April 17, 2007

Everybody (Yea-ah,) Boy Bands Back ALRIGHT

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I like boys who sing. (What? I do. ) So understandably, I was quite excited to come to college and be surrounded by not one, but three all-male a cappella groups.
Over time, however, the allure wore off and was replaced with a burning question. Why do girls love all male a cappella? Why, when about a dozen or so guys get together and dance around somewhat flamboyantly to “My Girl,” I lose all ability to think rationally, my cynicism abandons me, and I have to restrain myself from squealing like a school girl?
I’d let this embarrassing issue go, but my hunch is that I’m not alone in this. For some reason, college students go a little cuckoo for all male a cappella in ways that they don’t for their female counterparts.
I was working through this in my head one day in a car with my friends. Suddenly, a song by what I assume was ‘NSync came on. As everyone started singing along, the proverbial light bulb went on: all male a cappella groups are the college girl’s somewhat more acceptable version of the boy band.
Think about the similarities: a motley crew of young guys with big dreams and halfway decent voices that girls go gaga over and guys secretly sing along to. Granted, a cappella groups don’t write their own music, but the boy band lyrics were such crap (except for 2Gether, and I will fight you on this) that I think we all wished they had just sung other people’s songs, and many did.
Aside from the hordes of female, teeny-boppin’ fans (of which, yes, I am ashamed to admit I am one) there is one other pretty obvious similarity between all male a cappella groups and boy bands: they are performers. While I never had the privilege of seeing ‘NSync in person, I’m sure that they gave great concerts. A cappella too, is a medium of performance. They sing, they dance, they make silly jokes and woo their audiences into one large, swooning mass. What’s not to love?
This obsession with male a cappella tends to leave the arguably equally talented female and mixed groups a bit high and dry. The Hangovers last performance sold about 750 tickets; their sister group, After 8, sold around 260. Even the mixed groups, whom you’d expect to pull in a large crowd, usually only fill the theatre to half capacity. This pattern is present at arch sings as well. (Quick tip: if it’s too crowded to walk through, just wait ‘til the boys are finished; the place will clear out almost immediately.)
So why all the all male love? As Lynne Morgan ’10, member of the Key Elements, pointed out, “the guys get that whole female teeny bopper audience that we just don’t get.” And while there are those that will go to see all female a cappella because they think the girls are hot, it’s nothing compared to the number of freshman girls who left items of clothing behind at the orientation arch sings to the tune of “We Didn’t Go To Harvard.” Girls love guys who sing, because frankly, it’s the closest that the macho sex gets to emoting. According to an anonymous source who will smack me if I share her name, “the thing about [male] arch sings is that when they sing, you imagine it’s a personal serenade.” It’s not surprising then that certain freshman males joined all male a cappella groups for the fame, girls and … well, actually, just the girls.
Obviously, there are other reasons beyond sex appeal that account for the all male a cappella turnout. Men have a greater vocal range then females. Add to that the greater selectivity of male singers (there are only three all male groups compared to five female and five mixed groups), it’s no question that some of the male groups may just be more talented. Being such a rarity, it puts them in much higher demand. Guys are generally unwilling to look like goofballs, making it all the more endearing when a cappella men behave that way. “There’s something inherently funny about guys who sing,” says Dave Kim ’07, Business Manager of the Hangovers.
Is it really so surprising that the male a cappella performances have a higher turnout? After all, girls sporting events, both at Cornell and at large, get about half the turnout that male sporting events do, if they’re so lucky. At the risk of being called a feminist, female athletes, musicians, artists, politicians and yes, a cappella singers are still overlooked, unless they are a) really hot (ie: Britney) or b) impressive because they are, wow, female (which is the problem with feminism in the first place). It’s a conundrum that won’t be solved, especially in my remaining 60 words.
Sometimes, it seems, women love male a cappella, just because. In the words of Alana Newman ’10, “My dream [sigh] is to sound the pitchpipe for Last Call.” Hey, it’s my dream, too … that and becoming a member of New Kids on the Block when they make their next comeback as Cornell’s fourth all male a cappella group.