainly enjoy his latest twist of songs.
4 stars out of 5.