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7 A Cappella Arrangements of Your Favorite Pop Songs

November 1, 2019

Barberpop ain’t nothing new: 7 Arrangements of Your Favorite Pop Songs

A song doesn’t have to be fifty years old to feel right in the barbershop style.

Pop songwriters today find that singable melodies, irresistible hooks, and good old-fashioned lyrics about love still grab audiences by the ears. You might not always recognize the artists who made the hits, but you’ll know fun tunes when you hear them.

1. Happy (Pharrell Williams)

arranged by Adam Scott | Difficulty Level: 3

Happy face

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Boy, did the young singers in the Next Generation Chorus sing the heck out of "Happy", an irresistible pop hit for Pharrell Williams featured on the soundtrack to Despicable Me 2 at our Midwinter Convention in Orange County.

Catchy beat (with handclaps!), cheery lyrics, fun patter, and relevance to general audiences will make this a big hit throughout the Society. FUN FACT: It sold out at Marketplace at the convention!

The learning tracks might even convince your kids to start barbershopping with this one.

2. Stand By Me (Leiber & Stoller)

arranged by Steve Delahanty | Difficulty Level: 2

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More than 400 artists have recorded the Leiber & Stoller hit “Stand by Me,” a testament to its universal appeal as a song of enduring love and friendship. True to the original Ben E. King record, Steve Delahanty’s arrangement in all voicings puts that signature, mournful bass rhythm front and center, allowing the lead room for some passionate storytelling.

3. Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)

arranged by Dylan Oxford | as sung by A Mighty Wind | Difficulty Level: 2

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With sales topping 100 million records, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Neil Diamond is among the all-time great songwriters and performers. While one generation might know him for hits for The Monkees (“I’m A Believer”) and his famous duet with Barbra Streisand (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers ”), every baseball fan knows his anthem sung in the eighth inning at Fenway Park: “Sweet Caroline.”

Dylan Oxford’s arrangement for quartet medalists A Mighty Wind gives room for the building intensity of the verse, which culminates in the crowd-pleasing chorus sure to pull a loud “DAH-DAH-DAH” out of every audience. Fun for shows!

4. Sugar (Maroon 5)

arranged by Wayne Grimmer | Difficulty Level: 3

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Looking for something for your Youth Camp singers? Want to mix up your Singing Valentines repertoire? Or maybe it's time to add some pop music to your show set? Arranged by Wayne Grimmer, Maroon 5's Sugar has a smooth vibe and opportunities for a little crooning. Check out Instant Classic's debut of the chart at the BHS International Convention!

5. Georgia on my mind (Hoagy Carmichael)

arranged by S. Jamison | Difficulty Level: 2

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In 1930, legendary songwriter Hoagy Carmichael wrote it, which ought to be pedigree enough. R&B/soul genius Ray Charles recorded the definitive version in 1960, and in 1979, the State of Georgia named it as the official state song. A simple, sweet lyric of longing for home, combined with a mellow, singable melody, make this a great easy-beat addition to any repertoire.

6. Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)

arranged by Adam Scott | Difficulty Level: 2

A historical lute propped next to an old painting

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It's not a sacred song, although it's rife with Biblical references. It's not a love song, although it mentions what love is not. It might be the only song that describes its own chord progressions ("the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift.") You've heard it covered by John Cale, k.d. lang, My Chemical Romance, and it has appeared in countless TV shows and films, including Shrek and Watchmen.

Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" may have the strangest back story of any title we publish, yet it is haunting, singable, and engaging. Adam Scott's arrangement features its hypnotic, pulsing rhythm and stick-in-the-brain melody. You might want to buy it just for the Tony DeRosa learning track.

7. Dream Lover (Bobby Darin)

arranged by Kohl Kitzmiller | Difficulty Level: 2

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A 1959 Bobby Darin classic song of teen longing makes a great show song for all ensembles. Kohl Kitzmiller’s a cappella treatment features vintage doo-wop textures and a chance for the lead to step out and really feel the sweet agony of love.