The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday May 19th

Unfamiliar Songs Fuel THV Success

All the major a cappella groups on campus tend to pick easily recognizable songs for their concerts. But while familiarity is good, it breeds contempt: sometimes the song selection is too obvious. Often, you can just listen to G105 and come up with most of the season's a cappella must-haves in an hour.

It makes such concerts tedious -- honestly, would it kill one of these groups to perform something no one has heard 30,000 times already? In theory, a balance between familiarity and creativity can be reached. But it's rarely struck.

Leave it to the Tar Heel Voices to get it right. The co-ed group roared into a superb version of Radiohead's "Karma Police" on Saturday, and it was a breath of fresh air.

Soloist Andrew Smith even broke away from typical a cappella hyper-polish in his phrasing of "This is what you get/When you mess with us." His voice slid ever so slightly to a lower note, getting a little off key along the way; it was a daring move, and a necessary one. Top 40 hits lend themselves to polished vocals, but ambitious Radiohead covers do not, and Smith's vocals served the song exquisitely.

Usually THV can be relied on for this kind of quirky song selection and risky arranging, and it makes the group the best of its kind on campus. Which is not to say they're perfect -- in all honesty the Clef Hangers and the Loreleis have more raw vocal prowess, and Saturday's THV show was mostly characterized by weak solos balanced by strong backing vocals.

Yet the group's strength has always been its wise judgment rather than its vocal chops, and they make full use of the resources available.

They usually bring a fresh take to the source material. "At Last" was devoid of Christina Aguilera-esque pyrotechnics, and it had a soulfulness that wasn't an Etta James rip-off. The group also delivered a clever Outkast medley and made it OK to like a Jo Dee Messina song.

But don't award them a medal just yet. Even THV has its G105 moments: may Dave Matthews never again be evoked at any a cappella show; you could see Jewel's "Standing Still" coming from a mile away and I've had quite enough of U2's "One" and Dido's "Thank You."

The majority of these songs were the show's lowest points, except for "Thank You." Yes, the song's chorus still sounds like a Crystal Light commercial, but THV managed to capture the moody quality of its verses. It's not the best written song, nor was it well sung, but at least the group's reading of it was interesting.

Which, of course, is the secret weapon of the Tar Heel Voices. At their worst, they are still interesting; at their best they blow everyone else away.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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