Happy is one of my favorite songs right now, and a capella is an amazing style of music. What happens when you blend the two? Well, quite different results, apparently. My two favorite a capella groups recorded Happy by Pharrell Williams in two completely different styles, and to two different outcomes. I enjoyed one but disliked the other, and I’ll explain why. Here we go!
So, I’ve been listening to Straight No Chaser for about four years now, and I love their music. I got hooked by their hilarious take on The Twelve Days Of Christmas, and I’ve been listening ever since. Yes, I own all their albums and EPs. These ten guys cover everything from Billie Jean and Signed, Sealed, Delivered straight up to I’m Yours and Rolling In The Deep. Their version of Happy is just as great as everything else they create; check it out.
In this version, everything comes together well. Although there are no instruments at all, the song doesn’t seem lacking. The version stays true enough to the original while keeping a signature Straight No Chaser flair. Jerome (lead) does a great job at infusing Pharrell’s lyrics with a little soul, while still singing in a similar pitch to the original. Not to mention, the hats are a wonderful touch, aren’t they?
Now onto the Pentatonix version. I first heard of Pentatonix when they were on the Sing-Off a few years back. I didn’t like them on the show, but since then, I’ve fallen in love with some of their covers. They do mostly contemporary songs, and occasionally they’ll throw in a violin (one guy can beatbox AND play the violin at the same time!) to mix it up. Head to their channel here to see renditions of Say Something, Can’t Hold Us, Somebody That I Used To Know, We Are Young, and more. One of my favorite covers is on Lindsey Stirling’s channel; Radioactive is beautifully done.
Sadly, this Happy cover doesn’t captivate me like their other covers do.
The lead singer has a tendency to throw in a bit of speech slurring or grit into his songs, and most of the time, it works out really well. Just a touch of grit can be a great thing. In Happy, he throws it on far too thick, to the point where I can hardly understand the line about the hot air balloon near the beginning of the track. The two background singers/clappers don’t really do enough with their voices, though I know that they can. Even though there are only five of them, sometimes they can fill a track more than Straight No Chaser does with ten. Here, however, the background isn’t very filling, and that’s necessary for this song. The bass and beatboxing are great, and they’re definitely the redeeming points of the track. I do enjoy the way the song was arranged; I just wish they had executed it better.
What do you think? Which version do you prefer? Comment below!
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