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Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory Paperback – April 7, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to GQ senior editor Rapkin, today's lively collegiate a cappella groups boast hip-hop repertory, professional vocal arrangements, competitions at Lincoln Center and a world shrunk by the Internet. During the 2006–2007 college season, Rapkin, an alum of a Cornell all-male singing club, followed three a cappella powerhouses: Divisi, an all-girl group from the University of Oregon, the testosterone-driven Hullabahoos of the University of Virginia, and Beelzebubs, from Tufts. Each is a collective with a score to settle, a tradition to honor. Robbed of a championship in 2005, Divisi wants payback; the Hullabahoos want respect without forfeiting their frat-boy charm; and the controversial Bubs want to hone their edge. Throughout, Rapkin engages with celebrity trivia (Heroes' Masi Oka sang a cappella at Brown) and music criticism. He profiles the cottage recording industry built from college a cappella. Most notably, he riffs through signature events and crisis moments with a snarky humor (onstage Divisi looks like the women in that Robert Palmer video) that turns each chapter into a picaresque progression toward graduation. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Designating unaccompanied singing, a cappella literally means “like the chapel,” appropriately since the form, Rapkin says, began with Gregorian chant. In the prologue, Rapkin cheerfully clambers through a cappella’s roots and varied branches, from shape-note singing and call-and-response singing to barbershop and the folk-pop hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and gospel classics by the Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke. Yet a cappella has come fully to life on college campuses. While the phenomenon’s “gold standard” remains the Whiffenpoofs, founded in 1909 at Yale, there are now more than 1,200 collegiate a cappella groups in the U.S. A cappella is the opposite of cool, Rapkin concedes, yet such now-famous folk as Diane Sawyer, Art Garfunkel, and Osama bin Laden (!) once sang in a cappella groups. The bulk of the book examines three current groups—the University of Oregon’s all-female Divisi, the Tufts Beelzebubs of Tufts University, and the University of Virginia’s Hullabahoos—as they compete against one another in a scenario that makes American Idol look rather tame. A fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at an underappreciated musical subculture. --June Sawyers --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592404634
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592404636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By ThreeLionsGarage on June 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I sang in my college and graduate school a cappella groups, so I was very excited to hear about this book and eager to read it hoping to relive the many unique and hard-to-describe experiences and emotions that I experienced during my years in the two cappella groups. While I think Mr. Rapkin does a good job relating some of the novel situations and inside stories of some of the best groups in Collegiate a cappella, once I finished the book (and even several times while reading it), the stories and anecdotes never sufficiently grabbed my interest. At the heart of it, that may be the biggest hurdle to overcome in relating these experiences--what happens to the members of an a cappella group is fundamentally only really interesting for those same members. The events just aren't as entertaining in the narrative as they must have been for the subjects as they occurred. Furthermore, the characters featured in the book show themselves through numerous examples to be so self-absorbed and self-aggrandizing that once I finished it, the book seemed to me to be a squandered reading opportunity--I wish I had read something else.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carol C. VINE VOICE on September 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I often wondered what became of some of the guys in my college's a cappella group -- they seemed to be so consumed by the activity, allowing it to dominate & define their entire college experience, oblivious to classes and grades and similar trivialities. How I underestimated the commitment -- for the members of the three groups featured in this book -- the Tufts Beelzebubs, the UVA Hullabahoos, and the University of Oregon Divisi, coursework and academic activities are an afterthought to their core collegiate experience -- a cappella. The groups travel extensively, train, communicate internally with special language, perform, recruit -- it's pretty all- consuming. The other thing that is particularly striking is how the a cappella experience endures -- seems like many of the alum don't want their experience to end and find some way of continuing to keep their finger in the pot -- through arranging music, participating in alumni singing activities, donations -- rather than finding a grown-up job.

This is non-fiction that reads like fiction -- the characters are well developed and the conflict is ongoing. What I liked best about this book: you really get to know the members of the three featured groups -- their goofy antics, their personality conflicts, the stars & the not-so-stellar performers, all the dirty laundry -- and (assuming you're reading this in 2008), you can go to the groups' websites and see bios of many of the individual singers featured in the book. It's like the epilogue to a movie that features "where they are now". Kind of fun. The book also reveals the quirkiness and cleverness of the a cappella crowd -- the group names are priceless.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Withers on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
After reading about it in Rolling Stone and USA Today on the same day, I decided to buy it. AND IT'S GREAT. It reads so well and is so funny, kinda like the movie Bring It On, but this is about college singers. I had no idea that this whole world existed and I didn't even go to college that long ago. It didn't matter that I didn't know about a cappella, though, because the author gives you all the background you need, while also keeping the story going. Apparently, Mickey Rapkin's an editor at GQ; I'll have to look out for him.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Andersen Phillips on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer: I want to be up front in noting that I am a former member of one of the a cappella groups chronicled in Mickey's book, so I can't possibly claim objectivity. That said, I also know a great deal about the facts and stories contained within the book (at least as they relate to one of the groups).

Overall, I think the book does a good job of doing something that I've always found very, very difficult - trying to describe the experience of being in one of these groups to someone unfamiliar with the world of collegiate a cappella. The great challenge of trying to portray the strange, entertaining world of collegiate a cappella is that, as the book demonstrates, the experience of any one person or group can and does vary widely based on the character and personality of the group in question. That said, Rapkin does a nice job of giving us a window into the world of these 3 groups, with a tone that alternates between admiration, humor, and a bit of sarcasm.

This book cannot, and does not, cover the full range of issues and areas of collegiate a cappella. It certainly is not a comprehensive history of the topic, nor does it portray every side of every story with regard to the individuals mentioned in various chapters. But truth be told, that isn't the purpose of this book, nor should it be. This book is about telling a story that, until now, has largely gone untold - the story of a unique part of today's collegiate culture that prompts thousands of college students every year sign up for a cappella groups across the country. These groups are often the single most defining element of their members collegiate lives, and the types of memories they create (for better and worse) are well captured in Rapkin's book.
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