Awesome A Cappella

One of the best shows on NPR is To the Best of Our Knowledge, which often inspires me to read a new book or look up some new music.

The other day I listened to Ben Folds talk about a cappella music and his involvement with The Sing Off, in which various groups compete, a la American Idol. (The same segment led me to buy a book about the obscure vocoder.) I was struck by a particularly beautiful rendition of Radiohead’s Creep by Street Corner Symphony.

Listen to how the lead singer holds those notes towards the end.

Wow. And no, even though it sounds like they added instrumentation to this studio version of their performance, they just ran their vocalizations through studio effects. If you prefer a purer form of a cappella, try this clip of their on-stage performance or, more charming, their hotel room rehearsal, with unexpurgated cursing:

Just like Ben said in the interview, listening to those harmonies in that spare hotel room gives me chills.

As for the song itself, I like Creep, which I was unfamiliar with until now. Here’s Radiohead’s original [clean] version, which includes the shattering dead notes which the guitarist angrily threw into the song.

Two final comments about the song. First, I prefer the clean version since I will always react negatively to hearing cursing, particularly the f-word, in a song. I am jolted out of the song when I hear cursing, so I’m glad I can listen to the clean version of Cee Lo Green’s catchy F*** You, rechristened Forget You.

Second, one word in the lyrics of Creep had me puzzled. I thought they were singing, “I’m a creep and a widow” and of course a male should be a widower, and why he’d have a dead wife was puzzling. When a friend of mine listened to the song and mentioned “weirdo” I realized I had misheard the lyric.

When you were here before
Couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry
You float like a feather
In this beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so very special

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here

I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice when I’m not around
I wish I was special
You’re so very special

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell I’m doing here?
I don’t belong here

She’s running out the door
She’s running out
She runs runs runs runs

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You’re so very special
I wish I was special

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong here

7/31/2011 UPDATE: Here’s another fantastic a cappella performance of 1990s dance tracks by a Danish group.

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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1 Response to Awesome A Cappella

  1. Pingback: 2011 Additions to My Playlist « MEADOR.ORG

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