Our big journey onto the small screen started innocently, and as all journeys do: with the Taylor Swift tune “Trouble.”
No doubt many of you have already seen the video on YouTube or listened to the track on iTunes. It is indeed a different take on the song, and with the incomparable Rachel Potter on the lead lyric, and we created some momentary musical magic. Magic enough to catch a road weary Sing-Off Producer’s eye and magic enough to land us a coveted invitation to do a video audition for the 7-episode NBC special, The Sing-Off.
Well, that was all fabulous and amazing and exciting, but herein lies the rub: the fine and wise folks at NBC wanted VoicePlay to be featured on the show as a 6 voice group.
I’ll say it again while you wrap your head around that one. 6 voices: 5 guys, 1 lucky lady.
“Hmmmm…” you say. “Who was this lucky lady that the producers had their eye on?” And to that I say, “Quit interrupting with your silly questions, I’m getting to it shortly.”
Well, naturally it was Rachel, the darling songstress of Broadway and the apple of many an eye. So, with a dream in our hearts and a Twinkie in our pockets, we inquired as to where Miss Potter’s affections lay. Alas, our feelings of warm vocal yumminess were not returned, for her heart belonged to another reality show on a competing network, the X-Factor. So it was written in the stars that our paths shall not be entwined in a cappella glory, and she strutted off to get a bazillion views on YouTube and thousands of Twitter followers, yada, yada, yada, happily ever after.
“So,” you ask, “What happened to our heroes VoicePlay?” And once again I’ll ask you to let me do the talking and kindly zip the lip!
Ahem. Back to the story at hand: VoicePlay, not to be deterred from their visions of Pentatonix-like aca-geek fame and low rating network television wealth, forged ahead into the crucible of reality TV with a new front lady, a valuable friend with a voice like a caged animal — and hair to match — Miss Honey Larochelle.
The audition was filmed. The link was sent. The call came in. The non-disclosures were signed. The deal was done. 6 weeks later we were in LA… and THAT is where the story REALLY gets good…
For the rest of the story (in multiple installments), be sure to follow VoicePlay™ on their website and everywhere else they are available:
We are excited to announce that we are sponsoring the AcaFanBase and @acoUstiKats #FOLLOWFRIDAY Sweepstakes, which will start RIGHT NOW, Friday, December 20, 2013 and run through Sunday, December 22, 2013, 11:59 PM EST.
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Be sure to tell your friends about AcaFanBase. Stay on the lookout for more a cappella and Sing-Off news coming soon. Don’t miss out!
My name is Rachel Chalhoub. I am female, and a cappella is my “thing.”
So, when AcaFanBase approached me to write a blog post about my experience on The Sing-Off, I came up with a lot of different topics to go over:
what the show was like, our rehearsal process, the stress of preparing (AH! STRESS)
what it was like meeting a group a girls just a week before performing with them on national television (AH! DOUBLE STRESS)
how the show wasn’t really a competition and how we were all one big happy family (it’s totally true)
But over the past few days, there have been a lot of conversations about Elementand their visual appearance in conjunction with female a cappella. Which is a conversation that can be really annoying to talk about. No one’s happy with any answer or explanation, and ultimately, someone is going to feel left out or alienated.
So, here’s my comment on the situation:
Female a cappella is not a thing.
Sorry. What I mean to say is female a cappella is not just one, singular thing.
Most who know me (or any other human being) know that I am not just one thing. I’m not just a beatboxer; I can also sing. I’m not just a performer, but I am an educator. I’m not just a host on Inside A Cappella, but I am also the Director of Video Production with The Vocal Company. I also like walks on the beach and potatoes.
And in that similar vein, pigeon-holing a cappella to be one thing by placing a gender on it is not something we should be perpetuating as members of this community. Female vs. male is a fun conversation. Each holds its strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a strength or a weakness is more recognizable than another, but they both exist. To assume that women who perform in dresses and heels are only one thing is unfair. Speaking as one, I can say that we are much more than that.
Element came to The Sing-Off as a group of ten very different women, including some who had never performed a cappella prior to the show. These women’s roots were in stage performance, and while they are all incredible vocalists, a cappella was not something they were originally expecting to do at this point in their lives. It’s also important to note that a lot of our performance attire and song choices were driven by the producers. Still, as a group, we enjoyed performing in our outfits and singing the songs chosen for us. We wanted to show the viewer our take on a cappella. And after all of the stress of the show, I’m proud with what I saw and heard.
I like being sexy. I like being intimidating. I like being relatable. And I like working hard. I want that to show when I perform. I want my group to embody that kind of message.
When I got up on that Sing-Off stage with Element, I wanted to be a certain thing for women and men in a cappella: myself. I wanted to show that I can be so many things while representing something even bigger than me, all within 2 minutes of airtime.
When it comes to group performance, as a community, let’s allow a group to evolve into a sound that makes it notable. Why make it a battle of the sexes or a display of stereotypes? A cappella isn’t a genre that should be broken into gender groups. Women – and men — are more than a “thing.” We are more than pop princesses or barrel-chested jocks or bow-tie wearing harmonists, just to name a few a cappella stereotypes. And to enforce such a narrow scope onto a performing a cappella group is simply wrong.
When we argue over the judges’ comments or the outfits we see, we lose sight of what the group was there to do: entertain. Many people – men, women, adults and kids — enjoyed Element’s appearance and performance, and the group has received plenty of positive feedback from a wide array of viewers and supporters. We are so thankful for their support and to bring them more of what they love.
Element may have started because of The Sing-Off, and it may or may not be the group I would have created to put on the show, and it may have been created to fulfill a demographic, but that’s not what it is now. Element is evolving. With each performance it gives, the members of Element – myself included — learn something new about our sound and our voices. And as we leave the shadow of the show behind us, we need your support in moving forward.
We are excited to share our voice with an EP that represents our brand of a cappella, regardless of gender. You might find some of that Element “sparkly dress and heels” sound on our EP, but you may also find yourself taken by surprise with our versions of other popular songs. But what I want you to pay the most attention to is that we are taking the opportunity to present our take on a cappella. And that might just be something you like.
And if you don’t, that’s totally cool. That’s the best part of a cappella. This is a genre where there are no rules. We can take anything and make it anything. Our voices free us from constrictions, and I can’t wait to share with you what we have to say with our upcoming EP.
So most of you may or may not know, but I am the “Bottom of the River” girl in Vocal Rush. I know you guys are dying to understand Vocal Rush and the journey it took to make it on The Sing-Off.
Making it on the show
When we were told that we made it on The Sing-Off, we were ecstatic! It was the definition of a dream come true. It was nerve-racking at first, being the youngest group of them all. It took the first week of the show to really gain respect from the rest of the groups, but after that we began to bond with each and every one of them. They refused to believe for the longest that we were high schoolers based on our sound, but once they got to know us, they could see the crazy kids that we were inside. The more we got to hang around the adults of the show, the more we brought out the kid side of them and realized that we are all just a bunch of a cappella people that like to sing and have fun.
Life without Mama Forkish
While we participated on the show, our director, Lisa Forkish, was unable to come with us. It was definitely an upsetting moment when we found out, but she prepared us for the roller-coaster ride called TSO before we left. Ms. Forkish gave each and every one of us roles as well as bonding exercises so we could focus on working together as a group on the show. This way if there were any problems while she wasn’t there, we were prepared to handle it on our own. This worked out really well seeing as how we have made history by being the ONLY high school group to make it this far in the competition.
Let me repeat that: THE ONLY HIGH SCHOOL GROUP TO MAKE IT PAST THE SECOND EPISODE IN THE HISTORY OF THE SING-OFF.
Our goal as a group was to make it further in The Sing-Off than any other high school group that has ever competed. We wanted to prove that age is nothing but a number and although we may be teenagers, when it comes to performing and being on stage, we take it just as seriously as any adult there. Rehearsing to perform on a stage every week is an Art School Kid’s dream. To actually be living it, is the most remarkable and best feeling ever! To be working this hard and see the success, it is the epitome of happiness.
Episode 4: One of the Best Episodes of the Season (So Far)
So if you happened to miss one of the BEST EPISODES of this season on the Sing-Off, then that’s sad for you. Luckily, I will break it down so you can get a gist of the aca-amazingness that took place.
First, the Opening Number: “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” by The Who, “We Will Rock You” by Queen, and “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons were the songs put together to create the amazing medley that represents the generations (hence the theme of the show, My Generation).
Home Free: Home Free performed their jaw-dropping performance of “Ring of Fire” by
Johnny Cash. Long story short: The group is ridiculously talented and their bass Tim…his voice is flawless. If you didn’t see this, look at them below because there are no other words to explain this performance.
VoicePlay: VoicePlay stepped their game up singing “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt. This
was by far my favorite performance from them! And the run that Eli added to that performance was too perfect.
Element: Element performed “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. Although they worked it and sounded better than they had before, this performance landed them in the Bottom Two.
Vocal Rush: Vocal Rush performed “Holdin’ Out For a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler, a song that was popular in a generation we were not around in. Although we gave our best in the performance, we were also put in the Bottom Two.
The Mega-Ultimate Sing-Off
This Ultimate Sing-Off was by far the most intense battle out of them all! Vocal Rush and Element went head to head singing “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and to be honest, both groups ROCKED THE STAGE! Fortunately for us, Vocal Rush came just a wee bit harder and successfully made it to the next episode.
In all honesty, the battle was the hardest thing to do, but it was also the most fun I think Vocal Rush had on the show. Preparing for the Ultimate Sing-Off is stressful but as soon as you step on stage and are in that mindset that you may possibly be going home, the strength and power comes out of nowhere! When we were told that we would be battling against Element, our “tough roots” came through and we were determined to make it out! We refused to give up and that’s what helped us make it this far.
As Ben Folds has mentioned before, “we are stubbornly us,” and that’s the perfect way to describe who we are.
Calle Sol has been HARD at work back on our home island of Puerto Rico!!
So many projects in line to tip off the new year. We are in the middle of recording our HOT new EP (we’ll be taking the rest of December to finish this) and are taking requests for the last song on our album.
Let CALLE SOL know what song YOU think we should do for our album!
Remember to think “spicy” and “rhythmic.” Something too simple won’t allow the gals to shake their thangs!! Please let us know on whatever social media platform of ours you wish.
The group has had special appearances on every major radio and TV station in Puerto Rico and already have them all fighting for an exclusive as soon as the first single comes out. We will be giving out hints as to what songs we’ve picked already for the EP.
We’ve got to have a hot video to go along with the new single, RIGHT?!! This is all coming IN THE NEW YEAR! New show dates in the continental U.S. coming soon… Stay posted for show dates in P.R. for all of our islanders.
The band is OVERWHELMED with gratitude and emotion from all the positive comments and love on all of our social media!! We are so proud of the job we did and are glad that although we didn’t make it far, we were able to turn some heads and give the world a good show! We will continue to work hard and will send the love right back to those who share with us.
WE LOVE YOU AMERICA especially nuestro querido PUERTO RICO!!!!
Be sure to check in with us everyday for updates, new vids and important fan info.
Before I get started, I’d like to congratulate all four-and-a-half million of you who were able to figure out the answer to the the burning question:
“Wait, when is The Sing-Off on again?”
In an attempt to answer numerous questions regarding why the format was changed for episodes 3 and 4, I did a little mind reading and came up with the following:
It makes the competition a little stiffer. Think about it: half of the groups on the episode had to battle, which makes for good entertainment.
Two-hour episodes are long… This is ‘Murica, ain’t nobody got time for that three nights a week.
Mark Burnett said so.
To the music:
If you didn’t notice, the show opened with the first ballad of the season, Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” I had never heard it to be perfectly honest, and I still can’t stand the original to this day, so kudos to us for making that bearable.
I personally remember this as the first time that we as performers came together as an individual ensemble, not just different groups singing on stage together. Now I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy doing the whole flock of different soloists from each group stepping out to show just how many riffs can embellish a melody! I just needed a little vanilla in my life. (Albeit, we still riffed a bit too.)
The theme for the episode was ingeniously labeled #1 Hits. Now, I’m not saying I don’t like singing popular songs, but I try and stray from the most popular songs of all time when I select music. Why you ask? Because chances are, if it was a #1 song on the charts, it’s hard to make it any better than it was in the first place.
Take our pals Pentatonix for instance. The majority of songs they choose to cover are close to being on “top of the chart” but not quite there. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’m pretty sure most of their YouTube videos hit a million views before they finish fully uploading, so it’s safe to say they’re doing something right.
I’ll give you an extremely brief description on my personal feelings of each group’s number, and then we’ll move on to things I actually have real concrete information about.
TEN: You’re insane, I don’t know how you do it, just keep doing it.
Street Corner Renaissance:You have more class and swagger than I knew was possible. The ‘Kats learned a ton from you and Cee-Lo could even take some notes.
Last seen, we were up for a cappella execution, and none of us really wanted to go back to college on time, so we figured we might start putting in a little extra effort this time around. This episode was obviously approached a little differently by the ‘Kats. We went back to our roots and decided to show what we do best: choral music.
For the ladies who are in love with Ross Hill’svoice, he’s had the same girlfriend for about half his life, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. However, window-shopping is still legal in Kentucky, so don’t be completely discouraged.
For those of you who might have gone to the bathroom or fell sleep or didn’t watch the episode completely, you might not have noticed that part about Mike getting down on one knee in front of America.
As precious and emotional as that particular moment was, there was some serious planning that had to go into that very special moment and a lot of back story you might not have caught, so here goes my personal recapitulation.
Mike Owens wanted to ask his girlfriend, Maggie Blair (or Margaret Augusta Blair because that’s how a gentleman says it) to marry him for months prior to this moment. When he found out we had made the show however, he got the idea that maybe he should wait for just the right moment.
Side note: Maggie and Mike met while she was in charge of the female a cappella group at UK Paws and Listen. (Yeah, I know, we’re really good with the puns in Kentucky.)
When the group decided we were going ahead with “Amazed,” the first ballad/love song an individual group had performed this season, Mike brought up the idea to the group, and I don’t think I have to tell you just how excited to we were to have a bachelor party help out!
But here’s the thing: this is television. You don’t just get to insert proposals because it’s a cute idea. Mike didn’t officially have clearance to pop the question until two days before the recording. I haven’t crossed the “I’m going to ask my girlfriend to marry me” bridge in my life yet, but I’m assuming it’s not exactly a casual decision. And moreover, I’m sure the “this may or may not even happen” thing didn’t help.
Not to mention the following obstacles:
He didn’t have the ring in L.A.
He didn’t have any actual confirmation she could even make it to L.A. for the show.
The ‘Kats fumbled through 5 completely different arrangements and almost had to change the song because fitting a ballad into a minute and 40 seconds, is not easy.
That being said, we figured it out. (You’re welcome, big fella.)
So while normal rehearsal days were in full force, I went with Mike to the nearest Tiffany & Co. in Santa Monica (yes, Mike is actually perfect), where he bought the ring he had already picked out months before.
I’d love to say the sole reason I went with him was to support him in one of the biggest moments of his life, but honestly, I was really sick of rehearsing, needed a haircut, and hadn’t been to the beach yet… so I killed a few birds with this stone. (See what I did there?)
Mike approached me in one of the rehearsals before the performance and asked me if I wouldn’t mind learning the bass line for the last section, just in case he got caught up in the moment and couldn’t sing the last few notes. (Crying and singing bass is actually impossible — try it sometime.)
The day of performance we could all tell he was nervous, and if you know Mike at all… you would be nervous for him, too. Fully grown red-headed basses aren’t exactly known for an abundance of swagger.
However, right after we finished our warm-up routine of running around acting like complete idiots backstage, he came up to me and looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey man, don’t worry about singing my part at the end. I’ve got this.” And he was right.
As far as I’m concerned the song and proposal were emotionally beautiful, and there isn’t a single thing I would change.
Since the entire show is prerecorded, and we couldn’t talk about any details, Mike and Maggie have since been hiding the engagement from all of their friends until the episode aired. So, you can imagine, Thursday was quite the surprise for many people.
If you haven’t already found your way to iTunes to buy the music from the show, please do so now! Needless to say, after Sony, NBC, publishers and iTunes take their cut and hand us the last 24 cents or so to split 12 ways, we’re all well on our way to paying off that college debt. Seriously though… we appreciate the support, and we wouldn’t be here without you all, so thanks for buying.
As always, it’s a pleasure to let you all in what goes on behind every performance. I’ll be sitting in the box on Monday, but I promise you DO NOT want to miss this throw down.