Release Date: Apr 28, 2009
Record label: Sony
Genre(s): Rock, Vocal
A new kind of greatest-hits record Ben Folds returns with an entourage—they intonate their voices at breathtaking levels, overlapping in a seamless harmony throughout the album. The singer/songwriter takes the back seat and lets the college kids channel their inner Folds, and they successfully do so—often stealing the spotlight away from Folds. Ben Folds - Ben Folds Presents: University A CappellaThe groups incorporate their own sound and reinvent the tracks.
Despite Ben Folds' protests to the contrary, University A Cappella! is a total novelty, its 16 songs containing nary an instrument and many a harmonized voice. Some may view the move as a gimmick, but there's something truly...well, novel about Folds' work with these young ensembles, all of whom re-create the songwriter's acerbic pop/rock with voices alone. While the world of collegiate a cappella isn't exactly a macrocosm of the music business, it does mirror the industry's recording trends, with more and more ensembles adopting the same digitally tuned, Pro Tools-weaned approach that achieves perfection at the expense of the human element.
Ben Folds has always had a penchant for big background vocals and harmonies in his songs, and he’s not just encouraged, but physically directed the audience to sing along in his concerts for years. So it’s not really a shock that he’d find it appealing that college a cappella groups are covering him. What is a surprise is that he liked the idea so much that he actively recruited groups to submit their versions of his songs and compiled the best of them into an album.
Achieving coolness does not seem to be the point in a capella music, nor has it hampered a cappella groups’ popularity on college campuses across the States. Indeed, my small college had no fewer than seven official cappella groups -- as well as several rogue singing clubs. On Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!, Ben Folds has collected 14 of his songs as arranged and recorded by various college singing groups, as well as two songs (“Effington” and “Boxing”) that Folds himself re-imagines a la a cappella.