A cappella groups must have come into existence when God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. In a perfect world, a cappella groups would not exist.
I am certain that by expressing myself in this way I will arouse the ire of my peers here at Princeton. However, I know that I can’t be the only one at a school of five thousand who hates a cappella music. It is for this reason that I have written this treatise.
Indeed, how many of you out there are still uncomfortable expressing my very sentiment? I am sure that you TYPO HERE exist, friends. Still, there is something corrupt in the air, some unacknowledged infectious mist of peer pressure that tries to keep you from confessing that you really think a cappella music sucks.
Because it does. The only successful a cappella song in the history of pop music is Billy Joel’s “For The Longest Time”. It is a strange paradox, a sort of double negative in which two wrongs do make a right, by which Billy Joel, that vomit-inducing excuse for a singer-songwriter, could write an a cappella song, that ought by definition lack the possibility of quality, that was actually good. But he did (and even that is controversial; perhaps not bad is the better way to describe it). Congrats, Billy. But why can’t we move on? Why did you have to inspire so many of our misguided youths to walk down the dark road of soulless anti-music?
When I think about it, I’m sure that a cappella must have a rich musical history. Bach undoubtedly composed an a cappella masterpiece or two. In this way I envision a cappella as a distant relative of the shittiest of shitty prog rock, which appropriated watered-down classical arrangements and incorporated them into their arena rock for whatever silly reason. A cappella sucks the way the Moody Blues suck.
Another similar parallel to a cappella music is the orchestral versions of ‘60s and ‘70s pop hits they play in the lobby of my grandmother’s nursing home. As the life is sucked from those great tunes, so a cappella destroys whatever it comes into contact with in a contemporary setting.
A friend, in defense of a cappella, remarked to me that it’s like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with voices instead of guitars! Which is precisely my point. And although I’m no great lover of the Peps, I doubt that replacing their guitars with the muted sounds of post-adolescent Ivy Leaguers adds anything.
They play a cappella music at Bed Bath & Beyond. Who could count among their musical aspirations the desire to be forced upon unsuspecting soccer moms as they buy cinnamon-scented candles?
I’ve never actually sat down and thought to myself, “Gee, John, wouldn’t you love to listen to some a cappella music right now?” A cappella is the blandest of the bland. A cappella reduces every song it touches into some bizarre, soulless version, the song without any of whatever it was that brought that song to life. A cappella has a dangerous Midas touch.
I can’t imagine anyone having a taste for a cappella before going to college. A cappella certainly has a great deal of social valence here; is this just an example of Princetonians self-consciously living up to the WASPy norms they imagine are expected of them? The thought provokes hope and despair. Perhaps by questioning the spurious reasons for liking a cappella we can begin to chip away at the elitist/privilege expectations of Princeton.
Is a cappella impressive? Imagine you are at a party. You tell the girl next to you that you sing in an a cappella group. What’s a cappella? she asks. Clearly she didn’t go to Princeton. Well, you respond, it’s vocal music without instrumental accompaniment, like a church choir without an organ, except instead of hymns you sing pop songs in four-part harmony. Oh, she replies, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that kind of music before. Oh, but you have! you triumphantly rejoin. Haven’t you heard that song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? It’s an a cappella standard! Oh, you mean that song that the robotic trout mounted on the wall behind my dentist’s desk sings if you press the red button on the fake mount? Yes. A cappella is the preferred genre of robotic trout.
If you, like me, hate a cappella, have no fear revealing it.
A cappella sucks. It is a fact like this, incontrovertible, undeniable, that gives me hope enough to believe that there exist absolute truths. A cappella is a negative proof of God’s existence; the fact that something so hopelessly and definitely awful actually exists suggests to me that we inhabit a universe in which a God has ordained some things as absolute.
I call for a ban on all a cappella groups at Princeton. Their infection has lasted long enough. It is time to force some sense into what must be sensible minds. No more a cappella, ever again, please.