'Pitch Perfect': Myth vs. Reality

by Jessica Marshall and Kat Rosenfield

It is mere days before "Pitch Perfect," starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Skylar Astin, hits theaters in wide release. Here at Hollywood Crush, we're exploring the answer to the burning question that a cappella enthusiasts the world over are anxious to know: Is the pitch-slapping a cappella action in this film going to pay true homage to the venerated musical institution? Two Crush writers—Jessica Marshall and Kat Rosenfield—just so happen to also be former college a cappella singers. They’re taking a few beats to weigh in.

Jessica Marshall: So I hear this "Pitch Perfect" movie is coming out, based on Mickey Rapkin's popular book that takes a look inside the weird and wonderful world of college a cappella. You and I were both in a cappella groups in college. Should folks like us be excited to see this?

Kat Rosenfield: Having seen the film already, I believe they should. This movie is to a cappella singers what...um...what "Braveheart" is to Scottish people! This is our moment! And in all seriousness, really, it's about time that Hollywood wised up to the hotbed of drama, intrigue and musical mayhem that is the collegiate a cappella scene.

JM: Ooh, yes the musical mayhem. Let's talk about that for a minute, as I understand it plays a huge role in this film. I remember one of the most dramatic bits in my experience surrounded an impromptu Britney Spears sing-and-dance-off that my all-female group had with a male group after a joint concert. Things got really tense at the after-party when one of my girls totally blew one of their guys out of the water.

KR: Really? What happened? Did fisticuffs ensue??? Unfortunately, my co-ed group was way too busy hooking up with each other to ever truly excel musically; spontaneous riffing was beyond our capabilities. (Spontaneous herpes outbreaks, on the other hand...) So I can't wait for you to see the throw-downs between the all-lady Bellas and the male group, the Treblemakers. Who, by the way, appear to fulfill every based-in-truth stereotype of all male college a cappella groups. The oversized egos, the punny name, the bizarre delusion that their singing abilities will cause ladies to spontaneously disrobe at the first bass note...

JM: The loser engaged in fisticuffs with a nearby drink machine before storming out in a huff. While the vast majority of male a cappella groups seem to be like the Treblemakers, there are a few that aren't. And I think I met most of those groups...like one we sang a concert with who, rather than socializing with us at the after party, completely ignored us, broke out the board game Cranium and proceeded to play the most cutthroat tourney I've ever witnessed. But back to throwing down. While I love a good throw-down as much as the next music nerd, I kind of also want to hear the groups work together in tight tight harmonies (and maybe not just in song, eh!). After all, that is what a cappella singing is all about right?

KR: It is! I have no doubt that on top of the romantic drama between the rival groups, "Pitch Perfect" delivers lots and lots of marvelous arrangements to satisfy even the most die-hard a cappella geek. This movie clearly takes its music very seriously, even if the rest of it is slapstick gags and projectile vomiting. (Note: And by "even if" I mean "there is definitely projectile vomiting, confirmed.")

So, as a veteran of the a cappella scene and of an all-girl group, is there anything you're really hoping this movie will get right? Or anything you're hoping it doesn't?

JM: I'd like to see and hear some major girl power. I feel like all-female groups as a whole get a bad rap in real life for being less exciting to watch than male groups—not because they're less talented, but because they can be less dynamic. Female voices are stuck in a higher vocal range, which requires more concentration and effort to make it sound good—i.e. less bouncy fun dancing and choreography. On the other hand, for voices in lower ranges (i.e. non-castrati dudes), it’s easier to multitask. And much like the Bellas are at the beginning of the film, all-female groups can often seem a little antiquated and traditional. There are many exceptions to this of course. And I want to see some aca-action that proves this!

KR: Aca-greed! (Oh God, did I just say that?) It's unfortunate that the evolution of a cappella into its current form—as opposed to, like, Renaissance-era madrigal singing—has really left girl groups at a disadvantage. Contemporary music relies so much on a heavy bassline and lots of percussion to give songs their energy, and those things are a challenge for even the most robust female voices. But "Pitch Perfect" seems to deliver—I mean, the arrangement of "No Diggity" alone proves that the Bellas know how to push the musical envelope.

JM: I must say, part of me always wanted to arrange that song for my group. But sadly, the most hardcore I ever got was trying to beat-box to Sarah McLachlan's "Ice Cream." But my embarrassing personal history with the institution of collegiate a cappella aside, it looks like a cappella singers are going to enjoy this movie. It seems like it will pay enough honest homage to our real-life experiences, while adding a little bit of that auto-tuned flair that we always wish we had in real life. What do you say, wanna go see it again with me?

KR: Yes! I will be there with bells on...or, rather, in true a cappella spirit, I will be there making bell-like noises with my mouth and doing a modest shimmy. Y'know, like you do.

Are you excited to see "Pitch Perfect"? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!