From the Warblers of Glee to all the awesome groups on The Sing-Off, we can’t get enough of a cappella music. Ever since the first college a cappella group was created in 1909, these ensembles have been a fixture on campuses across the nation, bringing both a goofy and a reverent spirit to some of the most popular songs ever written. There are a lot of amazingly talented collegiate crooners out there, so we’ve made a list of our 12 favorite groups that are so fantastic, they make us wonder why we’d ever listen to music with instruments anyway.
1. On the Rocks (University of Oregon)
We’re caught in a bad romance with On the Rocks, an all-male a cappella group that was the first collegiate a cappella group in Oregon. Not only did the group compete on the second season of NBC’s The Sing-Off, but they also have been on multiple Best Of College A Cappella (BOCA) compilation albums and competed in the International Championship of A Cappella (ICCA). On the Rocks are also the masters of going viral. A video of their Rick Roll on a NYC subway has had more than two million views, while a performance of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” complete with Mother Monster dance moves has had over eight million views. Watch their official “Bad Romance” music video above—we dare you not to laugh at their goofy choreography (or fall in love with all of them).
2. The Beelzebubs (Tufts University)
Remember how we fell completely in love with Blaine Anderson and all of the Warblers after Darren Criss sang “Teenage Dream” on Glee back in 2010? Meet the real Warblers: The Tufts University Beelzebubs provided the vocals for almost every Warblers track on the show (aside from Darren’s beautiful solos, of course). In addition to thousands of squealing girls’ TVs across the US, the Bubs (as they are affectionately called) have also performed in places such as Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, England, Paris, and Argentina. Glee isn’t the Bubs’ only experience on TV; the Medford group won second place on season 1 of The Sing-Off, and they performed on an episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen. And as if we needed more of a reason to love them, the group also gives back to the community through The Bubs Foundation, which supports underfunded middle and high school music programs.
3. Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)
What happens when you take ridiculously talented singers, add some pop music and throw a little Hindi music into the mix? You get Penn Masala, the world’s first Hindi a cappella group, and some incredibly chilling mashups. Penn Masala is famous throughout the world for their music, having performed all over the country as well as in Canada, London, and India (multiple times). The group performed at the 2003 Zee Bollywood Awards in New York, where they received the Project IMPACT Award for Outstanding Contribution to the South Asian-American Community. Another notable Penn Masala performance was at the 2009 White House Diwali celebration and signing of the Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which addressed “issues concerning the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.” And did we mention they’ve been on BOCA CDs and the soundtrack for the 2001 movie American Desi? Yeah, we’d say they’re pretty good.
4. The Sil’hooettes (University of Virginia)
The Sil’hooettes are the epitome of a cappella girl power. These singing superstars have won multiple Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards and have been featured on BOCA CDs and Voices Only, a compilation of the best a cappella songs in the nation. They have performed at places such as the Kennedy Center, Boston Red Sox baseball games, and Baltimore Orioles baseball games, and they have also opened for Ben Folds and Girl Talk. While their cover of “Idioteque” by Radiohead landed them on the 2012 BOCA album, the Sils also do an amazing job covering female vocal powerhouses such as Lana Del Rey.
5. The Whiffenpoofs (Yale University)
Maybe you remember them from season 2 of The Sing-Off, or from the time in the Gossip Girl book series when Serena van der Woodsen visits Yale and immediately falls in love with all of them—either way, it’s hard not to forget a name like the Whiffenpoofs, especially considering they’re the oldest a cappella group in the US. Established in 1909, The Whiffenpoofs boast Cole Porter as an alumnus and have appeared on Saturday Night Live, Gilmore Girls, The Today Show, and The West Wing. They also perform regularly throughout the US and travel internationally every year. So what exactly is a Whiffenpoof? According to their website, it’s a mythical dragonfish. Member Denton ‘Goat’ Fowler suggested the group name themselves after the creature more than 100 years ago as they started to get popular. We may not really get why a mythical dragonfish was the inspiration for an a cappella group’s title, but at least it’s a cute name.
6. The Dartmouth Aires (Dartmouth College)
If you watched their “Queen Medley” performance on season 3 of The Sing-Off, you can understand why this amazing group won second place in the competition—actually, why didn’t they just win the whole thing?! The Aires, who describe themselves as “a minstrel show” and “a pack of nomads,” tour every winter and spring break, frequently to abroad locations such as Costa Rica and Paris. As two-time winners of the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award for Best All-Male Collegiate Album, it’s no wonder that they’ve been featured on many BOCA albums. The Aires sum up their goofy nature pretty well on their website by saying: “The Aires are a busy bunch. The Aires are a fun bunch. Heck, the Aires are the Brady Bunch, without the ladies and without Alice the maid.” That makes sense, kind of.
7. The Clef Hangers (UNC-Chapel Hill)
With their iconic bowties and vests, every inch of which are covered in eclectic buttons, the Clef Hangers are an a cappella favorite at UNC-Chapel Hill. But they’re not just loved in North Carolina—they’ve also been featured on multiple BOCA CDs and have won three Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. The Clefs have performed all over the U.S. as well as in Spain, Scotland, and France, and have performed on an episode of Good Morning America. The Clefs also boast star power in alumnus Anoop Desai, who was a contestant on season 8 of American Idol and earned support from celebs such as Keith Urban and Ellen DeGeneres. The Clefs can be seen performing their signature song, James Taylor’s “Carolina in my Mind,” at every UNC commencement ceremony (if you need directions, look for the female UNC students with melting hearts).
8. The Gentlemen (University of Michigan)
The G-Men, an all-male (surprise?) group typically dressed in blue jerseys, have been stealing hearts at UMich since 1995. The group’s version of “I See You” by Mika was featured on Voices Only 2012, and they have competed in the ICCA semifinals twice. The G-Men have also performed for Bill Clinton, but more importantly, according to their website, “they are known for their massive biceps, fanatical obsession with puppies, and for rocking audiences with the power of 100 raging buffalo.” We believe it.
9. The Nassoons (Princeton University)
The Nassoons, which were founded in 1941, have sung for everyone from Ben Folds to Ella Fitzgerald to “three U.S. presidents, the King and Queen of Jordan, vacationers in Cancun, screaming schoolgirls in Taiwan, and socialites in Monte Carlo.” The group is also known for their humor; their original song “Princeton is Free” (sung to the tune of “Under the Sea”), which claims that students don’t actually have to pay to go to Princeton, quickly became a favorite with lyrics like “Princeton is free! Princeton is free! We’ve got to keep it the best kept secret in Ivy League! The Orange and the Black the way to go, everyone else pays through the nose. We’ve got the plan here save all your clams here, Princeton is free!” While the Nassoons may not actually have that financial advantage over other Ivy League schools, they do have a physical advantage to the Yalie songsters—after every Princeton-Yale football game, they play Yale a cappella group Whiffenpoofs (also on our list) in touch football for the TF trophy, and the Nassoons have won for the past three years. Yep, a cappella groups have rivalries, too!
10. The Midnight Ramblers (University of Rochester)
When former Sing-Off judge Ben Folds has your a cappella group cover one of his songs on a special compilation CD, you know you’re doing something right. The University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers was one of 14 a cappella groups chosen by Ben Folds from about 250 submissions (along with the Princeton Nassoons, who are also featured on our list) to record a track for the album “Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!” The Ramblers, who are easily identifiable in their gray baseball jerseys and jeans during performances, have also been featured on BOCA and Voices Only compilations and placed third at the 2005 ICCA finals. The group has toured throughout the US and in London, but when they’re not performing or creating rap videos to recruit high school students to their university, “the Ramblers have a slew of interests and hobbies, including playing baseball, drinking the salty water from empty pickle jars, and eating Vietnamese soup.” Good to know.
11. The Men’s Octet (UC Berkeley)
These eight men are two-time ICCA champions who boast a “unique mesh of close harmonies and zany stage antics.” The Octet has performed all over the globe; they’ve toured Europe, Australia, Indonesia, and China, but they say their most important performances happen every Wednesday at 1 p.m. on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. You might have seen one of their former members, fraternity brother Kyle Crews, wowing the judges on American Idol with his sweet rendition of “Angel of Mine” by Monica. You can also see Kyle do his best Christina Aguilera in the Octet’s performance of “Lady Marmalade.”
12. The Opportunes (Harvard University)
The Harvard Opportunes have mastered the art of creating awesome co-ed a cappella covers. Fans of the Opportunes include Adam Sandler, with whom they performed in Radio City Music Hall, and Quincy Jones, who asked the group to perform his music for a Who’s Who in the entertainment industry with James Moody and Take 6. The group has also performed in New Orleans and in the Empire State Building, and they travel to perform in a tropical location every spring break. The Opportunes’ covers have appeared in a Voices Only compilation, and member Leah Reis-Dennis won best solo in the 2012 ICCA quarterfinals (girl power!).
Which is your favorite, collegiettes? Are there any other awesome a cappella groups worth mentioning that aren’t on our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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